Ras Midas Interview
Ras Midas is one of the most humble and gracious Reggae artists that have ever trod through Creation. His heartfelt and thought provoking songs have gained him an international audience since the 1970s. His fantastic “Rastaman In Exile” album was voted Top Reggae Album in France in 1980. He was voted into the Top 10 in Reggae for a Grammy in 2000 for “Confirmation.” His most recent effort, “Fire Up,” is an outstanding set for the ages. Robert “Higherman” Heilman recently reasoned with “The Musical Prophet” by telephone.
Special thanks to Nan Lewis, ENTERTAINMENT WORKS (specializing in representation of Reggae artists since 1989), for making this INIterview a blessed reality.
“TALKING ABOUT A ONE LOVE REVOLUTION”
First of all, raspect unto the I for blessing the Massive with your master class blend of King’s Musik.
Yes, give thanks.
You’ve been in the business for a long time now as a solo artist, since 1974. You’ve been busy all the way through your last album “Fire Up.” This is your 10th album?
Yes, this is my 10th solo album.
In the 1970s, you stuck to the Roots Reggae formula with albums like “Rain And Fire.” When did you incorporate more of a crossover appeal?
That happened with Harry Johnson, Harry J Records, my first producer. He was looking for an international vision. He encouraged me to expand my music across many cultures, so my music would be more acceptable internationally. He was the one who produced me in that way. And that is the vision that I continue.
“Can’t Stop Rastaman Now” is one of my all time favorite songs. It’s got definite crossover appeal!
“Can’t Stop Rastaman Now” was recorded in 1976. At the time, Disco was the rave. Harry J felt I could do a Reggae Disco version. It was a big hit in Africa and very popular in the U.K.; relating in a cultural point of consciousness. It really identified the Rastaman philosophy – to reach out and respect each other.
Your fantastic “Kude A Bamba” single sold over half a million copies. Did that open up a lot of doors for you?
That was the song that launched me internationally. In Europe. In Africa. In the Caribbean. I did one version in English, and one version in Swahili to communicate with people in Africa. They call me “Kude A Bamba Man” in some African countries. When it was being mixed, Chris Blackwell [founder of Island Records] came to the studio. Harry J said that he had a young upcoming artist, and he told Chris that, “his style is new and raw and different, and he has a story in his music.” Chris listened and got interested! Chris encouraged Harry J to do a version of “Kude A Bamba” in Swahili and so I did.
The 1980s was a time of prosperity for you. “Rastaman In Exile”  was voted Reggae Album Of The Year in France. What was going on for you then?
I got a record deal in France so I decided to relocate from Harry J. I still record in his studio and we remain good friends. I had a new manager and when he listened to my songs, he thought it would be good to record a version of “Too Long In The Wind” in French. There were a lot of Caribbean people living in the country [France] and they thought “Rastaman In Exile” was deep. They loved the production! That album gave me a good connection with the world.
That same year, you did a crucial world tour with Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, the legendary drummer. Who else was on that tour?
Well, we did a world tour. Horsemouth on drums. “Ranchie” McLean on bass. “Wire” Lindo on keys. Gladstone “Gladdy” Anderson on piano. “Bongo” Herman on percussion. “Dirty Harry” on horns. R. “Sewell” on guitar. Jimmy Becker on harmonica. We toured Canada, Western Europe, and toured in Africa – Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, The Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Morocco. Music and lyrics comes freely and natural. It was really nice! I was young, energetic and happy.
“Stand Up And Wise Up” (1984) is a great album that featured Sly & Robbie and the cream of Reggae musicians. Did you take Sly and Robbie on the road?
A: No, I only record with Sly and Robbie in the studio. Some L.A. people liked the album. I met with A&M Records but it wasn’t the right vibe. After the album, I went independent. I formed JLM Productions/JML Records. I was happy to be in control of my music. I saw the light of reality when I became independent.
That album had some staying power. I was checking a Reggae chart from 1990 and it was right there in the top 20!
