Ras Karbi was born on the Island of Jamaica. He is the 21st and last child of his father and the 3rd and last of his mother. At the age of 17 while on a scholarship at The Jamaica School of Art, he started his first band, “The Now Generation”.
After graduating, he was awarded scholarships by The Brooklyn Museum Art School in New York and later, by the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) where he studied sculpture and acting, while pursuing a degree in music at Brown University. At Brown he met and played bass with Jonas Gwangwa, Michael Carvin and Max Roach. He was introduced to Sun Ra by his music professor Robert Northern (Brother Ah) and he immediately joined the Sun Ra Arkestra.
Experimenting with Reggae, Rock and Roll Rhythm and Blues and Jazz, Karbi and his six piece band developed a new and distinct style and soon become one of the largest-drawing performers in New England night clubs.
His song “No Work Today” held the “most played” spot on Boston’s WBCN radio for three solid months. In 1975 he ran seven of the most successful art workshops for kids, funded by The Rhode Island State Council On The Arts. He eagerly headed to Boston to joined his old friends, Bob Marley and The Wailers who were on the first leg of their American tour. Confronted with discrimination and police brutality in Rhode Island, he returned to Jamaica later that year and attended a private audition with Island Record’s president Chris Blackwell and Michael Butler, producer of “Hair,” Karbi was hired as a songwriter for Butler’s next Broadway production. On bass and vocals, he teamed with Peter Tosh (guitar) Tyrone Downey of The Wailers (keyboards) and Leroy (Horse Mouth) Wallace (drums) to record “Discrimination.”
The prominent Musicologist Dermot Hussey called it “..The most controversial song in the history of Jamaican music”. Banned by the Jamaican Government, it subsequently became a smash hit. Wrote Winston Barnes of the Jamaica Dailey News, “Every tongue of every age, class, colour and creed, chanted to the catchy entertaining and provocative lyrics of ‘Discrimination’ the pleased and not so pleased rocked to the beat”. In New York, Karbi wrote songs with Michael Kayman (producer of David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Bryan Adams) and starred in Butler’s Broadway production. “Reggae.” Thulani Davis of The Village Voice wrote:
“Composer/singer, Ras Karbi…gently
steals the show. Karbi’s affecting tenor
sincere and vulnerable (somewhat like the
voice of Sam Cook and Al Green), created
The 1978 Encyclopedia Britannica Year Book list Ras Karbi as “A leading composer and performer of Reggae music”. In 1983 his song “Jamaica, I’ll Never Leave You Again” won a landslide victory in The Jamaica National Song Contest. Winston Barnes (Jamaica Daily News) wrote: "..Ras Karbi is a force to reckon with". He has met, performed or recorded with many other prominent musicians including; The (original) Wailers, Sly and Robbie, Peter Tosh, Dean Frazer, Sun Ra, Brother Ah, Max Roach, John Gilmore, Michael Carvin, Ed Blackwell, Ron Burton, Melba Liston, Brother Ah, Michael Kayman, Jimmy Buffet, Dave Mason, Larry Mc Cray, Tim Curry, Keith Richards, The Jones Girls, Stevie Wonder, George Duke, Roberta Flack, Paul Mc Carthy, Mick Jagger, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Diana Ross, The Postmen and Jacqueline Kennedy.
Ras Karbi has traveled extensively and has lived in Japan, Canada, Germany, Venezuela, Spain, The United States and Jamaica.
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