Today is the Fourth of July, the day when Americans celebrate their independence from Great Britain. So in keeping with this theme of independence, I would like to devote today’s blog post to Jamaican songs of independence, and what better place to start than the Jamaican National Anthem itself and during a conversation with Graeme Goodall, engineer for Federal Studios, he told me how this song was recorded. The national anthem was first publicly performed by the Jamaica Military Band at the Lyndhurst Methodist Church Hall just a few weeks before the independence ceremonies. The song’s words were written by Father Hugh Sherlock and the music was composed by Mapletoft Poulle and his wife, Christine Alison Poulle, although many accounts have Robert Lightbourne involved in the composition as well and the confusion over the true composer comes down to politics. Goodall recalls recording the national anthem and says that Captain Ted Wade, who was in charge of the Jamaica Military Band, brought the band to the studios in army trucks. “I told him, no problem, we’ll record them in the parking lot,” said Goodall since they couldn’t all fit in the studio. As Goodall began running microphones to the lot and then taking sound levels back in the control room, he noticed a problem. “There was traffic outside on Four Shore Road, Marcus Garvey Drive,” he says. But Wade radioed the military who responded by blocking off each end of the road and the recording went off without a hitch. They recorded the up tempo march version for the A side and a slower vocal version for the B side and worked all night to press 100 copies complete with a label printed with the new Jamaican flag. The records appeared one on each parliament member’s desk the next morning by 9 a.m., as well as a copy for RJR and JBC.
There were plenty of other songs that celebrated independence and plenty of independence celebrations that featured ska music. The Hotel Flamingo hosted Sonny Bradshaw & His Combo for “exciting music for dancing” to “celebrate independence at the poolside terrace.” The Carib Theatre hosted the “Independence Showcase” with such ska musicians as The Blues Busters, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, Keith ‘N’ Enid, Derrick Morgan; Derrick Harriott, Jimmy Cliff, and Hortense Ellis, among others. The Deluxe Theater was host to the “Independence Ska-Ta-Rama” with the Skatalites, Derrick Harriott, Lord Creator, and lucky ticket holders even won “free cases of Red Stripe Beer”—quite a juxtaposition to the tea served at the uptown celebrations!
Here are a few Jamaican songs that celebrate independence, for Jamaica and for other countries. This list is compiled using the superb Roots Knotty Roots database and feel free to add your Jamaican songs that celebrate and reference independence all over the world. Oh, and make sure to enjoy a Red Stripe (or two), and a cheeseburger, while you put on a few of these fantastic tunes!
- Al T. Joe’s “Independence Time Is Here (Rise Jamaica)” in 1962 for Lindon O. Pottinger on his Gay Disc and Dice labels
- Alert Bedasse and Trenton Spence Orchestra’s “ History and Independence” released in 1962 for National Records
- Alert Bedasse and Trenton Spence Orchestra’s “Let’s Celebrate” released in 1962 for National Records
- Baba Brooks’s “Independence Ska (Pussy Cat)” released in 1965 for Duke Reid on the Treasure Isle and Island labels
- Basil Gabbidon’s “Independence Blues” released in 1962 for Coxsone Dodd on the D Darling label and the same year on the Blue Beat label
- Joe White and Chuck Joseph’s “One Nation” released in 1966 for Sonia Pottinger on her Gay Feet label
- Derrick Morgan and The Blues Blenders’ “Gather Together (Jamaican Independence Song)” released in 1966 for Coxsone Dodd on the Studio 1 label and in 1966 on the Island label
- Derrick Morgan’s “Forward March” in 1962 on Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s label and on the Island label, and in 1972 on the Punch label.
- Dicky Ranking’s “Nice Independence” released in 1983 on the Typhoon label
- Freedom Fighters’ “Independence Jump” released in 1961 on the Melodisc label
- Jackie Opel’s “Independence Anniversary” released in 1963 on the Beverley’s label for Leslie Kong
- Jimmy Cliff’s “Miss Jamaica” released in 1962 for Leslie Kong on the Island and Beverley’s labels and Phil Laing’s version of the same song in 1980 on SWSK Sound King
- Junior White’s “Free Up The Collie Weed For Independence” released in 1981 on the Thoroughbred label
- Kalabash’s “Independence (Take Steps)” released in 1976 for Victor Crichlow
- Laurel Aitken and Freedom Fighters’ “Guyana Independence” released in 1959 for Dada Tewari on Caribou and released in 1961 on Melodisc
- Lord Brynner’s “Trinidad and Tobago Independence” released by RCA in 1962
- Lord Creator’s “Independent Jamaica,” a calypso for Vincent Chin in 1962
- Lord Rose & the Beachcombers’ “Independent Jamaica” in 1962 for Ken Khouri’s Calypso (Kalypso) label
- Papa Biggie’s “Jamaica 21st Independence” released in 1983 for HBC Productions
- Prince Buster’s “Festival (Independence Time)” released in 1966
- Prince Buster’s “Independence Song” released in 1962
- Prince Buster All Stars’ “ Independence ’65 (Happy Independence) released in 1965
- Rico Rodriguez’s “August, 1962” released for Prince Buster in 1962
- Roy Alton’s “Dominica Independence” released in 1977 for Sonny Roberts
- Shoc-Wave’s “Dominica Independence Fever” released in 1979 on the Arawak label
- Skatalites’ “I Should Have Known Better” also known as “Independent Anniversary Ska, released in 1965 for Coxsone Dodd on the Studio 1 label in 1966 on the Island label
- Stranger Cole and Patsy Todd’s “Love In Independence” released in 1965 for Prince Buster
- Terry Nelson’s “Welcome Independence” released in 1966 on the Halagala label
- Winston and Bibby’s “Joy Bells For Independence” released in 1962 for Coxsone Dodd
2 thoughts on “Independence Ska”
Somewhere I have (or had) an old 7″ of the JA national anthem sung by children.
DKingston on the Pama Forum writes:
Happy July 4th (to you and all here that celebrate it).
Since 1966, each year there is an Independence Song Festival in Jamiaca, where artists submit songs as “festival song of the year”, with an eventual winner selected by judges. Your list included a few of the “post-ska” entries, but the challenge with relying on databases for information is that you get only get results based on a search key-word when in fact most of the song titles don’t actually include a common, specific word. While these are indeed limitations, many here will be reassured that technology isn’t quite equal to the breadth of human knowledge, and therefore we’re not quite ready for the scrap heap!
Here is a link to the winning entries over the years, as your readers may be interested to know about the contest, and the previous winners that don’t have the word Independence” in the title (which actually is the majority).
Also, they may be interested to know that there is an LP released by Dynamics and Trojan called “From Bam Bam To Cherry Oh Baby” that illlustrates how good many of these songs are. Many are have trancended the status of “festival entries” to become Jamaican music classics.