Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus have taken the art of hand drumming and Rastafari chanting around the world, from Morocco to Japan and many, many stops in between. Tonight the band plays at Redbones Blues Café, New Kingston - a far cry from the tough downtown streets Ras Michael walked with Bob Marley.
From 25 albums, including the latest recordings Try Jah Love, Spread Jah Love and Jah Love, the singles None of Jah Jah Children and New Name are probably the group's most famed recordings. With that amount of material to choose from and the inherent tendency for Rastafari drumming sessions to go on for a long time, Ras Michael's perspective on stage time is a bit different from most.
So he considers the showing at Rebel Salute 2005 "a short little time". Tonight, he said, there is about a two-hour set, excluding an intermission. In addition to the hand drummers there will also be an electronic band.
Unplugged or not, Ras Michael is adamant about the purpose the music he plays.
"Some people say this music, this kind of music, it was more love and understanding," he said. He said that he and performers like Peter Tosh and Bob Marley made music "spiritual to the mind and beautiful to the people. There was no division".
Ras Michael has all right to mention himself and two of the founding Wailers in the same context. After all, he reminds The Gleaner that the famed One Love Peace Concert at the National Stadium in 1978 closed with Peter Tosh, then Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus and then Bob Marley and the Wailers. Plus, the group's debut recording that Ras Michael walked and sold was a traditional song that would be later recorded by Bob Marley - The Lion of Judah.
That song led to Ras Michael being the first Rastafarian to have a show on radio.
"I went up to (the former) JBC and it was one thing. I say I would like to have a programme. They say Rasta, you have any money. I say how much it cost? And is so it start," Ras Michael said, noting that the deceased Jeff 'Free I' was the first radio personality to give him a listening ear.
Whether on the big or small stage (Ras Michael said "me play to all 100,000 people"), there is a level of consistency.
"Is the same message y'know," Ras Michael said. "People have to be educated. That is the whole story of it. No more vulture, just culture."