BBC Radio 6 Music is hosting a series of shows to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Jamaican independence, and the music which has been its greatest export. For the full list and to listen again go here .
Extracts from the 6 Music website are below, or you can read the full article in full here.
The origins of Jamaican music
Jamaica’s declaration of musical independence came in 1962 with ska. Its celebratory feel was a reflection of Jamaica’s new-found confidence, and its infectious beat and sound were revived both in the UK in the late seventies and in the USA in the eighties.
Jamaican producers such as Scratch, Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid and Prince Buster and their inventive musicians put their own interpretation on rhythm and blues and jazz. They gave it a new beat and so created a brand new sound. That sound developed from ska into rocksteady then reggae, dub, dancehall and more.
The music traveled with Jamaicans who chose to make a new life in Britain and kept them and their children in touch with the island.
Entrepreneur Chris Blackwell and record labels such as Trojan started to cater for Jamaican settlers in the UK. To everyone’s surprise, the music also appealed to other British music lovers in the 60s. Blackwell later used this foothold in the UK to introduce Bob Marley & the Wailers to a global audience.
Meanwhile, inventive as ever, despite limited resources and rudimentary homemade or adapted domestic equipment, pioneering producers such as Lee Perry (pictured above), King Tubby and Errol Thompson developed dub. In their hands, the studio mixing desk became an instrument in its own right. Existing tracks were stripped down, remixed and, with the use of echo and other effects, woven into thrilling new soundscapes. Dub techniques have been hugely influential in many other genres all around the world ever since.
Another Jamaican musical innovation that emerged with dub was toasting or deejaying. At the dances, originators such as U-Roy and King Stitt, followed by the likes of I-Roy and Big Youth, would talk over dubplates of songs from which the vocal had been mixed out. These unique, exciting performances captivated the crowds at dances and soon appeared on disc. Clearly, this was a major influence on rap and hip hop, which revolutionised music in the late 1970s.