25th Anniversary International Reggae Day

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Reggae Day I N T E R N AT I O N A L


International Reggae Day, how it began… I F INTERNATIONAL Reggae Day (IRD), or the stylised JulyOne, is new to you, here’s a quick catch-up, as this year marks IRD’s Silver anniversary. IRD is a 24-hour global media festival anchored in Jamaica that celebrates the best of Jamaica’s music and creativity and its influence around the world on July 1. IRD was inspired by Winnie Mandela’s address to Jamaican women during her official visit to Jamaica in July 1991 with her husband Nelson, after his release. It was launched on July 1 1994, and proclaimed by Jamaica’s Governor General Sir Howard Cooke in 2000. IRD, an initiative of Jamaica Arts Holdings (JAH) boss Andrea Davis, has over the years manifested itself through a Kingston music lifestyle festival, creative industries expo, exhibition, awards, business/copyright/ creative industries conferences, workshops, talent search, film festival and a launch platform for various Jamaican lifestyle products across music, films, books, and food. Whilst JAH is the worldwide producer of IRD, BritishBlackMusic.com/ Black Music Congress (BBM/ BMC) is the UK sub-licensor, which is working with Reggae Fraternity UK and Sound System Outernational, to deliver two hub events at Goldsmiths, University of London in New Cross, south London on June 30 and at Tavistock Hall in Harlesden, north London on Monday, July 1. This year, IRD in Jamaica is honouring the Reggae Sunsplash festival and its originators as trailblazers “for establishing reggae’s most important live music

platform, responsible for introducing the world to reggae culture, and many of the music’s brightest stars,” says Davis. “Reggae Sunsplash has served as the blueprint for reggae festivals worldwide.” The UK has its own list of awardees, who will be announced a few days prior to July 1. The UK also has two themes: ‘The Influence Of Reggae On British R&B/ Soul’ and Reggae And Mental Health & Wellbeing’. The Windrush Generation have obviously contributed to the popularity of reggae in Britain. So it’s no surprise that to kick-start this year’s IRD UK’s programme, Black Cultural Archives (BCA) chair of trustees Dawn Hill recently received an IRD Award dedicated to the Windrush Generation on behalf of the BCA, at the Windrush, Migration and Reggae presentation in central London. One of the Goldsmiths discussion topics centres around copyright and what intellectual property rights the recent addition of reggae to the UNESCO’s cultural heritage list provides in the form of ‘protection’ of the genre.

Davis, who has been involved in the process that led to the UNESCO recognition, says it’s “a reflection on the fact that reggae, which grew from its roots in the backstreets and dance halls of Jamaica, empowered by Rastafari, is more than just popular music, but an important social and political phenomenon.” This year, IRD Salutes Reggae Sunsplash and its originators as trailblazers, and “for establishing reggae’s most important live music platform, responsible for introducing the world to reggae culture and many of the music’s brightest stars. Reggae Sunsplash has served as the blueprint for reggae festivals worldwide, having set the standard by which all reggae festivals are measured.” Continues Davis: “In partnership with a UK stakeholders group established in 2017 and chaired by Kwaku of the BritishBlackMusic. com/Black Music Congress, with support from Reggae Fraternity UK and Campro Entertainment, International Reggae Day is nurturing seeds planted to establish a sustainable summer reggae festival in London. “The collective has established a consistent menu of activities for IRD in the UK, including conferences, talks, exhibits, parties, screenings, awards, performances, and tree planting, in keeping with the IRD brand standard.” For details of IRD JA: www.ireggaeday.com, for IRD UK: www.IRDUK.co.uk

Photo by Nathaniel Stewart Patrons at the International Reggae Day festivities held at the University of the West Indies Undercroft on Tuesday June 1, 2008.

Photo by Colin Hamilton Guests at the International Reggae Day concert at the C&W Golf Academy on Saturday, July 1, 2006.

Photo by Colin Hamilton Japanese guests at the International Reggae Day concert at the C&W Golf Academy on Saturday, July 1, 2006.


