Negus (King) is one of the titles received by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, of the Rastafari movement, and none pays him more eloquent homage than Ras Michael and his group, the Sons of Negus. This is the beat of the heart, based on the original “instrument of ten strings,” the hand-beaten drum.
Michael George Henry aka Ras Michael (born 1943) grew up in the Rastafari community of St. Mary’s, Jamaica. He would later become the second highest keeper of the art of the Nyabinghi Drums, a descendent of the West African percussion tradition of the Burru Drums. The first leader of the art form was the great Count Ossie. Ras Michael’s group the Son’s of Negus would set their foundation in West Kingston’s Trenchtown district and Ossie’s Mystic Revelation of Rastafari would chant their music atop Warriors Hill (Wareika Hill) in the East. The Sons of Negus were a dynamic singing, drumming, and dance troop that had such featured alumni as Sandra “Puma” Jones (Black Uhuru) and Roydel Johnson (the Congos).
In the mid-1960’s Ras Michael and the Son’s of Negus would begin releasing singles under his own Zion Disc label. Ras Michael was also the first member of the Rastafari movement to have a reggae radio program in Jamaica (“The Lion of Judah Radio” program first aired in 1967).
Around 1966, he recorded at Studio One as a percussionist, playing with Jackie Mittoo And The Soul Vendors in exchange for studio time. In the early 70s he recorded Dadawah Peace And Love, a blend of Rasta chant, reggae, Southern soul and psychedelia greatly enhanced by its imaginative arrangements. He followed that with the album Rastafari, the album’s tight arrangements and excellent songs brought him into the reggae mainstream.
With many albums and tours behind him Ras Michael is a cornerstone of reggae music. Today he is still teaching, and leading the way of Rastafari for the next generation to come. His repeater or hi-solo drum and bass Funde playing are featured on the Groundation album Each One Teach One.