“Stand Up Wise Up” – one of my strongest albums. From this album release, people in Europe and Africa and the Caribbean call me the “Musical Prophet.” Some people say the album is like a prediction. “European Common Market” [a song from the album] is about the unification of Europe, which means the revival of Modern Rome. Uniting economically, politically. One currency [Euro]. The U.S. is the leading power of Modern Rome. People don’t understand the meaning of 666… leading Babylon organizations. One 6: United Nations. One 6: World Council of Churches. One 6: IMF [International Monetary Fund]. The military part of it: NATO. Prophecy has to fulfill. The real power brokers behind Babylon works is the Illuminati. In this moment, there is an incorporation of one world government, administered by the United Nations, and the Illuminati is the secret government behind all governments of the world. The 250 families – kings, queens, military dictators, and corrupt politicians. Sting [from music group “The Police”] sings, “Every step you take, I’ll be watching you.” Babylon will be watching you; you can’t hide. We must stand up and wise up. If we don’t, we will be mentally and spiritually blind. My music is cosmic inspiration; in this time of history, there is no time for negativity. I have and I continue to study how things work in this system. The system teaches you to look outside yourself, to become dependent on what doesn’t exist. When you’re dependent, they control you. Beware of what you can’t see…
You did a California tour in 1985-86. I checked you in San Diego at The Adams Avenue Theatre. Great show.
Yes, yes. Thanks…
In the late 1980s, you did a massive tour with special guests. Who were some of these musicians?
Well, it was Michael George on bass. Ben Irvin on drums. Larry McDonald on percussion. Gill Rubio on guitar. James Schultheis on guitar. Breno Brown on horns. Martin Batista on keys. The background vocal group was Pastiche. I was demonstrating that you don’t have to be born in Jamaica to play Reggae. You have to understand music, the mathematics of music. I was able to work with these musicians because they understand the mathematics of music. Music is a worldwide language. We were able to cultivate a Roots Rock Reggae sound into the Rock market. We played venues that 95% of Reggae artists would not. Then I took some time off. I traveled to South America, Africa – 36 countries in all. I went to Zimbabwe; I went to Egypt. What I was doing was researching my history. Meeting people, and learning what I’m supposed to know. After these journeys, I recorded “Loving Vibration.” What I discovered is that Babylon education suffocated my inner intellect. Positive people all around the world must come together to put our cards on the table to rebuild Mother Earth and the positive brotherhood of Mankind. Power of words overstanding; Rasta is a part of that. Evolution of consciousness – ONE LOVE REVOLUTION becoming reality. The philosophy of Rastafari is truth and love. You cannot love another if you can’t love yourself. Real love is a way of life. I have ONE LOVE; positivity is in me. I’m not perfect, I evolve everyday. It’s my choice to get out of any situations I put myself in, like pain and sorrow. Accept, respect, and the positive tree will grow. Tolerance and acceptance for each other. Babylon love is a bedroom thing. We cannot establish spiritual love in fornication; living for the flesh alone is corruption. Do you want to live on a barren rock or in fertile soil? The I that I am that lives within I [Man/Word/Life] inspires me to cultivate, create, to make music…
You made a move to Santa Cruz [a coastal town in Northern California]. Santa Cruz has been home to many greats like Haile Maskel and The Rastafarians.
I lived in Santa Cruz in 1984. In 1989, I became a permanent resident of the United States. I don’t exalt myself; I didn’t even tell people where I was. The Rastafarians and I performed in 1981. Herb Daly [former guitarist of The Rastafarians] understands Reggae. He now has a band called Root Awakening. Easy to work with these gifted musicians. It’s hard to teach Reggae; it’s more than “chinga-chinga”. You must learn the culture, learn Rastafari. Live Reggae, play Reggae, in the concept and philosophy of Rastafari – the ONE LOVE REVOLUTION.
You’ve released some great works. Congratulations for being in the Top 10 for the Grammy for your showcase album “Confirmation” in 2000!
