Prince Buster, Uncategorized

Prince Buster on His Persecution as a Muslim


What better way to celebrate an election in Jamaica than with the ruler of them all, Prince Buster?! I recently came across this Swing Magazine dated January 1969 in which Prince Buster appears on the cover of the digest-sized magazine and the small feature cover story details, among other subjects, his recent rise to the top of the music charts, the characteristics of ska and rocksteady and the potential of Desmond Dekker & the Aces, and his brief boxing career (read more on Prince Buster’s boxing career here). Perhaps most interesting in this short article, however, is the discussion of Prince Buster’s conversion to Islam and troubles with the Jamaican authorities in becoming a member of the faith. When we think of religious persecution in Jamaica during this time, we tend to think of the Rastafari oppression at the hands of the government and colonial people, but little do we think of those members of other religions as well, such as Nation of Islam, to which Prince Buster converted after meeting Muhammad Ali during his travels to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York with the Jamaican delegation. Here Prince Buster had gone to promote his country’s culture and celebrate his dedication and pride in his country, yet the authorities in that country in turn harassed him for his own culture. I in no way single out the Jamaican government for being at fault in this, as I recognize any group or authoritative body is likely to persecute the unknown until there is enlightenment. Let us hope that we as a society evolve closer to a sense of humanism and acceptance within our lifetimes. The article is below:

prince-buster-2More on Prince Buster in Foundation Ska can be found on the links below:

Prince Buster Interview

Prince Buster Boxing

Prince Buster and Federal Records

Prince Buster Takes on the Beatles

Anita Mahfood - Margarita, Uncategorized

Margarita–Ambassador of Reggae


I have long continued the argument that Margarita was a champion, an ambassador, of the Rasta drumming that would go on to become the foundation for the reggae rhythm, and without her, it is possible that reggae would not be the same today. I have found now evidence in the Star Newspaper that furthers this argument.

In my book, Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the Greatest Trombonist, I write: Her relationship with the brothers and sisters in the hills was strong, and so when she performed one time on stage, she refused to dance without the accompaniment of Count Ossie and his group, which were once known as the Rastafarian Repatriation Association of Adastra Road in Eastern Kingston and later became known as The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. Verena Reckord writes, “The group got its first legitimate stage break in the late fifties. It was an occasion when the late, famous rhumba queen Marguerita (Mahfood) insisted that she would not appear on a Vere Johns variety show (Opportunity Knocks) at the Ward Theatre on Christmas morning unless Ossie’s group was on the bill. Johns was wary then about using Rastas on his show, but Marguerita was his star attraction. He had no choice. Count Ossie and his drummers were hired. They were a hit. They soon became regulars on Vere Johns’ show and other functions.” Margarita was the one who introduced Rasta music into mainstream culture, as well as the jazz musicians who accompanied them which is why Miller calls her a “seminal figure in the island’s musical and cultural growth.” In Helene Lee’s work The First Rasta, Brother Royer, a member of Count Ossie’s camp, credits Margarita with helping Rasta music come to the mainstream through her tenacity. Despite Norman Manley’s demand that “Anywhere you see Rastaman, you have to lock them up,” Margarita refused to perform unless Count Ossie and his drummers performed, and it was only after the “people got crazy about the new sound,” says Royer, that Rastas were from then on welcomed onto stages. “Great girl! Our Helen of Troy!” said Royer of Margarita. She was more like the Josephine Baker of Jamaica.


So imagine my delight when I found an article in the Star Newspaper, August 22, 1961 that mentioned the exact performance that Reckord referenced! The article reads: African Drums at Palace Hour. Fans who attend the Palace Theatre tomorrow night will see and hear for the first time on a stage Count Ossie and his African Drums, the band whose sounds have taken Jamaica by storm. They will also hear the famous “Carolina” which held the Number One spot on the Hit Parade for son long. Featured in the fast moving “Swingaree” which will be presented between two full length films at regular prices will be: The renowned Blues Busters fresh from the North Coast, the famous Wilfred Edwards, golden-voiced Lascelles Perkins and top favourite Hortense Ellis. Coming in from Montego Bay will be Phonso the Great. For variety there will also be Creative Dancer Margarita, Caribbean Rhumba Queen Yvonne Davis 9Just back from Nassau), whirlwind dancers Pam Pam and Colleen and Jamaica’s leading comedian, the inimitable Bam. The Drum sounds will also feature songs by Skitter and Winston and trombone selections by Rico Rodriques. All roads will lead to the Palace tomorrow night. –C.A.T.


The performances were a hit with crowds of the Palace Theatre, according to a Star Newspaper article on Monday, August 28, 1961. The article entitled “‘Swingeree’–A Big Hit,” reads: Upwards of 2,000eager fans thronged the Palace Theatre last Wednesday night to witness the first appearance of Count Ossie and His African Drums, with some of the island’s top entertainers. Scores had to stand and hundreds were turned away. The show was good to the last drop and every item was a winner from Compere Vere John introduced the opening number to Wilfred Edwards’ last song. First came Lascelles Perkins with two numbers and he was followed by Pam Pam & Colleen in a whirlwind dance number. Then Hortense Ellis gave out with “I am not a know it all” and got two encores, after which Count Ossie and the Sounds took over. The fans rocked to the favourite ‘Carolina’ sung by Skitter & Winston, swayed with Rico and his soulful trombone, moaned with Bobby Gaynair and his golden sax and enjoyed “Babylon gone.” Comedian Bam kept the audience in stitches for about eight minutes. Hit of the evening was the dance done to the curvesome Margarita to the beat of the African drums in colourful costume. She received an ovation. Then came the Blues Busters and the audience just wouldn’t let them go even after three numbers. Caribbean Rhumba Queen Yvonne (Electric Eel) Davis also made a tremendous hit with the fans as she gyrated in superb rhythm. Finally Wilfred Edwards closed the show with three favourite selections. ‘Swingeree’ featuring Count Ossie & His African Drums will be seen at the Odeon Theatre, Half Way Tree, tomorrow night at 8.40 o’clock between two great films. It will also be presented at the Gaiety Theatre on Thursday night at the same hour. Supporting stars for these two shows will be The Blues Busters, Margarita, Hortense Ellis, Pam Pam & Colleen and top Comedian Bam. –C.A.T.”

