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RAS MIDAS

Photo by Diane 'Livonn' Adam

I was born in Jamaica in the parish of Clarendon, over here it would be known as a state. It was real exciting and I had plenty of friends. In the community it was very close and we as kids really had a nice time. And so... my youth days in Jamaica were kind of cut short because my grandmother and my grandfather died and then I had to move and go to England to live with my auntie and uncle and that was a different experience. It was one experience growing up in Jamaica until I was 13 and another experience when I went in England, because of the different environment and you know at that time things weren’t like now so it was it was a struggle at that point to adapt to a new environment and it was a struggle to create new friends and learn what England was all about.

In Jamaica, we go to the river we have a nice swim, we shake mangoes from the mango tree and let them drop into the pool; and then we jump from the mango tree and then into the pool to see who could get it, you know? And we’d go hunting in the bushes. There is no jungle in Jamaica, you know, because its just forest, like in a redwood forest like here, only different trees. We’d go into the woods and look for different kinds of fruit...look for apples or oranges, or probably go look for wood for our home or something like that; or get a nice ride from the donkey. But, sometimes in the summer it was work time, you know, because it was cane time, so people farm the cane for the factory and then you have to load the donkey or the mule with the cane to carry it down to the main road, so that the truck can pick it up and things like that. Then you’d have time to ride the donkey to come back. It was kind of very nice that way and it was playing and working, you know, playing cricket and doing soccer, playing marbles, but everything, … was very nice.

I didn’t really go to a traditional school as we think of in the US, I went to two different schools. What happened in my community was they had a private little school for kids between 3 and 7, you know. When you reach 7 you go on to the next school but what happened, my grandparents, I had to do school with them -- I call it school, you know, because when I was growing up, every Saturday was a day of reasoning in my home. It was a day of reasoning in which my grandmother and grandfather would read the bible and they’d explain certain things; how things correspond with certain things and how I must look upon things and how I must look at it, you know, and have different views and some understanding and history. History about ancient Egypt and Ethiopia and Africa was discussed. And other people would come there too maybe four or six other adults and things like that... Well when I went out of my home to play childhood games, I enjoyed my childhood days. Inside my home was really learning to do things different; to be aware of yourself, know your history and your roots and to get a better understanding, shaping you to meet a new day...for when you become a mature man, I suppose ...

I moved to Europe when I was thirteen and a half. First, I went to England, I went to Birmingham, and then we moved from Birmingham to Manchester. The changes in my location, well...how I would really describe it is that I was leaving the innocence of my childhood, you know, going into a different environment which is not my original environment, and it takes time to adapt. You couldn’t get to do the things that you are accustomed to doing when you were living in Jamaica because things were different. There was no river to run to, you know. You couldn’t get a donkey to ride or a horse to ride anymore. Everything was different, you know. You couldn’t go to the river because it was polluted and it was too cold and when I spoke to people, they wouldn’t understand what I was saying unless they were people that came from Jamaica or that part of the Caribbean and so communication was a problem. Then in that time in England it was a terrible time because there was a lot of race riots and segregation and things like that were going on. There was a neo-nazi group called the United Front that was fighting against immigrants and things like that so it was real difficult. So in that time it was a struggle for people from the Caribbean and third world people in England. It was a hard time.

I was able to apply what my grandparents had taught me in Jamaica while living in Europe… The more I grew up, I matured and the things that my grandmother used to teach me and tell me about and educate me about, they came as a natural reflection to me again. I started to look into those things and I started to educate myself more by getting books and histories and...to see all what I could find for myself. I realized that what my grandmother was telling me was reality. I wouldn’t say that all of what she told me was reality, you know? But most, like 75 percent of what she told me was a reality, you know. Then I continued on with that 75 percent, and I did research and those things and discovered those realities for myself. I then evolved on those things. And the more you get from history and to understand other human beings, it will be easier for you to get along because you can never get along with other people unless you understand them and they understand you. You don’t have to understand everything about them but the basics, you know, communication, respect, and acceptance. All those things are very important so I have to put all of these things together and say that my grandmother and my grandfather were the foundation and from that foundation I evolved myself to the person I am today.
 

