Drummer of distinction

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

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MOST visitors to Mortimer Planno's 'Grounations' at Fifth Street in Trench Town, during the 1960s, would have likely met Michael Henry, one of the charismatic Planno's most astute students.

Henry is known worldwide as Ras Michael, founder of the Sons of Negus, a leading exponent of Nyahbinghi drumming and music.

Last week, the Government announced that Ras Michael will be awarded the Order of Distinction, Jamaica's sixth-highest honour, for his contribution to the development of the country's music.

Interestingly, in February, 72-year-old Ras Michael bemoaned the lack of respect traditional Rastafarian sounds gets in Jamaica.

"When mi go France last year, at the Garance Festival, people come from all over fi hear the music. Some people seh, 'We come from Poland to hear you, we know your music for ages'. Yuh don't get that here," he told the Jamaica Observer then.

Ras Michael, who lives in Los Angeles, has never wavered from the principles of Rastafari he learned from Planno nor the Afro-inspired drumming first made popular by Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari -- a seminal band of drummers who made music in Rockfort during the 1950s and 1960s.

Led by Ras Michael, the Sons of Negus recorded powerful songs such as New Name and The Lion of Judah, as well as the outstanding album, Dadawah, released in 1974.

Reggae Sunsplash co-founder Ronnie Burke, musicians Harold Butler and Marjorie Whylie, and producers Winston 'Niney' Holness and Donovan Germain are among the other entertainment figures being awarded this year.

Along with Ras Michael, they will receive their insignia during the annual National Honours and Awards Ceremony at King's House in October.

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