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The Musical Prophet
Singer, songwriter, performing and recording artist, composer and producer, Ras Midas has produced critically acclaimed roots rock Reggae music since 1974, when he began recording unique and innovative songs for legendary Jamaican producer, the late Harry Johnson (Harry J Recording Studio, Kingston, JA).
Ras Midas’s first album, Cover Me (1974), was released on Harry J Records/ Trojan Records, and was followed by Reflections in 1976. His first international hit, ‘Kude-A-Bamba’, was recorded in English and, at Chris Blackwell’s suggestion, in Swahili on Harry J Records/ Island Records (1976); the single quickly sold half a million copies worldwide.
Kude-A-Bamba (1978) and Rain And Fire (1979) were released on Harry J Records / Island Records; Rastaman In Exile was recorded at Harry J’s and released on Disc AZ International (France) in 1980, and voted Reggae Album Of The Year in France.
In 1984 Stand Up Wise Up, recorded at Harry J’s, was released on Celluloid (France).
In 1979, Ras Midas collaborated with the late Jamaican DJ I-Roy (Roy Samuel Reid), on 12″ disco mixes of ‘Kude-A-Bamba’, ‘Trouble Town’, and ‘Good Old Days’ (Harry J Records/Virgin Records), and ‘Good Old Days’ were re-released in 1981 on Tribesman Records, U.K. The disco mixes of ‘Can’t Stop Rastaman Now’ and ‘Rain And Fire’ were released on Warrior Records, a subsidiary of Universal Records, in 1980.
Stand Up Wise Up was re-released on vinyl in the U.S. on Ras Midas’s label, JML Records, in 1988, followed by Loving Vibration (1998), Confirmation (2000), Reaching Out (2006), and Fire Up (2010).
Rastaman In Exile – remixed and remastered, was released on CD in October, 2016 on JML Records.
Loving Vibration was rated No. 3 by music critics in the 1998 Top Ten independently produced World Music albums category and, two years later, Confirmation was a Top Ten contender for consideration for a Grammy Award.
Always recording with top-notch, respected musicians and vocalists, Ras Midas’s albums feature background vocals from Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, Rita Marley, Pamela Hall, Annesa Banks, Keble Drummond, Carlton Smith, Junior Moore, and The Tamlins.
Sylvan Morris, one of the most acclaimed Reggae music engineers and arrangers, worked with Ras Midas on all of his albums except Reaching Out and Fire Up.
A Rastaman with a distinctive style and a silky smooth voice, RasMidas sings with the mission of a musical revolutionary. Dubbed ‘The Musical Prophet’ early in his career, Ras Midas’s powerful messages of social justice, love, unity, and spiritual consciousness have remained unchanged over four decades.
Consistently presenting electrifying performances which showcase positive lyrics sung over solid, original, and authentic roots rock Reggae rhythms, Ras Midas continues to push traditional Reggae music into a new and contemporary dimension while still retaining its roots.
Official Website: RasMidas.com
IRIE. You were born in Clarendon Parish, Jamaica in 1958, right at the beginning of the birth of reggae music in the form of Ska. Can you share any memories from your childhood?
Ras Midas. Yes, I was fortunate to be born when Ska music was created. I never knew too much about the early days but, from about age 10, I listened to Don Drummond and The Skatalites, Desmond Dekker, Prince Buster, Derrick Morgan, The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff. I learned that Ska was authentic Jamaican music created by Jamaican musicians to celebrate independence from England. Ska music was the music of Jamaican liberation.
IRIE. You grew up in a Rastafari family. Is it true that you were taught the Rastafarian faith by your grandmother? What does Rastafari mean to you?
Ras Midas. Yes, my grandmother taught me about Rastafari. She didn’t teach me that it was a faith or a religion. What she explained was that the concept of Rastafari evolved from the ideology of Marcus Garvey and the philosophy of Haile Selassie.
So I grew up understanding that Rastafari was a spiritual, cultural, and conscious revolutionary movement to become self-reliant and independent from British Colonialism—and now, from modern Babylon.