Credit is due to Prince Buster for first recording the drums of Count Ossie that formed the backbone for reggae, but credit is also due to Margarita, Anita Mahfood, for bringing these drums to the stage, where their sounds mixed in the air, knowing no boundary between upper and lower classes. Until this time, and long after this time, the Rastafari were persecuted and considered the outcasts of society. But Margarita championed their cause and their creativity. She used her status as a headlining dancer, a woman from a wealthy family, and her talent to help bridge the class divide by introducing their sounds to the stage. Just a few days later, on September 8, 1961, a photo of Count Ossie and his drummers appear with the caption “Bearded Sounds.” The following month an advertisement for a show at Adastra Gardens appears for Count Ossie, calling his sound “Strange Music from Africa.” All of this was amid article after article of horrible treatment of the Rastafari, headlines claiming they burned babies as a sacrifice, were lunatics, and were murdered, were common during these years. Here are a few of them, and only a few, from 1961 and 1962:

I post these to put into context what Margarita did by supporting the drums of Count Ossie. She took a great risk. Prince Buster may have brought the drums to the studio, but Margarita brought them beyond the hills, beyond Orange Street, to the audiences that viewed the Rastafari as these articles present them. She was a true renegade and a heroine and we owe her a great debt.


Jamaica’s Threat to the Beatles–the Zodiacs?


One of my all-time favorite Jamaican songs, or songs period, is Renegade by The Zodiacs, recorded for Duke Reid in 1965. I could never find too much on this band, whose sound I think is pretty tight and polished, so that surprised me, as I would have thought they’d be destined for greatness. Then I stumbled across this article in a Star Newspaper during my recent lock-up in the National Library of Jamaica. They should have put me in there and thrown away the key! I could have been there for years! Anyway, The Zodiacs, who are Winston Service, Dellie Delpratt, Eugene Dyer, Roy Robinson, and Claud “Junior” Sang, were once considered “Jamaica’s threat to Beatles.” Although that may seem like a surprising claim now, with 20/20 hindsight, it was a claim made by others, like Prince Buster (no surprise there either!) as many musicians tried to take on the big guns!

This article, dated April 17, 1964, reads: The Zodiacs have come a long way in a comparatively short time. Former members of the JIVIN’ JUNIORS, the Zodiacs–five in number–are the only pro-singing quintet in Jamaica. Formed a year ago, the group made its first appearance with Carlos Malcolm and his Afro Jamaican Rhythms and was featured with this band for some time. The Zodiacs got a feature spot on the Chuck Jackson show and were popular with the audience. They have been making an impression on show fans with their antics and clown-singing in their recent performances so much that they are spoken of as Jamaica’s threat to the world popular BEATLES. Although they are keener on stage and night club appearances, the Zodiacs are also interested in the record industry, and have a disc entitled, “Daddy’s Gonna Leave,” backed with “No Greater Love.” –Jackie Estick.

According to the Roots Knotty Roots database, “Daddy’s Gonna Leave” was recorded for producer Winston Sinclair on the Zeeee label, the only song on this label, with the song “If You Need Someone” on the A side. Other songs by the Zodiacs include “Cry No More” for Prince Buster in 1967; “Down in the Boondocks” and “Slow Slow Ska” for Ernest Ranglin, dates unknown; “Little Girl” for Leebert Robinson in 1966; “Pearly Gates” for Prince Buster in 1964; “Who’s Loving You” and “Walk On By (Renegade)” for Sam Mitchell and Keith Scott (Scotty) in 1967; and of course, the classic “Renegade” in 1965 for Duke Reid.

The Zodiacs had been performing live since at least 1963. In May, 1963 the Zodiacs performed with Mighty Samson, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, the Blues Busters,  Count Prince Miller, Jimmy Cliff, Tony Gregroy, Keith Lyn, Pluggy and Beryl, and others with Tony Verity as emcee at the Carib Theatre. They continued to perform at various venues throughout Kingston in 1963 and 1964. An advertisement in the Daily Gleaner on December 10, 1965 showed a photo of the Zodiacs and listed one of the members as Gino Dwyer, instead of Eugene Dyer, and John Service instead of Winston Service. Spelling and mistakes in names, and well, almost everything during this era, were common!


This album was produced by Ernest Ranglin, and a Daily Gleaner article, January 16, 1966 stated, “A locally-recorded and pressed RCA Victor album
titled RANGLIN PRESENTS THE ZODIACS should also prove popular but more so amongst the younger set. The Zodiacs burst on to the showbiz scene only six months ago and are currently riding high with the song “What Will Your Mama Say” which was written by one of the trio’s brothers. Federal Records’ Musical Director Ernie Ranglin has got a Big Band feeling behind the dozen selections recorded. Three numbers are instrumentals with the James Brown hit “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” giving Organist Leslie Butler an opportunity to exercise his tremendous talent Current standards like “Follow Me” and “She’s Gone Again1′ show that the boys know how to project a distinctive style.

An article in the January 2, 1966 Daily Gleaner featured the Zodiacs in a small article with a photo that talked about their appearance on Teenage Dance Party (TADP). The article states, “TADP HITS THI ROAD WITH FEDERAL RECORDS. Caught in a real holiday mood, is this lively group who took part in one of two special TADP Hit-The-Road programmes from Record Plaza at Tropical Plaza recently. Pictured with “MR. TADP”.JBC announcer Roy Hall, are (from left) Winston Service, one of the Zodiacs singing group, Ernest Raaglin, well-known Jamaican guitarist and Musical Director at Federal Records, Pamela Blyth, one of Federal’s fastest recording stars, Buddy llgner whose, latest LP was featured on the programme and Claud Sang, Jr., another of the Zodiacs. The show was sponsored by Federal Record Mfg Co. TADP is heard over JBC-Radio daily (except Sundays) from 4.00 to 5.00 pm.”


They performed in July, 1966 at the National Arena along with Hortense Ellis, the Jamaicans, the Techniques, Derrick Harriott, the Granville Williams Orchestra, Count Ossie and the Maytals in an independence celebration.

A Daily Gleaner article on July 4, 1969 revealed that the band had broken up. In an article on Zodiacs singer Claude Sang, Jr., the journalist stated that Sang had gone on to form a band called the Pace Setters in 1967 which performed soul music. It stated that the Zodiacs continued to perform live at clubs after the Ernest Ranglin recording until they broke up because members of the Zodiacs got married and left. Claude continued with a solo career in London.


National Ska Day


Did you know that there was a National Ska Day? And it’s not a new creation! I found this advertisement for it in a Star Newspaper from September 12, 1964 which proclaims that National Ska Day is on September 13th, the following day, and it is the fifth birthday of the ska, which is interesting. In 1959, Theo Beckford’s “Easy Snappin'” was released, but not sure which month it came out, and not sure if that is what this anniversary refers to–plus, that song was actually recorded in 1956, so it’s even fuzzier. And then there’s Prince Buster’s mug up there at the top of the ad. But look at the lineup–can you even imagine being there back in the day to hear these guys and gals! To jump on a bus at the Ward Theatre and head to this show to hear the drums of Count Ossie and Drumbago, and the horns of Sterling and Alphonso, and the sweet sounds of Hortense and Doreen Shaffer, here called Madam Dorene, love that! And then Eric Monty Morris, Derrick Morgan, Roy Panton, Toots and his crew, Alton Ellis–and the sound systems of Duke Reid and King Edwards, Prince Buster, and a guy from Spain named Ruddy! Chills. I’ll wait for my time machine and punch in September 13, 1964 first thing!

