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Ras Michael & The Sons of Negus

b. Michael George Henry, c.1943, Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies. Henry grew up in a Rastafarian community at St. Mary where he learned hand-drumming, eventually becoming a master-drummer. In the early 60s, he formed the Sons Of Negus, a Rastafarian group of drummers and singers. In the mid-60s he founded his own Zion Disc label, and started to release a series of singles including ‘Lion Of Judah’, ‘Ethiopian National Anthem’ and ‘Salvation’. These recordings, on which the group is usually augmented by guitar and bass, show a remarkable degree of invention and subtlety. 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, on which his group was augmented by studio musicians, a blend of Rastafarian chant, reggae, southern soul and psychedelia greatly enhanced by its imaginative arrangements. Nyahbinghi was a collection of chants and hymns in the style of his Zion disc singles. In 1975, he recorded Rastafari, on which his group was augmented by several well-known reggae musicians. The album’s tight arrangements and excellent songs brought him into the reggae mainstream, but the momentum was lost with 1976’s Tribute To The Emperor with Jazzboe Abubaka and Freedom Sounds. He augmented his group again for 1978’s Kabir Am Lak (Glory To God) and Movements, both of which are strong albums. In 1979, Rastafari In Dub was issued, an excellent collection of material culled from Rastafari and Kibir Am Lak. Further releases included Promised Land Sounds Live (1980), Disarmament and Revelation (1982). His last outstanding album was Love Thy Neighbour, whose imaginative production is the work of Lee Perry. During the late 80s Michael spent a great deal of time teaching drumming. He returned to recording with Zion Train (1988), a mediocre album made without the Sons Of Negus, followed by Know How (1990), a disappointing set which tried to incorporate world music elements.
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