Take a look at what the Alpha Boys Band is learning to play–Addis Ababba, written by Don Drummond! I visited the Alpha Boys School for the first time in 2011 and again this year and Band Director Sparrow Martin is always challenging his boys with music of the greats, like Don D, as well as classical, band music, jazz, and all types of music. This sweet boy, Kadeem who was 12 in 2011, had no idea that Don Drummond had written this song when I stopped by to watch him practice. When I asked him, “Do you know who wrote this?” and I told him Don Drummond, he realized that one of his own, an Alpha Boy just like him, had become a composer, a world-renown music, a national hero despite the horrors of his life.
Sparrow continues to foster his youth at Alpha. He himself was an Alpha Boy since he was 10 years old and has served as band leader since 1989. “You must play with me, mon!” he tells the boys and he leads them with his small electronic keyboard or drumsticks on the back of a metal chair. At the encouragement of the late great Lloyd Brevett, Sparrow has founded Ska Rebirth, a group of Alpha Boys who have graduated from the band and shown exceptional skill. They perform many of the Skatalites original songs. Sparrow says, “What we are doing here is not just starting a band. We are starting a movement, one which will bring back the original sound of ska from its roots and home, Alpha boys school in Kingston Jamaica, and spread it once again across the entire world. This is the real SKA Rebirth!!”
I had the pleasure of hearing them practice in February 2013–let me tell you, they are amazing! They were surprised I recognized the songs–can you imagine!? But Jamaicans many times don’t have an appreciation for the past, the foundation ska, like many others around the world do. Ska is called “granny music” or “the oldies” by Jamaican youth who prefer to listen to dancehall. But the music of the Skatalites is begin given a “rebirth” by Sparrow and others like Jamaica Music Museum Curator and Founder Herbie Miller, and Historian and Tribute to the Greats Founder Kingsley Goodison. The music of Don Drummond and the Skatalites continues on!