Nashville World Music Leader Aashid Himons Passes

Aashid Himons, 68, one of Nashville’s leading world-music exponents, died Saturday morning at Vanderbilt Hospital following a long illness.

Himons is perhaps best known as the leader of Afrikan Dreamland, a group that fused reggae, new age, blues, jazz and African musical styles. As that band’s leader as well as a solo artist, Himons recorded more than 30 LPs, cassettes and CDs.

He created Nashville’s first long-form music video, hosted the long-running cable-access TV show Aashid Presents, appeared in the independent films Circle of Fault and Existo and was featured in a number of country video clips.

Born in 1942 and raised in Huntington, West Virginia, Archie Himons was a child prodigy who was on The Today Show as an 8-year-old. He began performing professionally at age 15 in 1957, singing country music.

As the lead singer of The Majestics and The Parliaments, he recorded r&b singles for the Fern, Sue and Dial labels. Dial Records, a Nashville label, began recording him as a solo artist billed as “Little Archie” in 1968.

After stints in New York, Los Angeles, Central America and Pittsburgh, Himons returned to Nashville in 1979 with Aashid as his new first name and Afrikan Dreamland as his new band and new sound. The group also included Darrell Rose and Mustafa Abdul-Aleen (attorney Neal McAlpin Jr.).

Afrikan Dreamland’s rhythmic, hypnotic, reggae-jazz fusion style quickly became popular with Music City’s young people in the 1980s. The group regularly performed at progressive political events as well as in Nashville nightspots.

In 1984, its video for “Television Dreams” became the first by an American reggae band to be aired on MTV. That clip was included on 1985’s Apartheid Kills, Nashville’s first video album. The group’s 10 audio albums included 1981’s Jah Message and 1982’s Dance and Survive.

After Afrikan Dreamland ended in 1987, Himons launched his TV show and collaborated with a number of other notable Nashvillians, including Kirby Shelstad, Giles Reaves, Bonita Hill, Tony Gerber, Fred Burch, Daryl Sanders, Mike Simmons and Roy “Futureman” Wooten. His later CDs included 1995’s The Leaders, 1997’s Will They Ever Understand, 1998’s Mountain Soul, and 1999’s West Virginia Hills.

Standing nearly seven feet tall and wearing his hair in long dreadlocks, Aashid Himons was often called to appear as a colorful extra in Nashville videos.

In 1995, he co-founded Nashville’s Society of Black Artists, SOBA.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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