by Howard Campbell
[SOUTH FLORIDA ] – Because of its universal appeal, Bob Marley’s One Love is considered reggae’s official anthem. For hardcore fans of the music, Satta Masa Gana by The Abyssinians holds that title.
Recorded in 1969 at Studio One in Kingston, Jamaica it was not released until 1971. This year marks the 50th anniversary of its release on the group’s Clinch label.
Brothers Donald and Lynford Manning and Bernard Collins are original members of The Abyssinians. They co-wrote Satta Masa Gana, Amharic for Give thanks, during a time of black awareness in Jamaica.
It has been covered or sampled by countless artists, musicians and producers including Third World, Dennis Brown, Micky Hanson and Bobby Digital.
Best Song Ever Recorded
Donald Manning, a longtime resident of South Florida, describes Satta Masa Gana as, “The best song ever recorded in Jamaica because it tell yuh about di King of Kings an’ di Lord of Lord’s.”
Donald, 80, and Lynford live in South Florida. Collins still resides in Kingston at the home where he first met the brothers in the late 1960s; they shared a passion for music and an interest in Rastafari.
The Mannings’ older brother Neville was a priest in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Reading the Bible was a daily ritual at their home in Jones Town, a neighborhood near to Trench Town where Marley once lived.
While working as a groom and exercise jockey at the Caymanas Park racetrack, Donald also found time for music.
“From mi dey a stable mi start sing with mi bredrin dem,” he recalled.
Carlton, another Manning brother, was a member of Carlton And The Shoes. They are known for the classic rock steady song, Love me Forever.
It was at Carlton’s home in Jones Town that The Abyssinians wrote Satta Masa Gana which depicts a paradise where the “King of Kings and the Lord of Lords sits upon a throne and he rules us all”.
Because of Studio One patriarch Clement Dodd’s reluctance, it was two years before the song was officially released. It became an instant hit in the dancehalls and sparked a number of songs on its hypnotic beat, similar to the Sleng Teng 13 years later.
Manning has mixed feelings about The Abyssinians’ finest moment. “I don’t like talk ’bout it, bring back to much bad memories. All kinda robbery gwaan (go on) with dat record,” he said.
Satta Masa Gana Album
The Abyssinians recorded the outstanding Satta Masa Gana album in 1976. It contains their signature song as well as Declaration of Rights, another reggae standard.
Collins along with Donald and Lynford, toured Europe during the 1980s before Lynford became a Christian and left the music business.
Donald Manning still tours with The Abyssinians. He last performed with the group at the One Love Cali Reggae Fest in California last February before the COVID-19 caused a global shutdown.