Prince Buster

Hard Man Fe Dead


Prince Buster recorded one of his most famous tunes, Hard Man Fe Dead, in 1966. The following lyrics detail the humorous tale of a man who is, to quote one of my favorite movies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “not dead yet.” The mourners prepare for his burial with nine night, so I thought I would devote today’s blog to a discussion of the nine night. Before I do, here are the lyrics to that classic tune, Hard Man Fe Dead:

You pick him up, you lick him down
Him bounce right back,
What a hard man fe dead! (Hard man fe dead!)
You pick him up, you lick him down
Him bounce right back,
What a hard man fe dead! (Hard man fe dead!)

Them seh, the cat’s got a nine life
But this man got ninety-nine life, cause…
Them pick him up, you lick him down,
Him bounce right back,
What a hard man fe dead! (Hard man fe dead!)

Them boil one pot of chocolate tea.
And all the fried fish they caught in the sea
They also got six quart o’ rum
Saying that they waiting for the nine night to come

The last time I heard them say
That this man was dead (this man was dead)
They find him black eyes
And them lay it all upon his head (the man was dead)

Now the procession leads to the cemetery
The man all a howl, Don’t you bury me,
You pick him up, you lick him down
Him bounce right back,
What a hard man fe dead!

(Hard man fe dead, … hard man fe dead)

/Instrumental interlude/

Them boil one cup of chocolate tea
And all the fried fish they caught in the sea
They aso got six quart o’ rum
Saying that they waiting for the nine night to come

The last time I heard them say
That this man was dead (this man was dead)
They find him black eyes
And them lay it all upon his head (‘pon his head)

You should see them goin’ to the cemetery
The old man holla howl, Won’t you bury me?
Them drop the box and run,
What a whole lot o’ fun!
What a hard man fe dead! (hard man fe dead)

You pick him up, you lick him down
Him bounce right back,
What a hard man fe dead! (Hard man fe dead!)
You pick him up, you lick him down
Him bounce right back,
I am a hard man fe dead! (Hard man fe dead! … Hard man fe dead!)

Nine Night is a death ritual that stems from the revivalist religions and revivalists believed certain rituals had to be followed out of respect for the deceased otherwise they would return through obeah to torment the living. The first night featured the wake, the second and third days were the funeral and the remaining days brought visitors, but the ninth night highlighted the entire ceremony with singing and feasting until morning. A memorial service may occur on the anniversary of the departed. Nine Night is still observed by many Jamaicans today, even if they have no association with a revivalist cult.

Dr. Rebecca Tortello, contributor to the Jamaica Gleaner writes in her article “”A Time to Die: Death Rituals,” about the ritual of Nine Night. “It was important that the rituals were followed in a particular order so as not to offend the dead and ensure the spirit’s safe journey back to God. In African belief the self has three components – the body, the spirit and the shadow or duppy. Once the body is dead and the spirit began his/her journey to God, the duppy or shadow could live on and wreak havoc for the living if not given due respect. Long ago, it was believed that the spirit would return to Africa and therefore sometimes messages were sent to loved ones in activities that occurred during the nine-day period which gave the living the time to ensure that the spirit understood that it should depart from its home. Technically, the nine night is the period of mourning after death that culminates in ceremonies involving food and dancing on the ninth night. Following Christian custom, the soul’s ascent to Heaven is emphasised while African traditions call for more emphasis to be placed on placating the spirit of the dead person. Religious ceremonies tend to be staged first so as to ensure that the dead understands that it is time to leave his/her old home. If this is not done the spirit is said to haunt the living,” writes Tortello.

As a side note, Steely & Clevie’s “Nine Night Version” features a rhythm used in Pukkumina, one of the revivalist religions. Also, Dinkie Minnie was a function that was held to cheer up the family of the dead person or to banish grief and was performed by Miss Lou (Louise Bennett) during her presentations. She explains, “The Dinkie is eight nights after the death. From the first night to the eighth. The Ninth Night is a more religious ceremony. The Dinkie Minnie is to keep the family from grieving. And the number eight is definitely significant.”

A Daily Gleaner article I found on April 4, 1936 with the headline “Nine Nights After Death” and the explanation, “Being an account of the goings on at “Nine Night” Ceremonies when a proper and final adieu is said to the duppies at beloved but deceased ones” (By JACK O’KINGSTON),” is not only a detailed description of the Nine Night ritual, but a glimpse into the culture of the time and the haughty perspective of the writer. It is not only an examination of Nine Night, but also a study into the attitudes that shape the lingering harms of colonialism and classicism. It’s long, but I feel well worth the read.

Mr. O’Kingston, (if that is his real name!!) states: “Without doubt, the oldest and most popular of all African ceremonies carried out in Jamaica is “The Nine Night.” Not even all of the better class Jamaicans have found it possible to do away with this ceremony. In the wattled hut on the hillside, in the (unreadable) structure in the suburbs; great Jamaicans and small, with one and all, the “Nine Night” is an institution. There is the “Set Up” too, when close friends sit with near relatives all through the night following the departure of one from this world to the next; but this ceremony is sometimes passed over. No one is worried if a “Set Up” is not kept up; but to fail to hold a “Nine Njght”—such a thing is just not done. In the better class home the ceremony is not carried out with any rigid attention to ritual. Friends and relations gather in the drawing room, play the piano, sing softly a few hymns, look and act piously until midnight when a psalm is read, a prayer said and a farewell hymn sung in the apartment in which the deceased breathed his or her last. After that, innocent card games, jokes and idle chat among the young; a pipe and current topics among the old, pass away the time for an hour or two. Then quietly, one by one, sometimes in twos, the mourners disperse, never saying good night, for legend says it is the illest thing to say when leaving a “Nine Night.” So they drift off until only the homemates are left; and they also take to their apartments in like mysterious manner; and the doors and windows are closed-one after the other without haste. Then the lights, one by one, in this room and that, go out even as the people went, until it seems that darkness, step by step is gradually coming on, till, with the last existinguished light, thick shadows settle down upon the house of mourning.

