National Library of Jamaica
COUNT OSSIE (1928 - 1976)
As a boy, Count Ossie became involved in the Rastafarian community where he learned hand drumming and vocal chanting techniques. By the late 1950s he had become a master drummer and had formed a group with other percussionists - The Count Ossie Group. By the turn of the '60s Count Ossie had become a cultural icon and it was the ingenuity of Prince Buster that made him part of reggae. Buster, ever eager to get one over on his rivals, was looking for a sound that no-one else in Jamaica had managed to put on a ska record. Buster knew about Count Ossie but was told by everyone that he would never agree to work on a commercial record particularly in light of the fact that Buster was a Muslim and Ossie a Rastafarian. However, Buster went up into the hills and returned the next day with Ossie and several drummers in tow. The first and most famous record they made was Oh Carolina and I Met A Man featuring Ossie and ensemble thundering away on funde and kette drums and the vocals of the Folks Brothers out front. The record was a unique combination of ska, R&B and 'grounation' fundamentalist music that was a hit on both the Jamaican and UK music scene. He also recorded for Buster's rival Coxsone Dodd producing hits which included Another Moses. He also had great success with other producers such as Bunny Skitter (Lumumbo) and Lascelles Perkins' Destiny.
After a long break which lasted throughout the rest of the 60s, Ossie and his group now called Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, began recording again and in 1974 produced the groundbreaking hit Grounation, a landmark in Jamaican music. A follow-up album Tales of Mozambique was also a great success.
Shortly after, in 1976, Count Ossie died, leaving behind a unique legacy.