2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Musical genres, styles, eras and events

Music of Jamaica

Kumina - Nyabinghi- Mento - Ska - Rocksteady - Reggae - Sound systems - Lovers rock - Dub - Dancehall - Dub poetry - Toasting - Raggamuffin - Roots reggae

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Sound samples
Other Caribbean music
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Ska is a form of Jamaican music combining elements of traditional mento and calypso with an American jazz and rhythm and blues sound. It is notable for its shuffling, scratchlike tempo and jazz-like horn riffs on the offbeat.

Originating in Jamaica, possibly in the 1950s, it was a precursor to rocksteady and later reggae. It was the predominant form of music listened to by rude boys, although many ska artists condemned the violent subculture. It is also popular with mods and skinheads, with artists such as Symarip, Laurel Aitken, Desmond Dekker and The Pioneers aiming songs at these groups as early as the 1960s.

Musical historians typically divide the history of ska into three waves. There was revival of note in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and another wave of popularity in the 1990s, mostly based in the United States and Argentina.


After World War II, Jamaicans purchased radios in increasing numbers, and were able to hear rhythm and blues from Southern United States cities like New Orleans, by artists such as Fats Domino and Louis Jordan. Moreover, the stationing of American military forces during the War and after meant that Jamaicans could listen to military broadcasts of American music, and that there was a constant influx of records from the US. To meet the demand for such music, entrepreneurs like Prince Buster, Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, and Duke Reid formed sound systems, which were portable discothèques. Sound Systems would be set up in yards for outdoor dance parties. Soon, a tradition of more than one sound system showing up to a yard party sprung up, creating a dueling DJs effect. Sound System operators were judged by both the power of their systems and the quality of their records. Operators would obtain records from Miami and New Orleans, and these records were hot commodities in Jamaica. Sound system operators often removed labels from the most popular records in order to enjoy a monopoly on the best-liked tunes and draw the most customers.

As jump blues and more traditional rhythm and blues began to ebb in popularity in the early 1960s, Jamaican artists began recording their own version of the genre. Record store owners and sound system operators began to inaugurate record labels. The ska sound is known for the placement of the accented guitar and piano rhythms on the upbeats. Some believe that the early jazz and rock 'n' roll broadcasts from American radio stations were misinterpreted by an eager Jamaican music audience, hence the off-beat rhythms that almost mimick the breakup of weak radio signals that hit the West Indian shores. Others consider ska not a misinterpretation, but its own response to American music. The upbeat sound can be found in other Caribbean forms of music, such as mento and calypso. It has been argued that ska came from the combination of such native and local musical idioms with those of American music. Likewise, the ska sound coincided with the celebratory feelings surrounding Jamaica's independence from the UK in 1962, an event commemorated by ska songs such as Derrick Morgan's "Forward March" and the Skatalites' "Freedom Sound".

One generally accepted theory is that the creator of ska was Prince Buster (born Cecil Campbell in 1938). It came with the inaugural session of 13 songs being recorded for his new label, Wild Bells. The session was financed by Duke Reid, who was supposed to get half the songs to release, but in the end he received just one, by trombonist Rico Rodriguez. Among the pieces recorded were " They Got To Go" and " Shake A Leg".

According to reggae historian Steve Barrow, during the sessions, Buster told guitarist Jah Jerry, to “change gear, man, change gear,” and the guitar began emphasizing the second and fourth beats in the bar, giving rise to the revolutionary new sound.

The first ska recordings were created at facilities like Studio One and WIRL Records in Kingston, Jamaica by producers like Dodd, Reid, Prince Buster, and Edward Seaga (later Jamaica's prime minister). Ska was showcased at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Byron Lee & the Dragonaires were selected as the band for the occasion, and Prince Buster, Eric "Monty" Morris, and Peter Tosh performed with them. Prince Buster and U-Roy of Jamaica brought ska to the UK in the early 1960s.

The word "ska" may have onomatopoeic origins in a tradition of poetic or possibly musical rhythms. Guitarist Ernest Ranglin said that the offbeat guitar scratching that he and other musicians played was referred to as "skat! skat! skat!" Some believe that Cluet Johnson coined the term. Bassist Johnson and the Blues Blasters were Coxsone Dodd's house band in the 1950s and early 1960s before the rise of the Skatalites.

In explaining the 'ya-ya' sound of the music & rhythm being made, the word 'ska' popped out. This may be because he greeted all his friends as ' skavoovie', perhaps imitating American hipsters of the era.

Because the newly-independent Jamaica didn't ratify the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works until 1994, copyright was not an issue, creating a large number of cover songs and reinterpretations. Groups like Clement Dodd's house band, The Skatalites, often did instrumental ska versions of popular American and British music, such as Beatles tunes, movie themes, or surf instrumentals. Bob Marley's band The Wailers covered the Beatles' " And I Love Her", and radically reinterpreted Bob Dylan's " Like a Rolling Stone".