THE REAL THING With the peasant folk, however, it is a different thing, as a fact it is The Thing— rites and rituals from beginning to end. The humble Jamaican looks upon the type of “Nine Night” kept up by the better class as “a pyah-pyahting,'” which means that it is woefully and completely lacking in the true dignity of a real honest-to-goodness-“Nine Night.” Indeed no real “Nine Night” can be held in a house. The proper thing to do is to spread a large tarpaulin on high sticks over the better portion of the yard in which the deceased lived, put a little table in the centre of this make-shift tent, arrange as many rough seats as possible under the canvas and throw the gates ajar. Of course the room to which the deceased lived and died must be left unoccupied, the bed immaculately spread, and a small table covered with a spotless cloth in one corner. A dimly burning lamp sends its feeble rays from the centre of the little table, while a pint of finest old Jamaica rum makes company for the lamp. The stage is thus now set, and waits, but not for long, upon the players who begin coming in from around seven o’clock. The first and principal performer to appear on the scene is the character known throughout “Nine Nightdom” as “de leadar.” There are scores of these leader chaps. They know “Nine Night” procedure, from A to Z. Not always can they read, but the right hymn and Bible passage are always, as one might say, at their fingertip. They know by heart every hymn from the front cover of Sankeys to the back page of Dr, Watt’s Hymnals; and every verse in the Bible dealing with the departure of human soul to the Great Beyond. These “Nine Night” officials have an uncanny instinct tor smelling out the location of “Nine Nights.” Hold your “Nine Night” in the depths of the sea or in the bowels of the earth and they will be there in numbers. The first one to arrive and take the chair which is set at the table in the centre of the tent will be the leader, and as the position carries with it a surprising allowance of rum, fried fish, bread and coffee, it is not necessary to describe the intensity of the “World War” that is fought ere the chair is taken.

HOWLING SUCCESS. A “Nine Night” is never a poorly attended ceremony. No matter how unpopular the deceased, how unknown, his “Nine Night” is always a howling success. Indeed there are persons who take up their stands near by the May Pen and other cemeteries and count the corpses that pass daily, ask diligently after the place from whence they come and count the days so as to be present at the “Nine Night.” Others there are, too, who walk about at night with ears pricked up and heads cocked like a bird of prey, listening, listening for the plaintive wail expressed in song that tells there is a “Nine Night” on. Still others there be too, who, on hearing of a person stricken ill enquire regularly of neighbors how fares the ill one. Yes, they even gather on the streets close to the “sick yard” and sing in “Nine Night” fashion such hymns as “On the Resurrection Morning,” “Sleep on Beloved” and “There is a Better Land,” because “it call de adder duppies fe come fe im.” After a couple days of mourning even the real mourners await with a thrill “The Nine Night,” Yet it is they, the close relatives of the deceased who carry the burden of the expenses. They must provide rum aplenty, fried fish, bread and coffee if there is to be any “Nine Night.”

AND NOW IT STARTS. “De Leadah having called for “Ardah frens” begins to track out the first verse of a hymn. Somewhere in the crowd a voice raises the tune; then altogether in one great inharmonious roar things get underway, women screeching loud, long and wrong, men bellowing in awful raucous tones. Everybody trying to outdo everybody else in volume, content to sacrifice every vestige of melody. A few such hymns and “de Leadah” calls out “Sola,” he really means that some person is to track out his or her own favourite hymn and sing all the verses while the crowd joins in the chorus. At the command “Sola,” a score or more persons leap to foot and there is a confused “tracking” of favourite hymns until “de Leadah” appoints who shall sing. Words cannot describe the screeching of the female or the roaring of the male which follows as the singer shows off on the crown how much he or she knows about fancy singing. Things follow this count of perfect inharmony until the leader, making a noise with his throat, announces that that section of his make-up is “dry.” That proclamation is a kind of code meaning “Time to pass around the rum.” The leader’s throat noise is at once echoed and re-echoed. So cups and cans, glasses and every imaginary drinking convenience are produced and rum is served plentifully. To the leader goes a half-a-pint. Throats are no longer “dry” and so the grand disharmony is resumed and vociferously continued until tea time (around eleven). By now there are no starving wolves, no vixen with a dozen yelps; indeed, no creature anywhere in the universe with a

GREATER AND MORE RAVENOUS desire for eatables than The Group huddled by choice under the limited confines of that tarpaulin. Scores and scores of small fishes go up to the entrance of wide and rapidly moving mouths, and in a split second vanish from view forever. Junks of bread share similar fate. Cups and more cups of hot coffee disappear before even the steam can pass off them. Half an hour passes in this vain effort to satiate the appetite of the “Nine Nighters.” Then when everyone is fully satisfied that there is nothing left to eat around, a droll lament is sung as the opening of a new phase of the ceremony. During this half hour until midnight only very important songs are sung. They are sung as softly as “Nine Nighters” can sing, which is just a wee bit below “FF.” Close to 12 o’clock they sing “Good Night, Good Night, Good Night” at the close of which plaintive tune the leader gets up and states, “Frens, de fambilr af de dead is gwing to leave we an gadder in de dead-room an discharge de dead; de res’ of we mus stay wey we is.” This announcement was expected, waited for. The close friends and relations of the deceased move towards the room in which the deceased expired. This room has been kept inviolate since nine days; to-night the bed is covered with spotless linen. On a table in a corner is a small lamp and a pint of White rum. The closest male relation to the deceased present, is selected. This selection always causes numerous male persons to vie with one another to establish claim as next of kin. When the matter is finally settled, if there is not a fight, the elected one calls out the words of a hymn which is sung in a low, dirgy sort of way, as if the singers were

SINGING IN THEIR SLEEP. Then they bow their heads and the leader leads in prayer. It is a kind of patent prayer. The same is said on every occasion with a little variation here and there, but the idea is never changed. The leader prays standing while the others kneel voicing their agreement with what is prayed by long grunts, sighs and low wails. Then the master of these quaint ceremonies takes hold of the sheet on the bed, pulls it off and tosses it to the floor. The mattress in like manner is treated. Then the bed laths are gathered in a bundle and thrown to the floor with a racket—the bed remains a mere skeleton standing in the little room. A lath is then taken and used

TO BEAT THE BED THINGS on the floor as though some evil person or thing sheltered between its folds. Finally the Master of Ceremonies takes hold of the pint of rum. By right the greater portion of the liquid spirit is to be sprinkled at the four corners of the room and the bed frame, some thrown through the window and a small quantity swallowed by the Master of Ceremonies. But this worthy “Nine Night” official usually reverses this order of things. On gulping down three-quarters of the pint of liquor the Master of Ceremonies calls the deceased by name, Say—”Obediah Wilson, you is discharge from dis ‘ouse in de name of de fatha, de son, an’ de Oly Gose.” The group sings “Good Night, Good Night, Good Night” and as the tune ends voices are heard cheerfully saying “good-bye, Obie, Good-bye.” Then led by the now staggering Master of Ceremonies the little group files out into the yard under the broad canvas to play dominoes, play cards, tell Nancy stories, ask for the (unreadable) riddles, sing popular songs, make love, gamble, fight—and on a certain occasion in Smith’s Village—Murder.”