Nuff respect to “Confirmation.” This album gave me a niche. I did a version of “Sunrise, Sunset,” a song from “Fiddler On The Roof.” A friend of mine asked if I could convert it – I can be creative, with others writers lyrics, melody, and chorus. People really appreciate it. This song was well accepted in Israel.
“Loving Vibration” is a great album. The fusion formula really worked.
I did “Loving Vibration” and everyone was arguing that it sounds like World Beat! I was trying to get the vibration of love compatible with my original music. Africa alone cannot rebuild the Motherland; that was the message. People could dance to it! But the Roots Rock Reggae people didn’t like it. It takes a while for people to open up to new ideas. The riddims are from Africa, Jamaica, U.S., and South America. It was the number three independent album of 1998. Brazil love it. Australia love it. Africa love it, too.
“Reaching Out”  incorporates Hip Hop and Dancehall elements. Big up for using California talent like Leroy Mabrak and Dell Carter. Dan-I Spencer adds some crucial rap on “Mystery Babylon.” Your most adventurous album yet?
I admit to that; it is the taste of different musical fruits – a little R&B, Hip Hop, and Reggae. Not too strong! People say it opened up their eyes. Hip Hop Radio stations love it. Gotta try adventurous things! People realize it’s not one stem…
Your most recent effort “Fire Up” (2010) is more in the Roots Rock Reggae vein. Recording with Herb Daly and Root Awakening must have been ites. [Note: Root Awakening consists of Herb Daly on bass and background vocals, Cedric Angila on drums and percussion, Bennie Torres on guitar, John Niven on keyboards and background vocals, Steven Robinson on keyboards and background vocals.]
It was a wonderful experience working with Root Awakening, professional musicians who can play-and relate-to my compositions. “Fire Up” was in the Top 10 in Italy for three months and is still in the Top 20 [from June 2012 to January 2013 when this interview was made]. Still doing massive promotion in Europe and Africa.
This album has a live feel to it and you revisited some old tracks?
The album was recorded live. I recorded it the way I used to record; live. The original “Kude A Bamba” was recorded live; raw and original. Why I call this album “Fire Up” is this… There is turmoil in the world; we are all in a “Trouble Town.” England-trouble; France-trouble, Spain-trouble, Greece-trouble… everywhere is trouble. The time is right for “Rain And Fire.” “Nuclear Graveyard” is on this album and five months later [after the release], there was the Japanese tsunami. Look what is going on in the Middle East, and in the western world also – economical fire. People must not forget that the “Rasta Revolution” started with the Maroons, forward to Marcus Garvey… It helped Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama play a part in fulfilling the civil rights revolution in the United States. The rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer. There is “No Bread” – there’s a “Hole In The Bucket” all over the world. I sing about “400 years” – how the system uses people. Long live the “Good Old Days.” “Lean On Jah,” that is the message. [Note: The songs, in quotes, are included on “Fire Up.”]
Any new projects coming up?
Yes. I am working on new material for my next album.
Your objective has always been to spread your message universally. Do you feel you have achieved that?
No, for me, this is just the beginning, although I’m happy that many people accept my music and my message. I hope my music can help people evolve into a positive state of Jah consciousness. I would like my music to be heard all over the globe; not quantity, just quality. I’m not looking to be a Super Star; I am just an ordinary man doing Rastafari works – with a smile. A wise man talks less. Revolution of Love is truth. I only want to open people’s eyes to the ONE LOVE REVOLUTION. That’s my vision.
Ras Midas, give thanks for your time and blessings.
Yes, thank you as well. I want to continue to share what I have learned through the years, mentally and spiritually. Breaking bread, collecting fruits, reaching out and replanting the vineyard. The ONE LOVE REVOLUTION is my vision. I have been meditating in the mountains and now I’m in the valley. Let people know that I’m rekindling my music, with a new chapter in my life… One Love. Jah guidance.
Ras Midas, Palookaville in Santa Cruz CA, 2000. (Photo: Diane Adam)