Count Ossie

Count Ossie was born Oswald Williams in Jamaica (1926, St. Thomas; 18 October 1976). He was a Jamaican drummer, and band leader. He established a Rastafari community in Rockfort, near Wareika Hill, on the east side Kingston. This was where many Kingston musicians were introduced to the Rastafari movement. He formed the Count Ossie Group with other percussionists in the late 1950s. Bruno Blum, a reggae historian, says that the “rasta” style of handdrumming is derived from Jamaican Kumina traditions. Helene Lee’s book The First Rasta, claims that Count Ossie, along with his team, were rejected by the anti-rasta music establishment for their Rastafarian beliefs and were outlawed like most Rastafarians. Marguerita Mahfood, a successful Jamaican rumba dancer and a Honduran-born dancer, requested that Count Ossie be included in her major Ward Theater production. This was around 1959. Vere John Jr. was also resistant at first, but Mahfood insisted that they be included on his Opportunity Hour show at Carib theater. Both shows proved to be a success and opened up new opportunities for Count Ossie (and the Wareikas) right away. After meeting Prince Buster, their first sound recordings were made. He produced “Oh Carolina”, a Wareikas-backed track by the Folkes Brothers. It was recorded at the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation’s (JBC) Studios in 1959. (B-side: I Met a Man). Both songs were recorded in the “shuffle” rhythm and blues style that was popular in Jamaica at the time (not the Lloyd Knibb ska beat). However, it does contain some early rasta handdrumming that is not present on any other R.

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