For me personally, Rastafari is a way of life. You don’t talk about it; you live it. Rastafari helped me to evolve into a better person, and to better understand people and to respect other cultures.
My music is a direct result of my spiritual being; my lyrics speak for the down-trodden, for those who continue to seek equal rights and justice.
IRIE. You began your music career at the age of 16, recording songs for the legendary Jamaican producer Harry Johnson (Harry J Recording Studio, Kingston, JA). How did this opportunity come about?
Ras Midas. I was introduced to Harry Johnson by a family friend when I was 14, and Harry decided to give me an audition. He said he was “impressed by my melodies and lyrics” but he said I needed to practice more and to come back in two years’ time. So I went to see Harry J when I was 16, I sang for him again, and he decided that he would record and produce me.
IRIE. Your first international hit was the single, ‘Kude-A-Bamba’, which sold a half a million copies worldwide in 1976. What do you attribute the success of the single to? Can you tell us what ‘Kude-A-Bamba’ means?
Ras Midas. When I was growing up, my grandmother used the saying, kude-a-bamba. I asked her what it meant, where the expression came from; she told me expression kude-a-bamba came from the tribal language of the Ashanti people in Ghana, and that it meant “love of the common people.” After her death, I decided to write a song as a tribute to my family and friends.
Listen to the lyrics, and you will hear me sing about Granny Sarah, Auntie Belle, grandpa and my childhood friends, and the way of life in our community. ‘Kude-A-Bamba’ was released on Island Records in 1976, and Island promoted the single worldwide; they did a good job marketing the song.
IRIE. How did the name Ras Midas come about and what is the meaning behind it?
Ras Midas. When I start recording for Harry J, we were discussing a recording name for me that would work well for my concept and style of music. I suggested some names to Harry, but he decided that “Ras Midas” fit me: it was catchy, powerful, and easy to remember.
Plus, it was different from the other artists in Jamaica. Sylvan Morris agreed with Harry, so Ras Midas became my professional name.
IRIE. In 1980, you released your iconic album, RASTAMAN IN EXILE, which was recorded at Harry J Studio and at Channel One, and was engineered by Sylvan Morris. The album won France’s Reggae Album of the Year award. From the title track, ‘Rastaman in Exile’, to tracks such as ‘Plague And Armageddon’ and ‘Melchizedek’, each song delivers a prophetic message. Did you know at the time that you were creating one of reggae’s greatest master pieces?
Ras Midas. I really never know but when we were recording the album, Morris said to me, “Midas, this album sound powerful, man. The lyrics and the composition that you have here… if you and your manager will give me the time to work on it the right and proper way, this album can be one of your best recordings.” And this is what we precisely did!
I was living in France back then so my manager suggested that I voice one of the songs in French to market the album to French speaking people around the world. I have heard that “Trop Longtemps Dans Le Vent” (“Too Long In The Wind”) was the first reggae song recorded in French by a Jamaican artist.
When we were doing the over-dubbing at Harry J’s, I met a gentleman from France, who asked me to get in touch with him when the album was finished. So my manager sent him three songs, including “Trop Longtemps Dans Le Vent.” Interested, he shopped the album, and Disc AZ International decided to distribute and promote the album. At the end of 1980, reggae fans in France voted RASTAMAN IN EXILE “Reggae Album of the Year,” which was a great honor.
IRIE. You’ve worked with acclaimed engineer, Sylvan Morris, on all of your albums except Reaching Out (2006) and Fire Up (2010). What was your working relationship like with Sylvan Morris and can you share with us any memorable moments while working together?
Ras Midas. Very great, very wonderful. Morris and I keep in touch to this day; we share memories of our past recording experiences and our future recording plans, as well as our philosophies of life. Morris took me under his wing when I was 16 and told me that I am a “natural talent,” that I have something “special and spiritual” within me, and that he will do what he can to help me achieve my goals. Morris taught me to be disciplined, to have confidence in myself, not to run around to different producers, and to listen to him as an experience sound engineer – and I listened to Morris.
