Monday, March 21, 2011

Aashid Himons - Blues Obit

Aashid HimonsArchie "Aashid" Himons, an integral part of Nashville's non-country music scene for better than three decades, passed away on Saturday, March 19, 2011 after a brief illness. Himons was 68 years old at the time of his death.

A musical innovator that fused traditional country blues with reggae and world music during the late 1970s, Aashid, as he is known to his many fans, is best known for his popular "blu-reggae" band Afrikan Dreamland, which put Himons' myriad of musical influences into play in creating an energetic and unique sound. With bandmates Darrell Rose and Mustafa Abdul Aleem, the trio recorded six albums and would be the first reggae-oriented band to receive airplay on MTV. Himons' roots ran deep, though, and included a formative background in blues and soul music.

Himons was born in rural West Virginia in 1942, learning the piano by age 3 and the drums by 5 years old. Like many blues artists of the era, Himons sang in the church, and the talented youngster subsequently appeared on several radio and television shows, including The Today Show with Dave Garroway. Himons left home as a teen, hitchhiking to New York City and later joining the army.

After serving his stint with the military, Himons settled into the Washington, D.C. music scene, forming the R&B group Little Archie & the Majestics. During the 1960s, Himons would record a number of sides for various labels and with different bands, but it was a 1966 deal with Dial Records that would result in a pair of singles – "All I Have To Do" and "You Can't Tie Me Down" – that would become known as classics of "northern soul" music, and highly collectible, especially by British aficionados of the genre.

During the late 1960s, Himons worked throughout the country as a blues musician, performing coffeehouses and street corners as "West Virginia Slim." He landed in Toronto in 1969, forming the short-lived duo God & I with musician and actor Jim Byrnes. Himons' restless spirit would lead him to Mexico City, where he performed with a local blues band, but it was during a trip to the Honduras in 1972, where Himons experienced a performance by Count Ossie & the Mystical Revelation of Rastafari, that he had a musical and spiritual epiphany that led to his conversion to Rastafarianism and the creation of his "blu-reggae" style.

A hybrid of country blues, R&B, and reggae that was influenced by Count Ossie's mesmerizing nyabinghi rhythms and the Jamaican style popularized by Bob Marley, blu-reggae would later influence contemporary blues artists like Corey Harris. Himons landed in Nashville during the late 1970s; now known as "Aashid," he formed Afrikan Dreamland with Rose and Aleem. The trio would quickly become one of the Music City's most popular bands, Afrikan Dreamland helping kickstart an original local music scene that had little to do with the city's country music tradition.

Mostly written by Himons, Afrikan Dreamland's positive lyrics preached a philosophy of peace and love, and triumph over adversity, whether caused by economic or social injustice…a thread that would carry through Aashid's entire career. Aside from their popular recordings and seemingly ubiquitous performances, Aashid and Afrikan Dreamland would use their drawing power to help young bands, and many of Nashville's early rock 'n' roll talents got their start opening for Afrikan Dreamland.

Little Archie HimonsAfter the break-up of Afrikan Dreamland in 1987, Aashid embarked on a lengthy and varied musical journey that saw the gifted artist applying his talents to blues, gospel, country, reggae, dub, ambient, and space music. Recording both as a solo artist and with a number of bands like the Pyramid Underground, the Blu-Reggae Underground, Akasha, and Aashid & the New Dream, Himons collaborated with a number of Nashville's most adventurous musicians, talents like Tony Gerber, Giles Reaves, Ross Smith, Gary Serkin, and Kirby Shelstad, among many others. Prolific to a fault, Himons would become one of the most popular artists on during the 1990s as his musical collaborations resulted in dozens of albums that would capture a worldwide audience for Aashid's unique musical vision.

In 1995, Aashid reunited with his former bandmates Rose and Aleem, as well as a number of his more recent collaborators, under the Afrikan Dreamland name to release the two-CD set The Leaders, which further explored the blu-reggae sound. In the late 1990s, Aashid formed the Mountain Soul Band to experiment with country blues and Appalachian-inspired hillbilly music. Working again with friends like Reaves, Gerber, and Shelstad, the Mountain Soul Band also included the talents of brothers Victor and Reggie Wooten, and multi-instrumentalists Jody Lentz and Tramp, then of the Nashville trio Bonepony. This collaboration resulted in a pair of critically-acclaimed albums, 1998's studio release Mountain Soul and the live West Virginia Hills, released a year later.

Himons continued to make music during the 2000s, albeit slowed down by recurring problems with his health. The definition of the DIY artist, Himons utilized cutting-edge technology to record and edit complex, textured, and thought-provoking music on his trusty iMac computer. While not well-known outside of the Southeast, Himons nevertheless has thousands of fans worldwide that have been touched by his positive message, exciting music, and indomitable spirit. For more about the artist and his music, visit the goarchie website.

Photo courtesy of Ross Smith

Reprinted from the Blues website

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