Tag Archives: rocksteady

Artist Profiles: The Heptones

The Heptones

The Heptones are one of reggae’s legendary groups, led by the charismatic Leroy Sibbles along with Earl Morgan and Barry Llewellyn. They became huge hitmakers while at the top Jamaican label, Studio One. After recording numerous rock steady anthems, they were also one of the few groups to make a successful transition from rock steady to reggae.

Deep in the Roots, released in 2004 was recorded at Kingston’s famed Channel One Studio by top roots producer Niney the Observer, with backing by the Soul Syndicate band. Features previously-unreleased extended mixes, plus rare tracks.

Co-founder Barry Llewellyn died on November 23, 2011, in Kingston, Jamaica.

Discography:

The Heptones (Studio One, 1967)
On Top (Studio One, 1968)
Black is Black (Studio One, 1970)
Freedom Line (Studio One, 1971)
Book of Rules (Jaywax, 1973)
Cool Rasta (Trojan Records, 1976)
Night Food (Island Records, 1976)
Party Time (Island Records, 977)
Better Days (Third World, 1978)
Good Life ( Greensleeves Records, 1979)
King Of My Town (Jackal Records, 1979)
Mr. Skabeana (Cha Cha Music, 1980)
One Step Ahead (Sonic Sounds, 1981)
On The Run (Shanachie, 1982)
Back on Top (Vista Sounds, 1983)
In A Dancehall Style (Vista Sounds, 1983)
Swing Low (Burning Sounds, 1985)
Changing Times (Moving Target, 1986)
A Place Called Love (Moving Target, 1987)
Sing Good Vibes (1988)
Mr. “T” (1991)
Observer’s Style (1994)
Pressure! (Real Authentic Sound, 1995)
Rebel Love (2016)

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Artist Profiles: The Melodians

The Melodians

Bridging the gap between Ska and Reggae, the soulful Rocksteady style dominated the Jamaican music scene for more than a decade. Formed in 1965 by Tony Brevett, Brent Dow and Trevor McNaughton, The Melodians was one of the premiere Rocksteady groups recording with legendary producers Clement “Coxsone Dodd, Arthur “Duke” Reid, and Leslie Kong with later releases on the Channel One and Studio One labels. Their hit “Rivers of Babylon” went on to become one of Jamaica’s most beloved songs.

The Melodians have continued to record quality reggae and rocksteady and tour internationally. On January 28, 2006, Brent Dow died of a heart attack at the age of 59. The Melodians are busy completing an album that they were in the process of recording at the time of his death and have been touring extensively in honor of Brent.

Discography:

Rivers of Babylon (Trojan Records, 1970)
Sweet Sensation (Trojan Records, 1976)
Sweet Sensation: The Original Reggae Hit Sound (Island Records, 1980)
Irie Feelings (Ras records, 1983)
Premeditation (Skynote, 1986)
The Return of the Melodians (TWT Music, 2017)

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Kingston to Celebrate First Ska & Rocksteady Music Festival

Kingston, Jamaica will celebrate the 1st Annual One World Ska & Rocksteady Music Festival on Saturday and Sunday, November 26 and 27, 2016 at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, in Kingston (Jamaica). The Jamaican capital is the birthplace of Ska and Rocksteady music, two of the most popular musical genres played around the world today and predecessors of reggae.

Some of the leading performers of these two genres will appear from 3:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. on the first day. A symposium on the originators of Jamaican music and two documentaries on the genres are scheduled for day 2.

Ska music was first played in 1963 by the Skatalites in the Kingston recording studios and night clubs. The genre is today played by thousands of bands in the U.S.A., Europe, Japan, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. It will be the first time a music festival of this kind will be held in the birthplace of this genre.

Artists scheduled to perform include The Skatalites (USA); Soweto Ska Band (Spain); Marcia Griffiths (Jamaica); B.B. Seaton and the Gaylads (UK); Sparrow Martin and Skasonic (Jamaica); Brooklyn Attractors (USA); Leroy Sibbles, former lead singer of the Heptones (Jamaica); Hugh Roy, the King of the Jamaican toasters; Derrick Morgan, the King of Ska music (Jamaica); and Stranjah Cole (Jamaica).

