Various Artists

That Ska Beat! 1962-1966

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Ska never stopped you know! From it’s Jamaican music if the piano’s not playing ska or the guitar… any music you have… reggae… even the computer music… the piano’s playing ‘ska, ska, ska…’ it leads the music so ska is still the backbone of Jamaican music. Right?” Bunny Lee

The music of Jamaica has had a profound and lasting influence all around the world and reggae is the name by which it has become universally known. Although the term ska is often used to describe all Jamaican music before dub, deejays and dread in the mid seventies the real Jamaican ska was made in Kingston between 1961/1962 and 1966.

In the early fifties the popularity of driving rhythm & blues from the USA reached fever pitch in Jamaica and mobile sound systems (the forerunners of today’s discos) were assembled and operated by men such as Tom ‘The Great Sebastian’ Wong to play this music to wildly appreciative audiences at levels that were felt physically rather than merely heard. Competition was fierce, both metaphorically and literally, and sound system operators including Arthur Reid, ‘Duke Reid The Trojan’, and Clement Dodd, ‘Sir Coxsone The Downbeat’, would travel to America on record buying expeditions. On their triumphant return to Kingston, laden with exclusive records, they would be met by their enthusiastic supporters. Only the followers of their sound systems could hear these records and the records’ real identity would be a closely guarded secret. The titles were often scratched off and the tunes renamed to confuse the opposition.

As the decade drew to a close America turned to a softer more mellow sound and supplies of the music favoured in Jamaica began to dry up… so the sound system operators began to make their own rhythm & blues recordings. Initially intended for sound system play only on one-off acetates these tunes proved so popular that they were soon made commercially available. Many sound men now became record producers including ‘Sir Coxsone’, Duke Reid ‘The Trojan’ and Prince Buster ‘The Voice Of The People’ although the first ‘local’ recording to make the number one spot in Jamaica was Laurel Aitken’s ‘Boogie In My Bones’/‘Little Sheila’ on Chris Blackwell’s R & B label.

The emphasis was placed firmly on the offbeat and these rhythm & blues shuffle and boogie recordings were unmistakably Jamaican in form and content and far, far more than straightforward copies of American rhythm & blues. A sound was gradually created that was not only completely new and original but that would also go on to outlive a large proportion of its influences. Powered by the musical collective known as The Skatalites together with solo singers including Derrick Morgan, Eric ‘Monty’ Morris, duos Higgs & Wilson, Keith & Enid and Stranger & Patsy and vocal groups The Maytals, The Wailers, Justin Hinds & The Dominoes the producers now began to drive the music one step beyond. Together they created an entirely new genre of music whose inventions and innovations would reach far beyond its parochial beginnings in Kingston sound system rivalry.


1. Ska Boo Da Ba – The Skatalites
2. Confucious – Don Drummond & The Skatalites
3. Storm Warning – Lyn Taitt & The Boys
4. Alley Cat Ska – Tommy McCook & His Ska-Talites
5. Trench Town People – Theophilus Beckford
6. Walking Down King Street – Theophilus Beckford
7. South China Sea – Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore
8. Ringo – The Skatalites
9. Nuclear Weapon – Roland Alphonso & His Ska-Talites
10. Magnificent Ska – Lyn Taitt & The Baba Brooks Band
11. Come On My People – Daniel Johnson
12. Hit You Let You Feel It – The Tenor Twins
13. The Re-Burial – Don Drummond & The Skatalites
14. Love Me Or Leave Me – Lloyd Clarke
15. A Shot In The Dark – Roland Alphonso*
16. Distant Drums – Baba Brooks & The Trenton Spence Orchestra*
*CD Bonus Tracks

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