London Intl Ska Festival 2017

Event details and essential playlist

Tuesday 28th March 2017

Channel One Sound System

The London International Ska Festival returns to the Capital this Easter (13-16 April) with a series of 17 world exclusive events celebrating the very best of ska from its 1960s birth in Jamaica, through its evolution into rocksteady, reggae, dub, 2 Tone and beyond.

Get prepared with our mammoth playlist, put together by some of the artists and DJs performing, including Don Letts, Carroll Thompson, Sean Flowerdew, and more. Listen to the playlist below and read on for a few words about each track from the corresponding selecter.

The Paragons - 'Wear You To The Ball'
"My grandfather used to play this song and dance with me in the kitchen whilst cooking rice and peas and chicken on a Sunday afternoon!”
- Carroll Thompson (Queen of Lover's Rock)

Phyllis Dillion - 'One Life To Live'
“It was my mother's and my auntie's favourite anthem”.
- Carroll Thompson (Queen of Lover's Rock)

The Specials - 'Nite Klub'
“I was too young for 2 Tone at its height but picked up Dance Craze film in the late 80s on VHS, and Nite Klub ushered it in. Truly influential on my musical life from there on".
- Sean Flowerdew (Pama International/festival organiser)

Smoke Like A Fish - 'Blow The Whole Thing Up'
"I bought this album on spec because it was on 'Do The Dog' label, and they always release great music. This track has everything for a dancing ska loving crowd and I usually play it at the end of a gig as it is a stonker to finish upon and everyone goes wild”.
- DJ Dapper Dan (Town Crier/Forest FM)

Pama International - 'Heatwave'
“Killer take on Martha Reeves soul classic".
- Reynalds Clay

Bob Andy - 'You Don't Know'
“The week’s favourite song on Trojan Records”.
- Mistah Brown (Tighten Up Crew)

The Untouchables - 'Tighten Up'
"Just to ease up and make me feel good whatever and however the day is going so far”.
- DJ Lili Rudies

The Heptones & Pablo All-stars - 'Love Won’t Come Easy'
“All time Greensleeves favourite, I definitely love this. It makes me chill anytime!!”.
- DJ Lili Rudies

Owen Gray - 'Someone to Help Me'
"I play it regularly at the Locomotion and have done for years, had only ever heard Aretha Franklin's version before, always a floor filler!”.
- Wendy May (Locomotion)

Desmond Dekker - 'It Mek'
“It was one of the first ska records I heard as a kid, I used to go to a youth club in South London run by nuns, with a Dansette in the corner which we weren't allowed to touch. We gave the nun in charge our pile of 45's to put on to which we would all line up and dance to Ska! Along with It Mek, we used to slip Max Romeo's "Wet Dream" in the pile just to wind the nuns up!!”
- Wendy May (Locomotion)

New Town Kings - 'Change'
"New Town Kings have a special place in our hearts, having put the band on at our Last Gang In Town gigs for many years, and watching proudly as they have grown into the top UK Ska and Reggae band that they are today. We love this song for its topical lyrics but positive message and vibe!”
- Laura and Alec (Last Gang In Town)

Prince Buster - 'Black Headed Chinee Man'
"I love answer songs and the playful feud that went on between Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan. Derrick Morgan was on the Beverly's' label, owned by Jamaican Chinese producer Leslie Kong and Buster is teasing Derrick Morgan in this tune. Derrick Morgan's response is the tune 'Blazing Fire', another cracking Ska song. It features a little bit of Cantonese too! I am very interested in the history of Chinese Jamaicans, so these songs are not only a pleasure to the ear but are historically and culturally important!”
- DJ Lucky Cat Zoe (Resonance FM/Sisters of Reggae)

Carroll Thompson & Dancing Mood - 'Heartbreaker'
"A mid-tempo Ska version of a timeless classic that combines great brass arrangements of Hugo Lobo's band with Carroll Thompson's distinctive sweet vocals.”
- DJ Martin Cueto

Dave & Ansel Collins - 'Sunshine Rock'
"A top tune from an irresistible era of Jamaican music, when the vibe of the ghetto reached the world.”
- Hugo Lobo