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:





Every good musician has a nickname. Well, maybe not every musician, but many of them. And Jamaican culture is certainly known for dishing out some pretty fantastic nicknames, like Bunny and Wingy and Chicken. And I always love Jamaican musician nicknames, like Trommie for the trombonist, Drummie for the drummer, Saxa for saxophonist in the case of the Beat, and other classics—Tan Tan, Ribs, Cannonball, Sparrow, Clue J, Scully, Junior, Stranger, and one I wrote about last week—White Rum. Of course all of the royal monikers like Sir and Duke and Prince and Lord were ways to take back colonial power. Heck, Jamaica itself has a nickname—Jamrock. When I was on the Kingston waterfront one day and saw a huge black bird, I asked my taxi driver what the name of the specie was and he said, “We call them Old Man Joe.” Same thing happened when I saw a fish—“black fish.” Nicknames are so much a part of Jamaican culture, in many cases they take over the birth name.

So it got me thinking, there was a man I always heard of by his nickname and rarely his real name, and I wanted to find out a bit more about him. It’s easy to figure out which instrument he plays, with a name like Drumbago, and it turns out he had quite an important career, helping to shape the ska rhythm.

Drumbago’s real name is Arkland Parkes, although the only two articles that the Daily Gleaner ran on him, when he died, name him as Auckland Parkes. That’s probably not accurate, and perhaps comes from a mix up with Auckland Park, which is a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. Either that, or Auckland is just a typo, which is also likely.

Prince Buster asserts that it was he who created the ska style and claims to have asked Drumbago to play a march, a style of song that Prince Buster favored even as a young child, the same march-style of music that was played during carnival and in processions, heavy with drums. Prince Buster says he asked Drumbago to stress the offbeat and asked guitarist Jah Jerry to perform a guitar strum and Dennis Campbell to perform saxophone syncopation to accent the rhythm, thus creating the ska sound. As we know, there are many versions of the birth of ska, but there is no question that Drumbago was there at the beginning. In fact, he performed on what is widely accepted as the first recorded ska song, “Easy Snapping.”


Drumbago performed drums for a number of musicians in the studios during the early days, including Justin Hinds & the Dominoes, Don Drummond, Jah Jerry, Rico Rodriguez, Deadley Headley Bennett, Baba Brooks, Clancy Eccles, Derrick Morgan, Karl Bryan, Eric Monty Morris, Roy Panton, Roland Alphonso, Stranger Cole, and with the Skatalites. Drumbago even performed with the Gaylettes fronting on vocals—Judy Mowatt, Beryl Lawson, and Merle Clemonson before Mowatt went on to perform with the I-Threes.


He had his own groups, or whatever producers wanted to call the lineup on the record label, including D Bird and The Drumbago Band, Drumbago and His Harmonizers, Drumbago’s All Stars, Drumbago and Jazz Beat, Drumbago and Prince Buster All Stars, Drumbago and The Blenders, Drumbago and Soul Rhythms, Drumbago and The Dynamites, Drumbago’s Orchestra, Magic Notes and Drumbago, Monarchs and Drumbago All Stars, The Drumbago Ska Band, Raymond Harper with the Drumbago Band, and he also did producing for musicians as well.


The following are the two articles that the Daily Gleaner ran when Drumbago died—one announcing his death and recapping his life, and the other on his burial. Take note of some of the mourners at his funeral which includes many musicians.

Mr. Auckland Parkes, musician, dies

From the Daily Gleaner, January 23, 1969

Mr. Auckland Alvin (Drumbago) Parkes, leader of the Drumbago Orchestra, died on Sunday [January 19, 1969] in the Maxfield Medical Centre Hospital, after a short illness. He was living at 8 Crescent Road, Kingston 13. He was regarded as one of the best drummers in Jamaica and in addition played the flute. Mr. Parkes was also a pioneer in local recording when he began making recorded music back in 1959.

He started his musical career at the age of 15 playing the drums in his brother’s  (Mr. Luther Parkes) orchestra. After leaving his brother’s band he appeared in night clubs and on stages throughout the Island with other top orchestras which included Eric Deans orchestra, Val Bennett and his All-Stars and Frankie Bonitto Combo.

Weekend shows

Sometime in the late 40’s he formed his own orchestra and had regular weekend shows at the then Silver Slipper Club, Cross Roads, where his versatility on the drums earned him the name “Drumbago.”

He then took on a contract at the Baby Grand Club, Cross Roads, and played there on weekends for seven years before leaving and entering the recording field.

He also did a two-year stint in the United States and for a period he was top drummer in orchestras on tourist cruise ships. On his return to Jamaica he continued his performances to many capacity audiences at theatres and night clubs.

After giving up the Baby Grand engagement he continued with the orchestra but concentrated more on records and playing at street dances at all the independence festivals.


Some of his earlier recordings were “Second Fiddle,” “Chariot Rock,” “Betrayers Downfall,” “Easy Snapping,” “Humpty Dumpty” sung by Eric Morris; and was featured musician for Prince Buster’s All-Stars.

In the 1962 independence celebrations he was the drummer in Derrick Morgan’s hit tune “Forward March,” and his band figured at the street dances.

He continued making records up to the time of his death and in the latter part of 1968 he recorded tunes such as “Mary Poppins,” “Dulcimina,” and his latest hit which was released a few weeks ago is the current No. 1 tune “Everything- Crash.” He also has a lot of tunes which are complete but not yet released on the recording market.

Survivors are his brothers Luther, and Pastor Arnold Parkes, sister, Olive (Mrs. McCatty), nieces, Mrs. Vera Hanson, Dahlia and Marjorie, adopted daughter, Jennifer, nephews, Ernie, Michael and John, and other relatives. Funeral services for Mr. Parkes will be held on Sunday at Sam Isaacs Funeral Parlour, 44 Hanover Street, at 3 p.m. Interment will be at the May Pen Cemetery.

Mr. Auckland Parkes Buried

from the Daily Gleaner, January 28, 1969

Funeral services for Mr. Auckland (Drumbago) Parkes, leader of the Drumbago Orchestra, who died recently in the Maxfield Medical Centre Hospital after a short illness, were held at Sam Isaacs Funeral Parlour, Hanover Street, on Sunday afternoon. Interment followed in the May Pen Cemetery. The services were conducted by the Rev. S. E. Johnson of the New Testament Church of God, who eulogized Mr. Parkes as a good family man and a person who was loved by all who knew him.

