musicology #0746

Nubag #15 (a year in the life)

African Queen – the Skatalites

MIGHTY piece of heavyweight instrumental Ska from it’s, for me, greatest collective, the Skatalites. No need for me to wax about them too tough as they are well known and greatly appreciated. Suffice to say that this piece, produced by the majestic Vincent ‘King’ Edwards and delivered by the cream of the islands urbanemusicologists IS Ska. Simply put these are the musicians who ‘invented’ and created Jamaican music after 1962.


musicology #536

Jamaica #16

(The Wailers – Caution)

FAR too nice a day out there to spend it slaving over a hot keyboard so I’ll keep it brief..Today’s cut is one from the stable of the Kong Brothers whose Beverley’s Label was an important part of Jamaican recording history from the earliest days of Ska right through to Leslie Kong’s death in 1971.

The arrangements were mainly in the hands of Derrick Morgan and Roland Alphonso with most of the musicians moonlighting from Tommy McCook’s band the Supersonics who together with the Bunny Lee All Stars and The Sound Dimension pretty much played on everything that came out of the Studios in Jamaica. Not sure if they have all been namechecked yet on the theme so I’ll do it here.

The Supersonics were made up of Jackie Jackson, Gladstone Anderson, Theo Beckford, Lynn Tait, Hux Brown, Ronnie Bop, Douggie Bryan, Paul Douglas, Drumbago, Hugh Malcolm and the man cited by many as the cat who gave Reggae it’s defining character Organist supreme Winston Wright.

The vocals on today’s cut are provided by a vocal group we are all familiar with, (if only by name), The Wailers featuring, (of course), Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. One of my favourites of theirs from the period..Thankfully they require no background information so I’ll just let the music speak.Enough…I’m gone to soak up the sunrays..

musicology #527

Jamaica #7

(The Techniques – Love Is A Gamble)

So what could have happened in 1966 to change the beat from the frenetic Ska to the laid back sound of the Rocksteady? Rumour and word has it that it was a combination of things that conspired..First of all popular information/knowledge has it that a heatwave swept the island forcing the dancers and musicians to slow the tempo..secondly as is often, (if not always), the case the time had come for the islands musicologists to evolve and in my experience slow follows quick. Thirdly, (and I’m guessing here), the Ganja may have influenced proceedings…

By 1966 many of the protaganists of the Ska were ‘Beardmen’ and were likely to have been ‘licking chalice’ Up Warika Hills with the legendary Count Ossie. I’m not suggesting that the Ganja was the chief reason for the shift..only one of many.

As for outside influences we only have to consider how Soul and the Vocal Group sound became dominant in America around this time and how much influence the likes of the Impressions subsequently had in Jamaica.

Finally and perhaps of most significance was the Skatalites splitting into two groups after the incarceration of Don Drummond in 1965…The Soul Brothers led by Roland Alphonso, (at Studio 1), and the Supersonics led by Tommy McCook, (resident at Treasure Isle). Notably Lynn Taitt is widely recognised as ‘Inventing’ the Rocksteady with the Hopeton Lewis cut ‘Take It Easy’ but other early pieces included Alton Ellis’s ‘Girl I’ve Got A Date’ and Derrick Morgan’s ‘Rougher Than Rough’, (all of which featured Lynn Taitt’s guitar).  Whatever the reasons for the emergence of Rocksteady it was at this junction that ‘Reggae’ began to take shape with the Bass rising to prominence and it must be said, (at least from my perspective), that Duke Reid wore the Rocksteady Crown.

So with that in mind the first cut has to go to the Duke and the Majestic Vocal Group known as the Techniques whose fluctuating line up included some of the great Jamaican vocalists; Slim Smith, Pat Kelly and Winston Riley as well as Junior Menz and original members Frederick Waite and Franklyn White. Clearly influenced by The Impressions this one epitomises Jamaican Vocal Group Harmony. 1967? recording on the Treasure Isle label.

musicology #522

Jamaica #2

(Jackie Opel – You’re Too Bad)

Various Cats have laid claim to ‘inventing’ the Ska but as far as I can hear it seems to have been more of an evolution. In an attempt to provide a little insight for those who are not clued up on the historicity of Jamaican musicology before Ska there was what’s known as ‘Shuffle’ which to be brutal was more of a home grown version of American Jump/Rhythm & Blues so popular in the dance. Early Operators such as Tom The Great Sebastian and Count Nick were followed by hungrier Cats such as Duke Reid, Coxsone Dodd and Prince Buster who needed a constant source of new material to ‘mash up the dance’ and ‘Kill’ opposing Sound Systems. The competition was ferocious and it was this more than anything that fed the emerging scene for home grown talent. Combine such a need for a constant supply of fresh cuts, (Concurrent with the decline of Rhythm and Blues and looming Independence from colonial rule), with Jamaica’s strong sense of ‘national’ pride and identity and the stage was set for ‘Ska’

Coxsone led the way by setting up the legendary Studio 1 recording studio in 1963 and the icing on the cake was a collective of the hottest musicologists on the island coming together in 1964 as the Skatalites. As previously mentioned on themusicologist Jackie Mittoo was Coxsone’s musical director and as such is as responsible as anyone for defining Ska.

Today’s cut is a prime slice of the Skatalites pie from 1964? featuring the majestic Jackie Opel on vocals and the combined talents of any number of Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, Lloyd Brevett, Lloyd Knibb, Lester Sterling, Don Drummond, Jah Jerry, Jackie Mittoo, Johnny Moore and Percival Dillon…in a word..BOSS

musicology #513

Duets2 #3

(Winston & George – Denham Town)

Moving out of the soul searching and into the social commentary for todays cut with a classic piece of 1966/7 RockSteady critiquing the state of West Kingston District ‘Denham Town’ as it ‘Turned Vietnam’. Produced by Leslie Kong and featuring Gladstone Anderson on Piano Jackie Jackson on Bass and sax man supreme Roland Alphonso. Released in the UK on a Pyramid 45.

musicology #130

instrumentalsweek #3

(Roland Alphonso – Jazz Ska)

this prime slice of Jamaican musicology comes from the King Edwards stable and features many of the best proponents of the Ska style. Baba Brooks, Arkland ‘Drumbago’ Parks, Lester Sterling and tenor sax king, Roland Alphonso.

Recorded and released on the King Edwards label in 1965 at the height of the genres popularity, (it would only be a year before Rock Steady became the ‘in thing’), this is Ska at it’s finest.