Ras Michael chants benevolenceTuesday, September 17, 2019
By Howard Campbell
Though he is identified with Trench Town and west Kingston, Nyahbinghi drummer Ras Michael says the 'Gully Bank' area of Waltham Park Road is dear to him. It is where he moved to in the early 1970s and created some of his finest work.
As he celebrates the 50th anniversary of his Sons of Negus group, the 76-year-old singer/musician plans to establish a school on property he owns in that community. His aim is to empower its marginalised youth.
“I want to open a centre and have a school where di youths dem can be taught computer skills an' music. In time, wi can have a exchange programme wid other countries,” he said.
Ras Michael told the Jamaica Observer that he came up with the concept for a multifaceted training facility years ago, but was unable to get it off the ground due to lack of resources. It is important, he added, that initial funding comes from his pockets.
“If yuh have an idea like dis yuh have to show dat you are serious,” he said.
Born in St Mary, Ras Michael (given name Michael Henry) moved to Kingston as a boy and grew up in what was known as Back O Wall in west Kingston. He became acquainted with the teachings of Rastafari through elders like Mortimo Planno, and discovered a passion for drumming from pioneers such as Count Ossie and Mystic Revelation of Rastafari.
While living at Waltham Park Road, he and the Sons of Negus recorded albums that became staples of roots-reggae. They include Dadawah — Peace and Love, Rastafari and Kibir Am Lak which produced songs like New Name and None A Jah Jah Children.
For the past 30 years, Ras Michael has lived in Los Angeles where he is intimately involved in the Rastafarian Church and community. In July he was recognised by the California House of Representatives and Senate for his groundbreaking music and social work, during a performance at Levitt Pavilion in Los Angeles.
In 2015 he was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican Government.
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