Mr. Parkes, who died at 50, was regarded as one of the best drummers In Jamaica and in addition played the flute. He was also a pioneer in local recording when he began making recorded music back In 1959.

Pallbearers were: Mr. Luther Parkes and Pastor Arnold Parkes (brothers), Mr. Ernest Hanson, Mr. Bill Campbell, Mr. Richard Williams and Mr. Boysie Stewart.

Family mourners were- Mr. John Hanson and C. Hanson (grandnephews). Misses Dahlia Hanson and Majorie Hanson (grandnieces), Olive Parkes (sister). Mr. Albert Parkes, (son) and Master Richard Parkes (grandson).

Among the many other mourners were: Mr. Cleveland Webber, Mr. Stanley Notice, Mr. C. Campbell, Mr. Percival Dillon, Mr. Alvin Wilson, Mr. A. O’Brian, Mr. Claude Gobonrne, Mr. Alphonso Dockett. Miss Shirley Thompson, Miss Monica Paige, Messrs Arthur Lee, Clifton Thompson, Clancy Eccles, C. O Brian, Percy Myers, Val Bennett and Mr. Clifton Bailey. _Mr. Hedley  Walker, Mrs. I. Miller. Mr. Eric Phillips Mr. Mapletoft Poulle, Mr. Alfred O’Brian, Mr. J. Coleman, Mr. P. Cole, Mr. R. Patterson, Mr. J. Thompson, Mr. Cecil Savery Mr. D. Saunders, Mr. V. Anderson, Mr. A. J. Stephenson, Mr. George Tucker, Mr. L. Malabre, Miss P. Anderson, Miss I. Stuart, Mrs. I. Francis, Mr. Ernest McGann and Mr. V. Wallace.

Rude boys

Real Rude Boys


Rude boys—to those who didn’t live among them, myself included, it’s easy to think of these gangsters as the stylized suave icons we see in illustrations with sunglasses and suits. Or we might think they were like Johnny Too Bad, looting and shooting, but still the stuff of legend, the stuff of myth, the Rhygings or Ivanhoes. Rude boys were real, and many of them were real bad, not as in bad/cool but as in bad/murderers. Rude boys were known align themselves with a sound system operator and defend his turf from opposing rude boys, which is how they came to be associated with the music. Plus, they became part of the music itself by becoming the topic of numerous songs, which I will address in a moment before I share an article about a real rude boy crime.


But first, Historian Garth White wrote in 1967 that a rude boy is a “person, native, who is totally disenchanted with the ruling system; who generally is descended from the ‘African’ elements in the lower class and who is now armed with ratchets (German made knives), other cutting instruments and with increasing frequency nowadays with guns and explosives.” White noted that rude boys had similar characteristics, such as similar shoes, hats, music, and stripped motorbikes which served to bind the rude boys together in a community. Rude boys committed minor crimes, such as jumping on the back of a streetcar for a free ride, but other times they were much more violent and committed severe crimes such as murder of fellow rude boys or innocent schoolgirls. Well-known rude boy gangs were the Charles Street Spanglers, Phoenix, Skull, and Vikings.


Now, to the music—perhaps the most well-known rude boy songs were made between Derrick Morgan and Prince Buster who shared a rivalry, a musical stick fight. Derrick Morgan’s “Tougher Than Tough” addresses rude boys directly with a judge speaking at the beginning of the song to the gangsters brought in for using ratchets and throwing bombs. Their reply to the judge that “rudies don’t fear” inspired the marginalized youth in Jamaica who turned to crime, and egged on Prince Buster who responded with his Judge Dread songs. Judge Dread was a character in Prince Buster’s songs who sentenced the rude boys, regardless of their pleas for mercy and even crying, to such unreasonable sentences as 400 years behind bars.


While Morgan and Prince Buster had their share of back-and-forth songs referencing rude boys and Judge Dread, there were plenty of rude boy songs that either supported the rude boy culture, or denounced it. They reflected the violence of the times, asking the youth to simmer down and put away their ratchets, or they glorified gangsters and stylized criminals with songs like Prince Buster’s “Al Capone and “007 (Shanty Town),” “Rude Boy Train,” and “Rudy Got Soul” by Desmond Dekker, but there were many more that warned of the rude boy lifestyle. “Cry Tough” and “Dance Crasher” by Alton Ellis, “No Good Rudie” by Justin Hinds, “Cool Off Rudies” by Derrick Morgan, “Don’t Be a Rude Boy” by the Rulers, and dozens of others.


Without further ado, I would like to share an article from the Daily Gleaner, December 10, 1968, that tells of a real rude boy crime—a murder, which began at a sound system dance. Alton Ellis’s “Dance Crasher” apparently fell on deaf ears when it came to these two brothers, Eddie and George Fraser and their rude boy friends.


Inquiry begins into shooting of coconut vendor


A preliminary inquiry began in the No. 3 Sutton Street on Tuesday before Mrs. Myrtle Mason, Resident Magistrate, into the fatal shooting of a coconut vendor, Artell Brown, 29, of a Stephen Street address, in August of this year.


Before the Court were, Eddie Fraser, Aston Young, George Fraser, John Graham and Harvey Reid, charged with murder and robbery with aggravation.


Joscelyn Coot of Tivoli Gardens gave evidence that he went to a dance on King Street on Friday, August 23, where he saw Aston Young and the two Frasers–Eddie Fraser had a gun in his hand and George Fraser said that no one could harm them. Eddie and George Fraser, and Aston Young left the dance and the witness said he left with them too.


Coot said that they went down to King Street and on to Heywood Street where Eddie Fraser said that he wanted a coconut and bought it while he, witness, and Aston Young stood at the corner. The man asked for his money and witness said that the man moved towards Eddie Fraser and he was shot by Fraser.


Cross-examined by Mr. Maurice Tenn, counsel for Eddie Fraser, witness said that he too was arrested and taken to the Denham Town police station, but was released.



A domestic servant, Nonna Smith, said that she was going to buy cigarettes when she heard an explosion. She went to where she thought the sound came from and saw a crowd there. Someone whom she knew as Artell was lying on the ground, she said. Smith said she saw two men running up Rose Lane, but could not recognize any of them. Smith said she later attended an identification parade and picked out Harvey Reid as one of the men who she saw walking along Heywood Street.


Carlton McBridge told the court that he was the man who operated the sound system at the dance at 145 King Street on August 23. He saw Eddie Fraser and George Fraser there that night. Eddie Fraser had a gun in his hand in front of a girl. Fraser spoke to her and she ran. Both Frasers then went outside. Witness said, when cross-examined by Mr. Tenn, that he did not see Coot there that night. Re-examined by Mrs. Shirley Playfair Clerk of the Courts he said that if Coot was there he would most naturally have seen him.