 

 

The festival will also feature some emerging ska and rocksteady bands: Yard Beat, Earth Cry, and the Alpha School Band, made up of students of the school that produced many of Jamaica’s great musicians, such as Dizzy Reece, Harold “Little G” McNair, Joe Harriot, Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, and Rico Rodriguez.

Sound system selectors are Dexter Campbell “the Ska Professor”, and Roy Black of KLAS the Saturday Night Alternative, two leading musicologists. Other acts are expected to perform.

The 1st Annual One World Ska & Rocksteady Music Festival is a tactical move of Sounds & Pressure Foundation to position Kingston as a cultural tourism destination, and we have been working on it now going three years,” said festival director Julian “Jingles” Reynolds. “Jamaica is the only country apart from the United States that has given the world multiple musical genres, in Jamaica’s case, four popular genres, Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, and Dancehall, and we believe this is of great cultural value as they all have impacted world culture. We therefore, want to bring world attention to Kingston, where Jamaica’s popular music was born, and Ska, in particular has evolved into becoming far bigger and more accepted in several other countries, away from Jamaica.”

This year’s festival will be dedicated to Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Arthur “Duke” Reid, Cecil “Prince Buster” Campbell, Chris Blackwell, Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez, Marcia Griffiths, and the Alpha Boys School, who have all made major contributions to the development of Jamaican music.

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Kingston’s Summer of ’66

In the history of Jamaican music, there is a before and an after the summer of 1966. Jamaican history had always been both turbulent and productive because of its social movements and polarized politics but this time it was hot weather that would go on to make universal cultural history by creating the demand for in Jamaica for rocksteady and reggae.

Jamaica is a pretty small island and were it not for the explosive character of its cultural innovations would be considered as such. However, history has placed the island’s society and cultural history at the center of global interest and its especially the case for the music that it produces.

Even before reggae, Jamaicans produced the internationally acclaimed ska (as just one of their indigenous music genres.) Ska came into being during the 1950’s of commercial radio, hotels and the advent of nightclubs and of Jamaica’s sound systems and slowly exploded into global significance. At the time, mento and ska were the indigenous musical genres that dominated in Jamaica.

During the summer of 1966, both ska and mento’s popularity came to a halt. Kingston experienced a massive heat wave and the demand for ska dancing immediately went down. The demand for ska had previously enlarged with the migration of many young Jamaicans to Kingston, the island’s capital. Suddenly, these youngsters needed a new music to dance along to and to meet this new demand rocksteady’s popularity was born.

Rocksteady had much less instrumentals than ska and much more vocals. The drums and the bass were slowed down and arrangement was much less stressed. It was a crooner’s music and its songs told tales. It was immigration music at first and was created by the interaction of a Trinidadian in Kingston, Lynn Taitt, and the Jamaicans that he played along with. It was sort of a slow calypso turned Jamaican. Its name was coined from a song by Alton Ellis named “Rock Steady.” It was also born at the same time as commercial soul music was thriving so it was profoundly influenced by soul music. Musicians like Roy Shirley, The Maytals and The Heptones became the new dancehall pleasers.

The Maytals - Never Grow Old
The Maytals – Never Grow Old

Rocksteady’s popularity would only last until 1968, when reggae overtook it. By then, Kingston had changed into a city with many more slums and “dreadlocks”, to quote the Jamaican anthropologist Barry Chevannes, or rastafarians who fashioned themselves like mau-mau fighters by wearing dreadlocks, living in them.

The rastafarians had danced to rocksteady but with “dreadlocks” ideology came the need for a change in “sound” that matched their new ideologies.

Rastafarians had typically stayed out of politics and been a rural movement. It was no more the case. From rocksteady, reggae was produced to be less slick and as a much more raw expression. It was not yet purely political as it would get with Max Romeo’s classic album War Ina Babylon but it was different.

What’s important to note, however, that reggae became popular in large part because of the heatwave of 1966, which had brought along popularity for the new music rocksteady. Without the heatwave, there would have been much less of a receptiveness for either Max Romeo or Bob Marley.

Headline photo: Lynn Taitt

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