Putumayo compilation Ska Around the World takes the listener on a lively trip throughout the world, showcasing artists who have incorporated ska into their music, including the famed Jamaican band The Skatalites. Ska is the upbeat Jamaican dance music style born in the late 1960s that preceded reggae.
Ska was “rediscovered” in the early 1980s when some British pop acts (part of what was called New Wave) integrated it into their music. Later, it was also adopted by French-Spanish artist Manu Chao and many of his followers, who made what is known as mestizo music, a hybridization of various musical genres.
Ska Around the World includes various fascinating interpretations of ska, ranging from rootsy, brass-fueled songs and instrumentals, to ska-pop forms. The artists sing in English, Spanish and Dutch.
The artists featured include Orquestra Brasileira de Música Jamaicana (Brazil); Chris Murray (Canada); Akatz (Spain); The Skatalites (Jamaica); Zazí (The Netherlands); The Pepper Pots feat. ASPO (Spain); Playing for Change (USA); The New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble (USA); Sarazino (Algeria/Ecuador); and St. Petersburg Ska-Jazz Review (Russia).
The CD booklet includes an introduction to ska music and profiles of each artist.
Desmond Dekker (born Desmond Adolphus Dacres in Kingston, Jamaica on July 16, 1941) was a ska and reggae singer and songwriter. Together with his backing group, The Aces (consisting of Wilson James and Easton Barrington Howard), he had the first international Jamaican hit with “Israelites”. Other hits include “007 (Shanty Town)” (1967), and “It Mek” (1968).
Before the ascent of Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker was the best-known Jamaican musician outside of his country, and one of the most popular within it.
He was orphaned as a teenager. Dekker began working as a welder, singing around his workplace while his coworkers encouraged him. In 1961, he auditioned for Coxsone Dodd (Studio One) and Duke Reid (Treasure Isle). Neither were impressed by his talents, and the young man moved on to Leslie Kong’s Beverley record label, where he auditioned before Derrick Morgan, then the label’s biggest star. With Morgan’s support, Dekker was signed but did not record until 1963, because Leslie Kong wanted to wait for the perfect song. Dekker’s “Honour Your Father and Mother” was to be that song.
“Honour Your Father and Mother” was a hit, and was followed by “Sinners Come Home” and “Labour for Learning”, as well as a name change (from Desmond Dacres to Desmond Dekker). His fourth hit, however, made him into one of the island’s biggest stars. It was “King of Ska”, a rowdy and jubilant song on which Dekker was backed by The Cherrypies (also known as The Maytals). The song remains well known among ska fans. Dekker then recruited four brothers, Carl, Patrick, Clive and Barry Howard, who became his backing band, known as The Four Aces.
Dekker and the Howards recorded a number of hits, including “Parents”, “Get Up Edina”, “This Woman” and “Mount Zion”. Until 1967, Dekker’s songs were polite and conveyed respectable, mainstream messages. In that year, however, he appeared on Derrick Morgan’s “Tougher Than Tough”, which helped begin a trend of popular songs glamorizing the violent rude boy culture. Dekker’s own songs did not go to the extremes of many other popular tunes, though he did introduce lyrics which resonated with the rude boys, starting with one of his best-known songs, “007 (Shanty Town)”. The song established Dekker as a rude boy icon, and also became an established hero in the United Kingdom’s mod scene. “007 (Shanty Town)” was a Top 15 hit in the UK, and he toured the country with a posse of mods following him.
Dekker continued with songs in the same vein, such as “Rude Boy Train” and “Rudie Got Soul”, as well as continuing with his previous themes of religion and morality in songs like “It’s a Shame”, “Wise Man”, “Hey Grandma”, “Unity”, “It Pays”, “Mother’s Young Girl” and “Sabotage”. His “Pretty Africa” is a long-standing favorite among his fans, and may be the earliest popular song promoting repatriation. Many of the hits from this era came from his debut album, 007 (Shanty Town).
In 1968, Dekker’s “Israelites” was released, appearing on both the US and UK charts, eventually topping the latter and peaking in the Top Ten of the former. He was the first Jamaican performer to enter US markets with pure Jamaican music, though he never repeated the feat. That same year saw the release of “Beautiful and Dangerous”, “Writing on the Wall”, “Music Like Dirt”, “Bongo Girl” and “Shing a Ling”.
1969 saw the release of “It Mek”, which first saw only lukewarm success but was re-recorded and became a hit in both Jamaica and the UK. He also released “Problems” and “Pickney Gal”, both of which were popular in Jamaica, but saw only limited success elsewhere.
In the 1970s, Dekker spent most of his time touring and moved to the UK, where he continued to record. Among his best-known releases of this period was “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, written by Jimmy Cliff, which Dekker had not wanted to record but was convinced by Leslie Kong. Kong, whose production had been an instrumental part of both Dekker’s and Cliff’s careers, died in 1971, and both his prot?g?’s were lost for a period before returning to music.
Dekker continued recording, but with only limited success, until he began working with the production duo Bruce Anthony in 1974. His first hit with the pair was 1975’s “Sing a Little Song”, which was a British Top Ten. Dekker was unable to follow its success, however, and did not chart in the UK for some time, except for the top 10 recharting of “Israelites” in the UK in 1975. Dekker also found only a limited audience in Jamaica.
