We need to give proper consideration specifically to the Buru (or Burru) tradition as well.
Among the Buru drummers of the first half of the twentieth century was one outstanding and very influential musician who, like Babu Bryan, remains unknown to most Jamaicans, not to mention the rest of the world. The man I am referring to is Watta King. Not to be confused with the notorious West Kingston bad man Woppy King, nor with the Rastafarian patriarch known as Bongo Watto, who were two entirely different individuals, Watta King was a Buru master drummer of Kongo descent who migrated to West Kingston from Clarendon parish.
Although he made his living as a barber, and was not himself a Rasta, Watta gained renown as a drum-builder during the 1940s and 1950s – the very time that Rasta consciousness was beginning to gather force in West Kingston. During these formative years of the Rasta faith, Watta King was the owner of the most sought-after set of African-style drums in the area, and he and his fellow Buru players became the main drummers for the earliest grounations, or ceremonial gatherings, in the Rasta hotbeds of Salt Lane and Back-o-Wall.
It appears that Watta King represents the crucial link between the rural Buru tradition of St Catherine and Clarendon, and the nascent Nyabinghi tradition of West Kingston. His playing appears to have served as a model for many in the first generation of Rasta drummers, and his great influence can be traced through at least four important drummers of later years (and likely several others).
Baba Job (also known as Brother Job), who was to become Count Ossie‘s mentor, and Seeco Patterson, Bob Marley‘s percussionist who I mentioned earlier, both spoke to me of Watta King as their “teacher” – the man most responsible for their early development as drummers.
And Skully Simms, one of the most important session hand drummers from the 1970s on, told me in considerable detail about the influence Watta King had on him.
Distant Drums: The Unsung Contribution of African-Jamaican Percussion to Popular Music at Home and Abroad
Author: KENNETH BILBY
Source: Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 4, Pioneering Icons of Jamaican Popular Music, Part II (December 2010)