Legendary master drummer Count Ossie is credited with infusing African drumming and chanting in
reggae music. In the early 1960s, he backed The Folkes Brothers on their ground breaking hit, Oh Carolina.
Born Oswald Williams in 1926 in St. Thomas, Count Ossie grew up in a Rasta community where he learned hand drumming and vocal chanting. In the 1950s, he formed the Count Ossie Group, which later developed into the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari (MRR) and included horn player, Cedric Brooks. Count Ossie led regular jam sessions in Kingston were musicians such as Tommy McCook, Lennie Hibbert, Larry McDonald, Rico Rodriguez, Nambo Robinson and Don Drummond played.
Count Ossie & the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari were a major influence in reggae music, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. They recorded two albums Grounation (1973), considered a masterpiece, and Tales of Mozambique (1975).
Count Ossie died on October 18, 1976. In 1983, the MRR released and Man from Higher Heights.
While the MRR tours extensively in Europe, their first performance in the U.S. was in July, 2000, at the Lincoln Center’s Caribbean Roots, Caribbean Routes program, where I was fortunate to see them. Here’s a review by the New York Times of their performance.