A special memory is recording ‘Kude-A- Bamba’ and Harry J and Morris were laughing because they never heard those words before – “Kude Kude Kude Kude, Kude-A-Bamba” – and the way I was singing the song, they thought it was unusual but at the same time they said it was catchy. “Midas, this song sounds different!” Sly [Dunbar] and Robbie [Shakespeare] started to laugh, too, and Sly said to Harry, “Where you get this singer from?” Ansel Collins told everyone, “Let us stop laughing and lay the rhythm; this is the kind of song that will make it.”
IRIE. Who are some of your musical influence and where do you find inspiration in your songwriting?
Ras Midas. I am not an artist who was influenced by other people. I listen to other artists but I do not adapt their style into my work. My inspiration comes from everyday life, the struggle of the common people, events around the world, and spiritual creativeness. My music and lyrics come out of me naturally.
IRIE. Much Respect, Ras Midas! Dubbed the Musical Prophet in Europe since 1979, your songs are filled with messages of love, unity, social justice and spiritual consciousness. You are a true music revolutionary, educating us with your music while never, ever being apologetic for exposing the real truth. You have been producing true roots reggae music for over four decades, yet your music remains unchanged. Why is that important to Ras Midas?
Ras Midas. Well, when your music is natural and you are inspired to sing the truth, then you are not afraid to share the history of injustice… of what the negative leaders of the world are doing to innocent people. I simply sing the truth as I see it. What I’ve seen since I was a youth is history repeating itself over and over, so I keep singing songs about injustice. It is important to me to educate people and to spread the concept of love and equality, of tolerance, respect, and acceptance. This is what I call the One Love Revolution.
IRIE. Through your illustrious career, you managed to collaborate and work with only the best musicians and singers in the business. It’s like a Who’s Who of Reggae Music. Can you share with us a few of the people you have worked with?
Ras Midas. The list is long – I’ve been recording a long time! Since the beginning of my career, I have been very fortunate to work with some of the best musicians and singers from Jamaica. Where do I start? (Laughs.)
Musicians I have worked with include:
Drums – Sly Dunbar, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Mikey Richards, Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis; Bass – Robbie Shakespeare, Val Douglas, Ian Lewis (Inner Circle), Ranchie McLean; Guitar – Ernest Ranglin, Andy Bassford, Dwight Pickney, Lloyd ‘Gitsy’ Willis, Eric ‘Bingi Bunny’ Lamont, Winston ‘Bo Pee’ Bowan; Keyboards – Gladstone ‘Gladdy’ Anderson, Ansell Collins, Winston Wright, Franklin ‘Bubbler’ Waul, Earl ‘Wire’ Lindo, Peter Ashbourne, Robert Lynn; Harmonica – Jimmy Becker; Horns – Dean Frazer, Ronald ‘Nambo’ Anderson, Junior ‘Chico’ Chin, Glen De Costa; Percussion – Uzziah ‘Sticky’ Thompson, Noel ‘Skully’ Simms, Sylvan Morris, Herman “Bongo Herman” Davis and Leroy ‘Mabrak’ Mattis.
Singers include Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, Rita Marley, Pamela Hall, Annesa Banks, Keble Drummond, and The Tamlins.
IRIE. On October 16, 2016, you re-released RASTAMAN IN EXILE. What do you hope the new generation of reggae fans take from the album? If you could share one message from this album, what would that message be?
Ras Midas. I hope they will carefully listen to the message… take time and truly hear the lyrics. Understand the spiritual and healing message of my music. I am truly a revolutionary artist since I began my career, and I have no plans to change – this is who I am.
I also hope people will understand that the musicians and singers who recorded on RASTAMAN IN EXILE are real people, coming together and working together to create original sound — authentic roots rock reggae music. These are dedicated musicians and singers who perform from their heart and soul.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to share with our audience?
Ras Midas. My hope is that my music will help my brothers and sisters around the world to stand up and wise up. To work together to make this world a better place for all people, no matter their nationality, color, creed, or political or cultural opinion. This is the concept of the One Love Revolution.
IRIE. Much love and Respect, Ras Midas!
Ras Midas. Thank you, Nico, for inviting me to share my thoughts and experiences. It is a great honor to be featured in IRIE Magazine. One love to all.