Music has always been a natural thing for me…part of living and breathing... My grandmother dealt with music also within her spiritual social activities. It was a West African tradition, which was derived from people that came to Jamaica in her era. Some people in Jamaica still carried on that tradition with the drums, communicating with the different energies of the Earth. So she was into that way and, you know, she sang. She mostly sang traditional folk songs. Some folk songs are mixed with some African or things from the Caribbean or something like that. There is a real conscious aspect of what she was doing so, you know, I used to go along with her sometimes. Then she taught me to play the drums and the kettledrums and she let me know that drums are where the original sound of music starts from because it is the originator of rhythms. I learned to sing from the formation of drums and you know, she... at an early age recognized that I was talented, and so she said, "You listen, no matter where you are going in the world, no matter what school you go, anything you learn, that is something they are teaching you, but you must remember that your music is something that you are born with so you must utilize it and put the positive love, and share it with other people in the world if you get the opportunity." When I was in school in Europe I always had my interests in music anyway, so when I was 14 I had a friend and his father who knew a producer in Jamaica by the name of Harry Johnson; otherwise known as Harry J. When I was in Jamaica, I had two other friends and we used to rehearse and we were making songs and these friends introduced me to Harry J and I sang for him and he said he liked the melody and the voice.

I sang Kude-A-Bamba because that song is a song about my grandmother. Kude - A – Bamba - let me tell you how the whole song comes up -- When I was about 12 years old I was reading a book from Africa, it came from Ghana, and it was talking about the Ashanti Tribe and my grandmother was telling me that a lot of Africans that came to Jamaica are from the Ashanti Tribe and some were from the Aruba tribe and other tribes. So I come upon this word and I was always making a little melody,... I always liked the word "kude-a-bamba". Kude-a-bamba, you know? What I did with it was kind of put life into it with song, the way that my grandmother used to live, everything into a nice little story about life in the country, you know? Because the word kude-a-bamba means "love of the common people", you know, the shantytowns and things like that. I am just relating the life of the common people in the vicinity of where I was born and grew up and what was going on sometimes and that was the story.... Then I never recorded that song until 1979, after I went to Africa for the first time and I had experiences and I said, "WOW! This is the time to do that song!"

I know that the first song that I sang was Kude-A-bamba and Harry J said, "Yeah, I really like that one." Then I sang a song called Troubletown and he said, "Hey, I like that one too." I said "What does that mean?" He replied, "You sound like you’re ready now." Four days, maybe a week later something like that, I was sitting there with some old friends, because I came from England on holiday, and one of them said, "Hey Midas, I heard that Harry J the producer is looking for you." I said, ‘Tell him to come down here then", you know, because I didn’t believe it. So Harry J came down and said, "You know, I lined up some studio time and Sly and Robbie will be there too." At that time Sly and Robbie weren’t as popular as they are now -- real talented guys though. Sticky Thompson and some other artists...one of the Inner Circle was there too. So that’s how I started. I recorded, and what they have you do is do it in an African style way and then in the English way and that’s how it goes. Then two days after I finished the song, they said, "We think we are going to put background vocals in it," but then Harry J said, "Well, Midas’ voice is really kind of young and cool and raw and I don’t want to mess up nothing with the background vocals and make it too sweet or nothing you know." So we just decided to mix it as it was. Then Chris Blackwell (who produced Bob Marley) came into the studio because at that time Harry J was a producer for Island Records and so...Chris listened to it and he liked it and Island Records put it out on their label. And that was my first hit!

Musically the most important person in my life was my grandmother because she taught me a lot of things from the time of the drums. Regarding influences other than his grandmother, I like some of the Wailers’ music, I like some of Stevie Wonder, and some of what Elvis Presley did. I like some of what Michael Jackson did, Aretha Franklin, you know, those people and so forth. I enjoy a lot of peoples’ music but I try not to let other peoples’ music influence me, that’s the thing. If you listen too much to other peoples’ music it will be embedded in your own self and it will always get in your head and distract. But I learned how music evolved and learned from everyday life. You see, my music is from everyday life, within the system, how life really turns, how people relate to each other, that’s how my music is.

The Music of Ras Midas - Track List

Ras Midas Web Links:

Ras Midas Videos:

Trouble Town

Blood In The Sky