Dr. Noel March, pathologist who performed the post mortem examination deposed as to the injuries he found on the deceased.


Iona Eldermire, office maid of 26 Stephen Street, Kingston, told the court that it was she who identified the dead body of Artell Brown.

Julius Vassell, a coconut vendor, told the court that both he and Artell were buying coconuts when a man came up to Artell and told him to give him what he had. He heard a voice saying to “bum the man” and Artell was shot. Vassell identified Eddie Fraser as the man who shot Artell.



Continuing, Vassell said that Artell fell to the ground after being shot and both he and Artell were robbed. Cross-examined, Vassell said that no one ordered nor drank a coconut.


Raymond Boucher deposed that George Fraser, whom he knew as Danny, slept at his house three nights. On a Friday morning Danny got up and sat at the doorway with a gun. He pulled “a thing” from the gun and put four “little things” in it. Danny then left the house.


The next day, Boucher said, Danny called him and told him that he knew about the shooting; that it was not he who had done it but Eddie. Harold Williams also gave a deposition. The hearing will continue December 30.


Counsel who appeared at the inquiry were Mr. Tenn, who appeared for Eddie Fraser, Mr. Anthony Spaulding for Aston Young, Miss Gloria Thompson for George Fraser, Mr. W. K. Chin See for John Graham, and Mr. Ian Ramsay, Q.C., for Harvey Reid.


Incidentally, the counsel for Aston Young, Mr. Anthony Spaulding, is the very same defense attorney, along with P.J. Patterson, who represented Don Drummond in July, 1966 in his murder trial. And Pathologist Noel March who is cited above is the very same Noel March that the defense, Anthony Spaulding and P.J. Patterson, used in Don Drummond’s murder trial to present testimony on the examination of Anita Mahfood’s wounds.


Eddie Fraser was found guilty of the murder and was sentenced to death, hanged on January 19, 1971. George Fraser, his younger brother, was sentenced to 12 years hard labor. Mr. Justice Parnell, the judge in No. 1 Home Circuit Court, made comments in sentencing George Fraser might remind one of Judge Dread issuing his sentences of 400 years to Lord Grab and Flee, although it is a bit more based in reality rather than fantasy.


“What we are lacking in Jamaica today is strong discipline. I may be old fashioned but that is what I have been brought up on but the young boys and girls of today decide to take charge of the country and do it their way. They get their guns and knives and walk about and terrorize people, shooting and killing, and when they come before the court and are convicted, their youth is urged as strong ground for dealing leniently with them. As far as this case is concerned, I can see no ground why I should not pass a salutary sentence on you. This man’s life was snuffed out in a jiffy while you and the other man were pursuing your wrong,” said Judge Parnell in the Daily Gleaner, June 4, 1969.


Dissension in the Ska Camp


The premiere of the ska in America was controversial then, as it is now. I recently found an article from 1964 called “Dissension in the Ska Camp” that shows even when musicians were in the thick of it, it was a contested issue of who was included and who was excluded, who created it first and who was following suit. So I today I share this article that appeared in the Sunday Gleaner, April 26, 1964 that shows these topics were just as relevant and talked about then as they are now, even more so. The article has no byline so it is not evident who wrote the piece, but Ronnie Nasralla and Prince Buster chime in with their opinions.

First, let’s set the scene. Referenced in this article is the event at Shepheard’s Club, seen above in the photo. This nightclub was located in the Drake Hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan. It was a hotspot. It was hip and posh and cool. Big stars stayed at the Drake, including Frank Sinatra and Muhammad Ali and later Led Zeppelin and Slade. But Shepheard’s was also swanky and the hot dances of the day, like the Frug, were not only danced here, but unveiled here. So too was the Ska. Shepheard’s even produced a flyer called, “How to Do the Newest Discotheque Dances at Shepheard’s in New York’s Drake Hotel” with step-by-step instructions to dance the Jerk, Watusi, Frug and the Monkey.

The event at Shepheard’s Club was prior to the World’s Fair. This event was held in April, whereas the World’s Fair wasn’t until August of 1964. However, Jamaica’s tourism efforts began before the World’s Fair in anticipation of creating a buzz and capitalizing on the dance craze trend. You may remember the photo I posted with Arthur Murray’s wife and Ronnie Nasralla from this evening at the Shepheard’s Club, and above is another rare gem.

Without further ado, the article:

National sound hits New York but now the argument flares as to what it is and who started it!


LIKE a raging fire, the promotional tour of the Jamaican National Sound, the Ska, has started a smoldering in the underbrush of the Kingston music world from which this distinctive brand of music was born.

Everyone wants to prove who is the true exponent of the Ska and who originated it? What is the authentic style of the Ska dancing? Successful though the promotional tour to the U.S. was, enthusiastic though the reports which came back treat the appearance of a Jamaican troupe of dancers and artistes at the Shepheard’s Club, there is dissension in the camp.

Some artistes who made the trip say their sound was not promoted as much as certain other sounds. Some of the artistes say that some of the other artistes didn’t have a clue about Ska dancing and in fact did the Monkey, the Wobble, the Twist . . . anything but true Ska.

Reports from the other side say that the moves done at Shepheard’s were moves decided on and rehearsed for several nights, together, before the team left the island.

To the accusation that other records were promoted over others, we discover from Mr. Winston Stona of the Jamaican Tourist Board, a co-sponsor of the promotional venture that:

The junket to the Shepheard’s Ska dancing, backed up over recorded music. Shepheard’s is one of a current crop of New York Clubs called discotheques. In this night spot feature entertainment comes from records played on a large turntable, from an amplification booth much like the Jamaican sound system of the dance halls.

According to the Tourist Board spokesman, the promotional venture for the Ska, as suggested by Henri Paul Marshall and Roland Rennie, the music promotion experts who came to the island last month on the invitation of the Ministry of Development and Welfare, was that Ska records and not personal performances by the artistes, would be projected.

The records which were taken to Shepheard’s therefore, were a selection made on the suggestion of the experts who, on their visit to the island, listened to the work of various Ska exponents. The records chosen for promotion were the ones which the experts deemed most likely to catch on with the American public.

These records included the works of Prince Buster, Derryck Morgan, Eric Morris, and others known to the local Ska followers.

Why should there be dissension? Among the tunes featured at Shepheard’s was “Sammy Dead,” the old Jamaican folk tune restyled as Ska by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, featuring the voice of Eric Morris. Certain members of the troupe to Shepheard’s say “Sammy Dead” was promoted over other tunes.