As music changed in America, so did ska. In 1966 and 1967, when American soul became slower and smoother, ska changed its sound accordingly and evolved into rocksteady, with the bass playing more varied rhythms, more emphasis on the downbeat, and more soulful vocals. Some historians suggest that the popularity of rocksteady's slower tempo was a result of an exceptionally warm summer in 1966, during which dancers were physically too hot to dance to the uptempo numbers. It has also been suggested in some oral histories that the rise of rocksteady was likewise a response to the Jamaican rude boy subculture, as rudies valued keeping a cool, composed demeanor, and danced more slowly than others in the yard. Some notable rocksteady musicians were the Supersonics (house band at the Treasure Isle recording studio) and the Soul Vendors (house band at Studio One).

Some notable rocksteady vocalists were the Melodians, who scored a hit with "Rivers of Babylon", the Paragons, the Heptones (one of the most popular vocal groups in Jamaica in the late 1960s), The Ethiopians, and Desmond Dekker, who did a number of rocksteady songs during the late 1960s. Toots & the Maytals, another popular vocal group, were the first to use the term 'reggae' in a song title with their hit "Do the Reggay". Rocksteady lasted until the emergence of reggae in 1968.

2 Tone

The 2 Tone (aka Two Tone) era was named after the label 2 Tone Records, founded by Jerry Dammers, keyboardist of The Specials. 2 Tone is also known as second wave revival ska. The sound combined Jamaican ska rhythms and melodies with punk rock's uncompromising lyrics and aggressive guitar chords. 2 Tone recordings are characterized by faster tempos, fuller instrumentation and a harder edge than original 1950s and 1960s ska.

The record label's name had a double meaning; it referred to two tone tonic suits that some of the original Jamaican ska musicians and rude boys wore, and the second was to signify the multi-racial membership of most of the bands on the label, such as The Beat (known as English Beat in the US) and The Selecter. The Two Tone movement promoted racial unity at a time when racial tensions were at a high point in the UK. One of the symbols of the Two Tone movement was a black and white checkerboard pattern representing black and white people together.

2 Tone bands were respectful to the original Jamaican ska artists, although the Specials notably failed to credit Prince Buster, Toots and the Maytals, Dandy Livingstone or Andy and Joe as original authors of songs on their 1979 debut vinyl release. However, the reworking of classic ska tracks in many cases turned them into hits again. The Jamaican artist Prince Buster made more money from royalties from cover versions than he earned from his own records.

Although only on the 2 Tone label for one single, Madness was one of the most effective bands at bringing the Two Tone music style to the public eye and encouraging people to learn more about the musical style. Their high public profile was partly due to their videos getting heavy airplay on MTV and the BBC's influential music show Top of the Pops.

Third wave ska

When Two Tone ska appeared in the UK in the late 1970s and early 1980s, groups began to form in the United States and other countries. Two of the earliest, and longest-lived, American ska bands are The Toasters and Bim Skala Bim. The Toasters, a band created in the two-tone era were one of the main driving forces behind the third wave of ska. Bands like Operation Ivy and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones can be credited with popularizing ska-core and ska punk, a fusion of punk rock or hardcore and ska. Some third wave ska bands play music mostly in the 1960s style, such as Hepcat, Skavoovie and the Epitones, and The Articles.

In 1983, The Toasters' frontman Robert "Bucket" Hingley created Moon Ska Records, which became the biggest American ska record label. It featured many bands that became staples in third wave ska, including Dance Hall Crashers, The Allstonians, The Slackers, Skavoovie and the Epitones, The Scofflaws, The Pietasters and Let's Go Bowling. Moon Ska Records officially folded in 2000, but Moon Ska Europe still continues its operations. In 2003, Robert Hingley launched a new ska record label, Megalith Records.

In 1996, Mike Park of the band Skankin' Pickle officially founded Asian Man Records, which was the biggest West coast United States third wave ska label. Asian Man Records provided increased exposure for such ska bands as Big D and the Kids Table, MU330, Less Than Jake and Chris Murray and can be credited for much of their rise in popularity.

By the early 1990s, ska and ska punk bands were appearing throughout the USA and many other countries. An enormous growth of the ska punk movement occurred after the The Mighty Mighty Bosstones signed with Mercury Records in 1993 and appeared in Clueless with their first mainstream hit "Where'd You Go?".

Brett Gurewitz and Tim Armstrong started Hellcat Records in 1997 as a sub-label of Epitaph Records. Known mostly for punk rock, the label also featured third wave ska and ska-core bands like Voodoo Glow Skulls, Choking Victim, Leftover Crack, The Slackers, The Pietasters and Dave Hillyard and the Rocksteady Seven.

By the late 1990s, mainstream interest in ska punk bands had waned, partly because the swing revival gained momentum in the United States. Exceptions included bands like Reel Big Fish, Suburban Legends, Streetlight Manifesto, The Aquabats!, Mad Caddies, and Less Than Jake (most of which started moving away from the ska-influenced sound to become more pop punk-oriented).

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