Michael G. Ashley (AKA Mikey Ras Starr AKA Haile Maskel AKA Jah AKA Mango Moonlight Lover) was a member of the critically-acclaimed Rastafari outfit Light of Saba, which was formed by former Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari saxman Cedric IM Brooks in 1974. Also known as The Divine Light, Light of Saba recorded their first album in 1974 for the Institute of Jamaica, From Mento to Reggae to Third World Music, a collection exploring the history of Jamaican music, incorporating mento, junkanoo, ska, rocksteady, and reggae. The band made two further albums of jazz-influenced Rastafarian reggae, The Light of Saba and The Light of Saba in Reggae before Brooks moved forward to join the Skatalites. Upon the break, Mikey Ras Starr spent most of his time in studio sessions with The Wailers and Bob Marley and the Wailers, as he was a close friend and running partner of Peter Tosh. His debut single “Got To Say Love” was produced by Bob Marley in 1975 and features many foundation roots musicians including Carlton Barrett, Tyrone Downey, Robbie Shakespeare, Peter Tosh on piano, and Bunny Wailer and Shakaman on percussion. The single was released on 7″ in 1975 on Tommy Cowan’s Top Ranking label.
Starr continued as a session musician throughout most of the 1970s playing bass on several groundbreaking Rastafari-influenced albums including Israel Vibration’s The Same Song  and Kiddus I’s Graduation In Zion  while recording many songs which were not initially released under the name Mikey Ras Starr. In 1981, Starr moved to the US and founded The Rastafarians, who released their only album, titled Orthodox, in 1981. He later recorded several albums under the name Haile Maskel.
In 2008 the Makasound label finally released an album by Starr titled Fire & Rain, which is comprised of songs recorded during 1975-1984.
Here are some excerpts from a fantastic interview conducted by Benjamin Peronne for United Reggae in 2010.
On his first recording session…
“It was the heaviest, man. It was like 50 Rasta man singing on Ras Michael’s song “Run Come Rally Rally Round”. Bob Marley, the Wailers, the Gaylords, Jacob Miller, Inner Circle, Kiddus I. I know they have to remember that session… you know, 50 dreads. And they were all singing “Run Come Rally Rally Round” all in Randy’s Studio and he was like, “how the hell we gonna hold all these people in the studio?!” and Ras Michael said “that’s how it’s gonna have to be; the whole Niyabhingi nation – this is an anthem!” And every man came in. I remember 50. Fifty rastaman. And that’s when everybody discovered “the voice”. When I started singing, the engineer kept saying that there’s one voice too loud, man. They kept saying that there’s one voice too loud and they kept thinking it was Jacob Miller so they moved him back so they thought it was Ras Michael and it wasn’t him and when they realized it was me, the kept putting me back in the back and my voice was still blazing and the engineer said, “it’s still too loud, put him back some more.” And everybody now – Bob, Jacob Miller and everyone started looking back at me and was like, “man, what a voice!” And that’s when Jacob Miller and all of them came up to me and said, “man, you’ve got the best voice”. Every one of them said I got the strongest and the best voice out of all of us. That was an exciting first experience.”
On his favorite recording sessions…
“Israel Vibration. When I recorded “Same Song”. It was a new sound, new style of bass line, and no one ever heard the bass line been played like that. And they wanted to know how I came up with a bass line like that, you know, and they wanted to know how the hell I came up with an idea like that, you know, (hums bass line for Same Song). It’s like an African drum. And that’s when Sting came to look for me and everything, I think, was because of that song. Um, Same Song cuz they said he came to look for the “Conga Bass Player”; the bass player who plays like a conga drum (scats bass line again). And that was the song. And Sting came to look for me and I was up in the mountain getting melancholy, you know, just vibin’, just praying and getting spiritual and learning more music. And that’s when I missed Sting. And when I came back down, Tommy come and say, “You know who was looking for you? The Police!” and I said, “which police, what did I do?” and he said, “no, not the police, police, the band The Police – the guy Sting. He wanted the ‘congo player’ and we never knew where you were; we looked everywhere”. “Oh, I was up in the hill”, so that was a missed opportunity there, you know?”
On Peter Tosh…
“We used to work out. Drink ‘nuff ganja tea and eat steamed fish every morning for a minute. Yeah. Peter Tosh is one of my spiritual church brethren, you know? I know him well enough to can sing any song like Peter.”