According to Mr. Stona, “Sammy Dead” was actually played twice at the beginning and at the end of the programme of Ska records which he presented to the Shepheard’s audience.

It was also revealed that “Sammy Dead” which is to be released on a Capitol label in the States was specifically promoted on the request of Capitol records.

Prince Buster and the other early devotees of the Ska say this should not be so. And they throw in the argument that in their opinion “Sammy Dead” is not a true Ska tune and why should it be played even one more time than any of the others, which are reorganized as real Ska by the real Ska fans?

Prince Buster, who took the Ska to England where it is known now as the Blue Beat, was very expressive about this. He says he is one of the originators of the Ska and sees no reason why he and others, who worked together on the National Sound, should not have got as big billing.

But who really originated the Ska? As Buster tells it, it was back in 1958 that he, Derryck Morgan, Eric Morris and others used to meet on top of an old house situated on Charles Street near Orange Street. The meetings were inspired because “as boys together, we were looking at making a brand.”

He points out that a number of Jamaican musicians had tried adopting American shuffle sounds to their own style, but it didn’t really work. There was need for “our own sound.” So those meetings on top of the house was to find out just how to make things work, how to find a Jamaican sound which the fans would go for.

Down on the ground you might say the big sound system operators Duke Reid and Coxson were evolving their own sound. It was an adaptation of certain American shuffle tunes re-recorded for the sound system dance audiences. It is said that when the experimenters offered Duke Reid and Coxson the new Jamaican sound they would have nothing to do with it.

According to Buster, the new sound when it was evolved was referred to with great disdain by other musicians and by the public as the Boop-Boop. He even earned the name Boop. And when he and Derryck Morgan, for a promotional stunt, launched Boop-Boop songs deriding each other the public really went for their skins.

But out West, the thump of the Boop, later is to be called Sca, then Ska, was catching on. Musicians who had “boxed around” in various musical combos began to be reorganized as “Ska beaters.” Out west and on the east, they could tell you and still tell you about Drumbago who played the drums and Ja Jerry, Theophilus Beckford, and Raymond Harper, Rupert “Blues” Miller, and Stanley Notice.

These according to the fans and on Orange Street and (unreadable) where sound boxes thump through the Saturday night of every week were the original ska men.

As the craze progressed, getting popularity most of all on JBC’s Teenage Dance Party, other musicians joined the parade, cut dies, met for sessions, helped the sound to grow.

The fans began to acclaim Baba Brooks, Roland Alphonso, Lloyd Brevet, Lloyd Tate, Don Drummond, Lester Sterling, Johnny Moore, Lloyd Knibb and the men whose full names nobody remembers but rather a name like Jackie, Charlie, and Campbell. Later they were joined by the acclaimed pure jazz, tenor man, Tommy McCook.

The Ska caught on, spread and grew, most of all in the Saturday night sound system headquarters such as Forrester’s Hall, Jubilee Tile Gardens, Carnival and Gold Coast on Sundays.

Sound system operators worked feverishly to get the latest biscuits on disc. Early on release, they bore no labels, but the dance hall spies got the names eventually and the sound system which didn’t have the new biscuit last week, acquired it this week, to draw the fans.

It is interesting to find a parallel in the discotheques which began in Paris and spread to London and New York.

In the process of finding who should get credit for what, it is eye opening to hear Prince Buster saying that Louise Bennett played her part in the promotion of this peculiarly Jamaican sound and dance. He says that Louise’s life work of keeping alive the folk songs and rhythms of Jamaica is responsible for many of them coming back into popularity, set against the Ska beat.

Many of the musicians and artistes associated with the Ska movement are fairly young men. However, one of the acknowledged originators and Dean of the Sound has been playing music in Kingston for 46 years.

He is Drumbago the drummer who also plays a flute. His real name is Arkland Parks and (unreadable) Mapletoft Poulle and Frankie Bonnitto.

Drumbago, a mild mannered gentleman, says he and Rupert Miller, a bass player for 36 years, were in on the original search to find the sound which came to be called Ska. He explains their best arrangement of the sound as being basically four beats to the bar in eight or twelve measures.

“You get the sound according to how you invert the beats,” says Drumbago.

Another exponent of Ska and its various offshoots feel that the dance called Wash Wash has every claim to being truly Jamaican, for it is inspired by one of the basic Jamaican show dances … the wash day scene. This is a standard with many nightclub rhumba dancers, with many folk lore troupes.

So what constitutes Ska dancing?  According to the fanatics, true Ska motions are the wash wash, the peculiar washing motion of either clothes or the body, the press along, in which the  dancer thumps out the rhythm with his arms at shoulder level, the move (for which we found no

name) of spiraling down to floor level and back up, the one in which you moved the hips and pumped the arms in the opposite direction to the press along.

The fans say that while the extempore movements are allowed dancing the Ska, these are the definite basic movements which one must know to be IN.

Dissenters from the troupe which performed at Shepheard’s say these movements were not used fully or enough and that at one stage they heard a critic saying that what was being done was nothing new, it looked like a first cousin to the Twist. And that the Monkey and the Pony movements which were done were recognized as old hat immediately.

Mr. Stona says this accusation is not true. He found nothing but satisfaction for the presentation at Shepheard’s and is optimistic for the future of Ska promotion in the United States.

We contacted a spokesman for the Byron Lee and the Dragonaires outfit who made “Sammy Dead.”

He told of having heard the feeling expressed by some of the original Ska sound makers that certain orchestras now playing the sound were only cashing in and didn’t know how the sound began.

The Byron Lee spokesman—Mr. Ronnie Nasralla—says:

“For Byron Lee and the Dragonaires it’s not just cashing in. I know Byron feels that it is full time Ska was organized and promoted so that the best can be got out of it for the benefit of the artistes and Jamaica.”

According to Mr. Nasralla:

“Many Ska artistes were not properly protected or organized before Byron Lee has signed up several artistes for recordings and appearances and we’re taking all steps to see that they’re properly presented.”

“I’ve heard that some people say that Byron Lee is just promoting his orchestra. It’s not true. Sure, as a businessman he will look out for his investments, but let us stop quarrelling among ourselves and promote the sound not only for the good of one band but for all Jamaica.”

Whatever comes of it, Ska is going to be a talking point for many more months. Ironically, like most things, it was an art without honour in its own country until it was discovered somewhere else.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog when I will post a response to this article that appeared in the Daily Gleaner the following Sunday. Apparently the comments made by Ronnie Nasralla and Prince Buster struck a chord and a number of musicians responded with their thoughts, including Eric Monty Morris, Roy Panton, Ronnie Nasralla again, Alphanso Castro, Sir Lord Comic, and Roy Willis who respond with comments of their own.