TROJAN NYAHBINGHI BOX SET (TJETD094) - Over the years much has been made of the African influence on reggae music, and in the seventies, as Rastafarian inspired music became the order of the day, so more and more records were released based around the 'back/forward to Africa' theme. The obvious African influences were usually to be found in the lyrics alone while the musical influences remained broadly Rhythm & Blues from the Southern U.S.A. and, although it is probably true that 'African' drum patterns could be found if one cared to examine the music closely enough, the most distinguishing musical traits emanated from the other side of the Atlantic.

Originating in the Afro-Jamaican kumina or buru traditions, whose hand drumming and vocal chants are said to have descended from traditional Western African dances, Nyahbinghi music, in its purest form, was only ever performed and heard at 'grounations' or meetings in Rastafarian camps such as the Dungle and Wareika hill, and its relentless drumbeats and constant chanting have always been inextricably linked with serious devotees of the Rastafarian faith. Three different types of drums, known collectively as kette (or akete or ikete) drums, were used in the buru music:

The large bass drum, with its deep resounding beat, usually between two and three feet in diameter that would sometimes be played by striking with a padded stick was used to keep time and maintain the pace. The funde tuned flat with a slack membrane for syncopation. The smaller repeater, higher pitched with a taut goatskin membrane, was used to lay the rhythm with the repeater drum improvising over the top.

The main three drums would be augmented by a selection of different percussion instruments, and homemade instruments, such as bottle horns or saxophones, would be incorporated; many of Jamaica's finest jazz and ska musicians were to be found praising God and developing their musical skills at these fundamentalist gatherings. Most unusually in the history of Jamaican music, no amplification was used.

The pure and unadulterated forms of Nyahbinghi music were thought to be of limited appeal although serious musicologists, such as Edward Seaga, had made infrequent 'field' recordings of Nyahbinghi sessions during the fifties.

'I myself have done considerable research and have produced two albums of music actually recorded at meetings of various cult groups in the country, These recordings, however, by their very nature, had a limited appeal as they represent what is a greater interest to serious students of indigenous folk cultures than the public at large'.

The legendary Count Ossie (born Oswald Williams in the parish of St. Thomas in March 1926) was to prove that this was thankfully not true. The foremost exponent of this ascetic style, his bass drum adorned with Psalm 133 'Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity', Count Ossie first became involved in the Rastafarian faith as a youth where he learnt the hand drumming and the vocal chanting techniques that were an explicit expression of the African heritage of Jamaica, under the influence of a master buru drummer, known simply as Brother Job. The drum, seen as representing the heartbeat of the nation, was of paramount importance to the Rastafarian faith and, it is said, that the musical relationship between these two men gave birth to what would eventually become the unique style of Rastafarian drumming.

In the early fifties, Count Ossie set up his own Rasta camp in the Rennock Lodge Community in East Kingston which soon became a base for many of Jamaica's finest musicians and Rico Rodriguez, Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook, Ernest Ranglin and Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore numbered among the brethren that played with Count Ossie's Band. As well as grounations Count Ossie's Band also played at many dance sessions across the island bringing their music to the attention of a wider publc.

Prince Buster was the first producer to take Count Ossie to the recording studio when, in 1960, he asked the celebrated drummer to provide the backing for the Folks Brothers' rendition of 'Oh Carolina', the record subsequently issued crediting 'the Count Ossie Afro-Combo'. Buster, so the story goes, had been searching for a totally unique sound for a ska record that he found in the music of Count Ossie. He had been informed that Count Ossie would never perform on a commercial recording, but Buster managed to persuade him to come to the studio and 'Oh Carolina' proved to be a major hit. A number of records followed in its immediate wake using Count Ossie's unique stylings including 'Chubby' (also known as 'Cassavubu') also for Prince Buster, 'Another Moses' with The Mellowcats and 'Lumumbo' with Bonny and Skitter for 'Coxsone' Dodd at Studio One. Throughout the sixties and on into the seventies many different producers enlisted the talents of Count Ossie's drummers and other exponents of the art such as Bongo Herman and Eric 'Bingy Bunny' Lamont on a superb and varied selection of Nyahbinghi based recordings many of which are collected together here for the first time ever.

