In Memory Of Ras Feel (R.I.P.)
Even though we met him only a few times about 26 years ago, the man who was born Phil Wauters but became known in the Antwerp reggae community as King Flashman aka Jah Fil aka Ras Fil aka Ras Feel made an indelible impression. And although we haven’t seen and spoken with him for a very long time, we are shocked by his passing away at the age of 63.
The first time we met him was on Thursday, May 23, 1996. At the time going by the name Ras Fil, he and Matty Haazen aka Sugar Daddy, the driving force behind the Belgian reggae-zine Rockers, were guest deejays during the second hour of our Reggae Vibes radio show. After Sugar Daddy had played his selection of tunes, it was time for Ras Fil to dig into his bag of Studio One 7″ singles. Never forget that moment when he went on air with The Royals’ Pick Up the Pieces followed by two more versions including Len Allen Jr’s boss tune White Belly Rat. It wasn’t only his great choice of tunes to kick off a Studio One selection that made a serious impression. Even more impressive was his passionate way of sharing his knowledge about Studio One with the listeners and the tunes he played . Still have the tape of that show and it’s always been a joy to listen to that part of the show again. Great memories.
The same year, in July, we went to Ras Fil as he had invited us to come to Antwerp to join him and play our selection of tunes at Centraal Radio where he had a weekly two-hour reggae show at midnight. But first, we had to come to his tiny flat, he insisted. To make it easy for us, he would meet us near Het Steen in Antwerp and from there he would guide us to his home at Linkeroever. When we arrived at the agreed time, the true rastaman was already awaiting us with the Jamaican flag draped around him so we would recognise him instantly from afar. Before going to the radio station we spent a few hours at Ras Fil’s flat where we talked about reggae music and of course Studio One and he played us some of his dearest tunes. He kindly offered us to put his Studio One 12″ singles and dub albums on recordable CDs, a gesture we gladly accepted. Then it was time to go to Radio Centraal to do the show which unfortunately due to technical problems didn’t go satisfyingly. Nevertheless, thanks to Ras Fil we had an unforgettable inspiring night with great vibes.
Between that visit and the day we went back to his home to collect the recordable CDs. A few weeks later we received a letter from Ras Fil, who had renamed himself Ras Feel, in which he wrote that Sugar Daddy had to stop issuing Rockers due to having a busy job. In the same letter, he wrote that he had started a new project which he called RASTAFARI UNIVERSITY OF ZION. We embraced his idea and suggested collaborating which implied that we were going to feature the content on our website. So, we stayed in touch with Ras Feel and he started to send handwritten letters which included – as he called them – ‘scrolls’ with reasonings, reviews, song lyrics, etc. On paper, they appeared in the new publication RASTAFARI UNIVERSITY OF ZION of which Scroll One was published on May 5, 1997. We had the honour to write an introduction for that first edition.
The inspiration for starting Rastafari University of Zion on paper and the internet had come from a speech by His Imperial Majesty at the convocation of Haile Selassie I University on December 19, 1961. On page three of the first edition, Ras Feel wrote:
First of all I want to explain the intentions and working of Rastafari University of Zion. The three main intentions are the following:
– indicating direction within the “Stepping Outta Babylon” movement
– explaining all the details of “Rasta”
– shining a light on reggae music, especially in its spiritual context
And he continued with:
RASTAFARI UNIVERSITY OF ZION works thru the love of the Most High Jah and – to make it more concrete – thru audio & video and also didactic material which goes from music to Bible reasonings. Maybe it will be made possible to start a mail order so that we can provide the people with the aforementioned material.
Concerning the following writings, being the first scroll from the RASTAFARI UNIVERSITY OF ZION. The main intention is print these writings in order to get a long scroll, which can also be passed on to others so that more people can take notice of it.
Unfortunately RASTAFARI UNIVERSITY OF ZION was a short-lived project. Frustrated by the lack of interest and response in combination with feeling misunderstood and social issues that made him angry, he announced to stop with RASTAFARI UNIVERSITY OF ZION in a letter he sent on December 11, 1997.
Besides writing letters to us, two of them being very personal and re-reading them still brings tears to the eyes, he once also sent a package with four minidiscs in June 1997 of which three were “Version Excursions” namely Vol. 1: Meditation, Vol 2: Revolution, and Vol. 3: Liberation. These contained Ras Fil’s vocals, backing vocals, and conscious lyrics over Studio One riddims that he had overdubbed and remixed at his home studio which he called the Rainbow Arch. He asked to play them for the people at Runn Records in our hometown and hoped that he would be given the opportunity to voice at least one of their riddims. However, it never happened. What did happen was that at a certain moment Coxsone Dodd threatened to sue him if he didn’t stop spreading his own versions over Studio One riddims.
If there’s a rasta reggae heaven, Ras Feel deserves to get a place next to all those Studio One legends although he’ll probably stay away from Coxsone Dodd.
Rest in eternal power, Rastaman!
Ras Feel Selected Writings (Click to enlarge)