Celebrating the Best of Jamaica SKA with Alphanso Castro and Trevor Lopez
11 April 2017 Blogroll
Ska marked the true beginning of Jamaican popular music, coming to prominence during the early and mid-’60s right around the time the island was granted its independence. Ska ensembles were generally a blend of electric instrumentation and horns most popular in jazz (saxophone, trumpet, trombone). Although structurally simple, ska has a bevy of influences, synthesizing American R&B, jump blues, Jamaican mento, calypso and other Caribbean styles, big-band swing, Afro-Cuban jazz, pocomania and other local religious folk music, and European ballroom dances. Of those, the first three — R&B, jump blues, and mento — were the most important building blocks. Jump blues tunes — both sax-driven instrumentals and vocal numbers by artists like Wynonie Harris and Louis Jordan — had become wildly popular at Jamaican dance parties, with sound-system operators making frequent trips to the U.S. searching for the hottest and rarest 45s. As R&B shifted into rock & roll, less crossover-oriented American performers like Little Richard and Fats Domino also became Jamaican favorites. In 1959, when the boogie beat had become less important in rock-oriented R&B, top sound-system owners like Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and Duke Reid (as well as restaurateur-cum-producer Leslie Kong) took matters into their own hands, forming their own labels, acting as producers for local talent, and recording the music their audiences wanted to hear when it was no longer readily available in the U.S.