On Bob Marley…
“Bob Marley same. Ran with him too. Same with Bob but Bob is truly… he is different from Peter Tosh… and Bunny Wailer. Good experience with Peter and with Bob. They were like my big brothers. Cuz I never had a big brother. I’m the big brother to my brothers. Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer were my big brothers who gave me a lot of guidance in the music and encouraged me. Bob was really, especially Bob, he really encouraged me and told me a lot of things that is to come in my life still. Bob told me things that still haven’t happened yet. Like going to Africa.”
“Often times Bob used to check me and my father. 22 Alexander Road. And he and I used to walk down to Greenwich Farm down the road down to the fisherman down by the sea. To see a natty dread – the fish man. I forgot the fisherman’s name; my brethren, but we used to go down there all the while. Get some fish, you know. Eat some roast fish.”
“When Bob died, cuz he died before my dad and that was like my dad died. It was like my whole world died when Bob Marley died. It just fell apart. I was already in the states but my whole world still fell apart. I could never believe bob could every pass that much. cuz he was never ready. Until this day now I stil feel that way. I talk to Bob every day, I think about Bob every day about if he were here now how different my life would be. My life would be totally something different. Totally. Totally different if Bob was alive. You know, he was like… though Ras Michael was my first band and everything… me and Ras Michael never had the connection that me and Bob had. Though Ras Michael and I have a connection, Bob and I just had a different type of connection. Ras Michael was kinda like a father figure relation though he never treated me like he was my father, but he and my father were closer, you know? But Bob was like a big brother and everything he was like a teacher, big brother to me, a prophet, you know? Cuz I looked up to Bob for everything really. Cuz he always told me that when he’s around me he was just relaxed and everything nice and he loved being around me. It was just cool. You know? He get something from me and I get something from him. And we were just cool with each other.”
On The Wailers…
“And so when Bob sent me to go check Peter and check Bunny to go see what they say if they wanted to join back the group cuz he well wanted that. And that’s how me and Peter became cool cuz Bob sent me over to feel out Peter. Feel him out, ya know? Check him, ask him questions. But don’t tell him it was Bob really asking. And all this time Peter never knew that Bob had me around him, you know? So after Bob told me that, he never had to tell me anything again about the Wailers. Cuz as a little youth, that was on of my dreams – not to let that group mash up; to get them back together. So ooh, I tried everything, man. All the peace concerts, I tried EVERYTHING, and Bob knew and he used to laugh when Peter used to go check him. They were just the best 3 people that should be together. They would’ve done great things for everybody. Those three spirits were special together. You know? Wailers should never have broke up. Those Rastaman should be still living, guiding every nation but then you know… the Trinity, man. It was just a Trinity. Everything was Bless. And they should have come back together. But, not saying who never get it back together but money play a big role on the Wailers not being back together. You can put that shit down. Money. Play a BIG role on them not being back together. All that bullshit is over money. Not on Bob’s part. You can say that for me, I don’t give a shit. It was money why the Wailers never get back together and it’s NOT on Bob’s part. Not on Bob’s part. So them can put it between the lines and know who’s part it was. Bunny Wailer and bloodclot Peter. Them did want the money until this day.”
This exclusive MIDNIGHT RAVER Mikey Ras Starr Mix features many tracks featured on the album, including the Marley-produced “Got To Say Love” (opening track). It also includes several tracks recorded as Haile Maskel. I considered including some Light of Saba tracks but decided that the band deserves its own mix.
Mikey Ras Starr – Got To Say Love
Mikey Ras Starr – Got To Say Love (Version)
Mikey Ras Starr – Porgy
Mikey Ras Starr – The Time Has Come
Mikey Ras Starr – Coomaya (African Herbsman)
Mikey Ras Starr – Some Say That
Mikey Ras Starr – Jah Man of Calvary
Mikey Ras Starr – Jah Man of Calvary (Version)
Mikey Ras Starr – Market Place Revolution
Mikey Ras Starr – Jah Higher High
Mikey Ras Starr – Shango
Mikey Ras Starr – All Unto Jah
Mikey Ras Starr – Roll Call
Mikey Ras Starr – Old Time Religion
Mikey Ras Starr – Come Back Sunday
Mikey Ras Starr – Fire & Rain