The seventies roots music explosion proved to be the one time when the Nyahbinghi ensembles were able to record their music without having to concern themselves too much with any commercial considerations. The public's acceptance of the Rastafarian religion, its philosophy and its music had grown steadily and this greater tolerance allowed Count Ossie, together with Saxophonist Cedric Brooks, to record the classic triple concept album 'Grounation' released in 1973 in the UK on the Ashanti label and in Jamaica on M.R.R. (Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari) Records. It represents the essential Rastafarian musical artefact, combining incessant drumming and dread reasoning with free jazz work outs and it has never been superseded. Count Ossie died tragically in October 1976 in a freak accident during a cricket match at the National Stadium in Kingston, when a storm panicked the crowd. Other Nyahbinghi aggregations had come into their own during the seventies, most notably Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus who 'lay on electric instruments and modern reggae sensibility, building a hybrid of old and new'. Much of their excellent groundbreaking work is featured here including some of the music that they made with producer Lloyd Charmers, as Dadawah.

Nyahbinghi music has never been regarded as being at the forefront of reggae music but its tenets have been implicitly adopted more as an attitude and state of mind than for any stylistic innovations and its place in the history of Jamaican music remains 'native here and to the manor born... more honoured in the breach than the observance'. Its presence still continues to be felt on any number of different levels in Jamaican Music as an intuitive and unspoken act of faith that demonstrates an unbroken link with the music's shared ancestral and cultural heritage. Hear it here in the fullness of its unadorned beauty and simplicity.

Harry Hawke
Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton: Reggae The Rough Guide - Rough guides 1997
Stephen Davis & Peter Simon: Reggae Bloodlines - Anchor Books 1977
Various: The Guinness Who's Who Of Reggae - Guinness Publishing 1994
Various: From The grass Roots Of Jamaican Dynamic (Jamaica) L.P.




Keep Cool Babylon
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
Know Fari
Bongo Herman & Eric ‘Bingy Bunny’ Lamont
Back To Africa Part One
Count Ossie & His Band
Rivers Of Babylon
Prince Student
Rise Jah Jah Children (The Lion Sleeps)
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
African Breakfast
Bongo Herman & Eric ‘Bingy Bunny’ Lamont
Rasta Reggae
Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation
Run Come Really
Roll River Jordan
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
Salaam (Peace)
Bongo Herman & Eric ‘Bingy Bunny’ Lamont
Ethiopian Kingdom
‘Prince’ Roland Downer & Count Ossie with his band
Drums Of Passion
Morgan’s All Stars
We're Marching On To Victory
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
Tribute To Don Quarrie
Bongo Herman
Soul Drums
Count Ossie & Leslie Butler
Rasta Dreadlocks
The Heaven Singers
Words Of Wisdom
Max Romeo

Run Come (Throw Away Your Stony Heart)
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
Dew Of Herman (aka Eternal Drums)
Bongo Herman & Les David
Move Up (Nyah Bongo)
Al Vibrators with Count Ossie & His Band
Burning Drums
Carnal Mind
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
Earth's Rightful Ruler
U Roy & Peter Tosh
Nyah Man Story
The Linkers
Reggae With The Birds
Bongo Herman & The Harry J All Stars
Jah Got The Whole World
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
The Typhoon All Stars
Seventy Two Nations
Water Pump
Bongo Herman
Rastaman Chant
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation
Sounds Of Babylon
Samuel The First
Tribute To The President
Bongo Herman

Nyah Man Say
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
Freedom Fighters
Bongo Herman & Eric ‘Bingy Bunny’ Lamont
A Ju Ju Wah
‘Prince’ Roland Downer & Count Ossie with his band
Zion Land
I Dread Version
Count Ossie & His Band
Cast Them In The Fire
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
Feel Nice
Bongo Herman & Eric ‘Bingy Bunny’ Lamont
Bongo Man (A Come)
Jimmy Cliff
Blacker Black
Count Ossie & His Band
Pretty Little Face
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
Vice President
Bongo Herman
Know How You Stand
Back To Africa Part Two
Count Ossie & His Band
Boston Jack & The Soulites
Come Down (Pomps And Pride)
Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus
Musical Drum Sound
I Roy
Musical Drum Sound (Version)
The Now Generation

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Time - 59:22

Time - 68:17

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