May 1 2012
Every week, Sound Travels with a theme in mind and this year that trip is not only to a place but to a time. Back to the 60's for music from the newly minted, independent nation known as Jamaica. A heady time full of optimism and great music that perhaps indirectly, gave a sound to that optimism, known as ska.
Ska, reggae's most important immediate precursor, was born from a motley collection of influences: American R&B, jump blues, Jamaican mento, calypso and other Caribbean styles, big-band swing, Afro-Cuban jazz, pocomania and other local religious folk music, as well as European ballroom dances. Of all the influences here, jump blues and mento were the real backbone. Jump blues artists, like Louis Jordan, Fats Domino and Wynonie Harris, were very popular in Jamaica and when American music started evolving towards rock'n'roll, Jamaica kept the jump blues scene going. With American artists making less of what they loved, Jamaicans began making their own in earnest, adding the influences of what they were also into, like mento, jazz, swing, et al.. Mento rhythms were brought to the fore and sped up to keep a dance beat. In a nutshell, ska was born of this basic evolution.
Today I started the flow with some of the era's, as well as the genre's best. While ska would eventually grow into a sound that would spread throughout the world, these are some of the OG pioneers.
Desmond Dekker "007 (Shantytown)"
Don Drummond "Knockout Punch"
Prince Buster "Cincinati Kid"
Byron Lee "Frankenstein"
Bob Andy "Crime Don't Pay"
The Skatalites "Eastern Standard Time"