At the end of the 1970s, Dekker signed with Stiff Records, a punk label linked with the Two-Tone movement, a fusion of punk and ska. He recorded an album called Black & Decker, which featured his previous hits backed by The Rumour, Graham Parker’s backing band. His first single was “Israelites”, a Top Ten Belgian hit, and was followed by “Please Don’t Bend”, Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross” and “Book of Rules”. His next album was Compass Point , produced by Robert Palmer. Though Compass Point did not sell well, Dekker was still a popular live performer, and he toured with The Rumour. In the early 1980s, as the Two Tone movement died out, he saw his fortunes dwindle, and he declared bankruptcy in 1984.
Only a single live album was released in the late 80s, but a new version of “Israelites” reawakened public interest in 1990, following its use in a Maxell ad. He re-recorded some old singles, and worked with The Specials for 1992’s King of Kings’s, which used hits from Dekker’s musical heroes, including Derrick Morgan.
Desmond Dekker also collaborated on a remix version of his classic “Israelites” with Reggae artist Apache Indian.
Desmond Dekker died May 25, 2006. He suffered a heart attack on stage during a soundcheck in Dublin, Ireland.
007 Shanty Town (1967) Action! (1968)
The Israelites (Pyramid, 1969) Intensified (Lagoon, 1970) You Can Get It If You Really Want (Trojan, 1970)
The Israelites (Cactus, 1975)
Black And Dekker (Stiff Records, 1980)
Compass Point (Stiff Records, 1981)
Officially Live And Rare (Trojan Records, 1987) King Of Ska (Trojan Records, 1991)
King Of Kings (Trojan Records, 1993)
Moving On (Trojan Records, 1996)
Halfway To Paradise (Trojan Records, 1999) …In Memoriam 1941-2006 (Secret Records Limited, 2006) Rude Boy Ska (Secret Records Limited, 2016)
Almas Rebeldes (Rebel Souls) is the new album by Che Sudaka, a band formed by South American expats from Argentina and Colombia living in Spain. Che Sudaka is known for its lively shows and party-like atmosphere, where the band mixes accordion-fueled Colombian cumbia, ska, pop, rock, Andean folk music, Brazilian beats and other musical forms.
Che Sudaka’s band members share the social activism of artists like Manu Chao, and Chao himself appears as guest on one track. Other high profile guests include German reggae and dancehall artist Dr Ring Ding, French reggae singer Gari Greu, Spanish reggae and world music vocalist Amparo Sanchez, Congolese act Jupiter & The Okwess and Brazilian singer B-Negao.
Almas Rebeldes showcases the irresistible grooves and cross-pollination of Che Sudaka.
Caribbean star Calypso Rose has released a new music video featuring the song “Far From Home.” This ska song appears in Calypso Rose’s recent album of the same name. The song was written for Calypso Rose by Kobo Town’s Drew Gonsalves.
Animal is the latest by Colombian band Doctor Krápula. On Animal you’ll find a mix of punk rock, ska, pop and some Latin American influences. Some of the lyrics revolve around political and social topics.
Although Doctor Krápula has some connection with the mestizo music scene, they’re primarily a punk rock act that should appeal to fans of this genre.
Madrid-based band Canteca de Macao was founded in 2003 and has caused a stir in international music circles in recent years with its wild blend of flamenco, Gypsy rumba, rock, reggae, ska, salsa and jazz. One of Spain’s most popular live acts, the group makes each performance into an exciting and joyful party. Canteca de Macao’s concerts include music, dance and sometimes jugglers.
Canteca de Macao was started around 2003 when several musicians from Spain, Venezuela and Chile got together to perform at Madrid’s popular flea market, El Rastro. The nine-piece band recorded a self-produced first album titled Cachai, which sold 4,000 exclusively at concerts. To promote the album, Canteca de Macao toured throughout Spain and the rest of Europe.
The band’s line-up in 2009 included Ana Saboya “Anita Kuruba”, Álvaro Melgar (‘Azelga’), Isidoro Lora-Tamayo (‘Chiki’), Danilo Montoya, Guillermo Martínez Yusta, Juan Tomás Martínez París (‘Juancho’), Pablo Carretero, Javier Rodríguez de Zuloaga (‘Zulo’) and Rodrigo ‘El Niño’ Díaz.
In 2013, to celebrate its 10th anniversary, Canteca de Macao released a music video each month featuring its greatest hit s and new songs. A tour followed.
The band released a CD + DVD titled Una Década that features its greatest hits accompanied by some of the leading mestizo and flamenco crossver acts in Spain: Chico Ocaña, Amparo Sánchez, El Canijo de Jerez, Alamedadosoulna, Juan Manuel Montilla (Langi), and Dremen.
In 2015, Canteca de Maca released “Lugares Comunes.” The band featured new songs composed by Chiki and Anita. The lineup in 2016 features Ana Saboya, “Anita”; Isidoro Lora-Tamayo, “Chiki“; Javier Rodríguez de Zuloaga “Zulo“; Rodrigo Ulises Díaz, “El Niño“; Carlos Leal Valladares; bassist Yago Salorio; and keyboardist Rubén García Motos.
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.
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.
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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