Sound Systems at the Jamaica Festival


I stumbled across this advertisement from the Daily Gleaner, July 31, 1965 and noticed that a number of sound systems were playing for this celebratory street festival parade, and guests were encouraged to join in the parade at the end. Yes please! Can you even imagine? King Edward “the Giant,” Prince Buster, Lloyd the Matador, and even the Skatalites were in this parade! Geez Louise! If they ever invent a time machine in my lifetime, here’s my first stop! Below are a few stills from that now-famous footage of the Skatalites performing in this parade.

The Festival was founded by Eddie Seaga who pushed hard to promote ska with a deliberate strategy because he saw that ska was connected to the newly independent Jamaica and the nation’s cultural identity, although there are other reasons too. He founded the Jamaica Independence Festival, a showcase of Jamaican arts, which included an all-island ska and mento competition. At the first annual festival, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires performed, of course, and the festival was hosted and funded by the Ministry of Development & Welfare, Seaga’s department. The first festival began in 1962 to celebrate and coincide with the independence. Seaga continued the festival each year after and in 1966 brought the Popular Song Competition into the offerings. Seaga’s meetings of the Parish Festival Committee were broadcast on JBC and RJR so the public was aware of his agenda to promote ska. And he was photographed and appeared in the newspaper as he cut checks to artists like Prince Buster for their help in promoting ska.

In case you don’t have a magnifying glass to see the performers at this Festival, here are the closeups, which I think are immensely interesting:


4 thoughts on “Sound Systems at the Jamaica Festival”

  1. I’ve got a newspaper picture (The Star Newspaper, May 19, 1965) were the soundsystems owners are signing a contract for the Festival parade. It was included in the booklet of the Lloyd Daley cd I have released on Jamaican Gold (It’s shuffle ‘n Ska Time).


  2. Fairly certain the Skatalites stills are from a week later. They were on the Cable & Wireless float in the Independence Day Parade on August 6 when they were filmed.


  3. Heather! You are a one of a kind, wish you were around back when we started, you are a god send to Jamaica and our musical History. The research that you have done as far as my memory serve me it’s quite
    accurate. Heather I can sincerely say, on behalf of the artists that pass on, a Big thanks to you for putting our history out there for the world to see. On behalf of Yvonne & I, thanks, we love you.


  4. Has any one ever asked Cable & Wireless if they have anything from this in their archives? my father-in-law worked for them all over the world inc JA in the 60s, but after this parade.. unfortunately! I notice that Float 2 is Cable & Wireless but I always thought the Skatalites float was also a C&W float???


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