Bitty Mclean - 'Walk Away from Love'
"Perhaps the song that helped many people to rediscover the authentic golden era of Jamaican music.”
- Hugo Lobo

Owen Gray - 'Fire In A Trenchtown'
"I was 8 when this tune was released and it got some airplay on Belgian national radio. For a child living in Belgium, this was actually the first time I heard reggae music. It wasn't until I started listening intensively to reggae I found out who actually sang this song. Till this moment, nearly four decades later, this tune brings back so much great childhood memories, not in the least cause it took me years to find a copy of the single.”
- Youri (Dub Front Association)

Steel Pulse - 'Ku Klux Klan'
“Steel Pulse said what needed to be said then, and still says it now. The shock of them singing it in KKK hoods still runs through me. One of the best non-punk punk records of the era”.
- Tim Wells

The Pioneers - 'Long Shot Kick De Bucket'
“My Mum bought the Tighten-Up Vol 2 LP and that was the first track on it. I was blown away by the whole sound, rhythm and subject matter done so well by The Pioneers. Love it!”
- Keith Lawrence (Dub Organiser/Mi-Soul Radio)

Madness - 'Our House'
“It reminds me of being a kid growing up in my nans. My uncles were all punks and rude boys and Madness were on heavy rotation. So for sentimental reasons that's why I've chosen it. Same with Reggae... far too many to choose from. I'll pick Chatty Chatty Mouth by The Gladiators because it's a great track”.
- Marty (Aggressors BC)

Cornel Campbell - 'Jah Jah Me No Born Ya'
"Love the vocals in it. It’s only two Chords but they swap around to create a lovely haunting edge to the song”.
- Del (Bionic Rats)

Symarip - 'Must Catch A Train'
“From their classic Skinhead Moonstomp album on Trojan Records. There’s some big hits on the album; Skinhead Girl, These Boots Are Made For Stomping and, of course, Skinhead Moonstomp itself, but this one pips it for me as my favourite track on the album”.
- Sean Flowerdew (Pama International/festival organiser)

Christopher Ellis, Stephen Marley and Jah Cure - 'End of Time'
"Great tune that came out a few years ago from Alton Ellis and Bob Marley’s sons. Wonderful hook on it, sampling the old to create something new”.
- Reynalds Clay

Augustus Pablo - 'King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown' 
“Probably my favourite dub of all time and a tune I rinsed during my time as a DJ at the legendary Roxy club".
- Don Letts

Dr. Alimantado - 'Born For A Purpose'
"This was John Lydon’s favourite reggae tune (although he was ‘Rotten’ back then) and was name-checked by Joe Strummer in The Clash’s Rudie Can’t Fail."
- Don Letts

Misty In Roots - 'Poor and Needy'
“Heavyweight roots track from John Peel’s favourite reggae band! They recorded an incredible nine Peel sessions, and Poor and Needy is Misty at their best.”
- Reynalds Clay

Jacob Miller - 'Keep on Knocking / The Heptones - Love Won’t Come Easy'
"Essential to play the full sides though, dub is essential.”
- Paul Huxtable (Axis Sound System)

Bob Marley & The Wailers - 'Soul Shakedown Party'
“Favourite Trojan cut.”
- Paul Huxtable (Axis Sound System)

The London International Ska Festival's 29th year will feature Jamaican legends The Pioneers, Owen Gray, Symarip and Dave & Ansell Collins – who had the first ever reggae hit in the USA and a number one hit in the UK with Double Barrel.

Other highlights include Don Letts, 2 Tone’s Dance Craze film (screened from film cinematographer Joe Dunton MBE’s own 70mm copy), Brinsley Forde MBE of Aswad, Bitty Mclean, Pama International, Rhoda Dakar of Special AKA/The Bodysnatchers and Misty In Roots celebrating the historic Rock Against Racism movement.

Fans from more than 50 countries attend the four-day festival, which this year includes four themed river cruises, the world-famous all valve sound clash featuring two epic hand built sound systems, films, dance and club nights, and a free family event.

Related Links

For full line up details and tickets go to


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