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The emergence of reggae By Roy Black


he name reggae has come to be accepted by many as the generic name for all Jamaican popular music since about 1960. But to those of us who lived with the music and understand the changes it went through will know that reggae is only one of several types of Jamaican music. It is different from ska, rocksteady and dancehall, and occupies a specific period which began in late 1967. Jamaican popular music, since 1960, can therefore be roughly divided into four eras, each of which had its particular beat: ska (1962-1966), rocksteady (1966-1967/68), and reggae (1968-1983). From 1983, the prevalent beat was reggae’s offspring, dancehall. However, there is one period of Jamaican music that has consistently been overlooked by musicologists. It is a period I would choose to call the pre-ska era, the earlier part of which was dominated by Jamaican mento music (approximately 1951-1956) – a type of calypso-flavoured music said to be rooted in the Jamaican slave plantation system and which was indigenous to

Between 1957 and 1960, Jamaican music was dominated by rhythm and blues and boogie recordings patterned off the American blues, which was very popular in Jamaican dance halls in the mid to late 1950s. When the American

blues records began ‘drying up’ and disappeared from American record shelves, Jamaican producers, promoters and sound system operators had no alternative but to make and produce their own recordings with the same flavour as the

From left Bunny Livingston, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh when they just formed The Wailin’ Wailers.

Jamaican popular music, since 1960, can therefore be roughly divided into four eras, each of which had its particular beat American ones in order to keep their business alive. Recordings like Oh Mannie Oh, and How Can I Be Sure by Higgs and Wilson, Boogie In My Bones and Little Sheila by Laurel Aitken, Muriel by Alton and Eddy and Lolipop Girl by The Jiving Juniors were examples of popular recordings during that period, which also marked the birth of the Jamaican recording industry. The first shift in the Jamaican music beat away from the mento rhythms was observed when Bunny and Skully recorded a cut entitled Another Chance, which Skully himself claimed was done between 1953 and 1954. On the heels of this came the Jamaican rhythm and blues and boogies, which evolved into what became known as the skabeat. Jamaican popular music


then went through several changes, culminating with reggaeand dancehall beats. These metamorphoses have impacted reggae music to the extent that it has become an international phenomenon Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown and Peter Tosh have played more than ordinary roles in establishing this phenomenon. As early as 1968, Marley’s Trench Town Rock and Brown’s No Man Is An Island a year later, signalled the direction in which the music was going. Cliff’s The Harder They Come helped to put Jamaica on the international music map when it appeared in a movie of the same name. Possessing a sense of conviction, a lack of pretence and a natural intensity in the beat, reggae music grew by leaps and bounds across several continents during

the 1970s, bolstered by more than half a dozen top-class albums by the reggae king Bob Marley for producer Chris Blackwell.

MANY MASTERS At home, the initial impact was felt through recordings like The Cables Baby Why, The Heptones I Shall Be Released and Alton Ellis’s Breaking Up, among others. What is most interesting is the many artistes and producers who lay claim to doing the first reggae recording and creating the reggae beat. For all intents and purposes, Toots Hibbert of the Maytals vocal group seemed to be the first to mention the name reggaein a song, although he never ever claimed to be the inventor. Most musicologists, however, accept Larry and Alvin’s Nanny Goat, done for producer Clement Dodd in 1968, as the first recording with a true reggae feel. It was like the guitar on the delay meshed with an organ shuffle, one source claimed. But in a sense, reggae combines all the previous forms of Jamaican popular music – the ska riff on top of a slowed down rocksteady bass line, with a touch of mento. Dodd, the producer of Nanny Goat, claims that he returned from England just before the reggae beat started with a few gadgets, like a delay, which influenced that Nanny Goat beat. Singer Stranger Cole, on the other hand, claims that his recording of Bangarang, done for producer Bunny Lee, was the first reggae song. Another record producer, Clancy Eccles, claims he started the beat.


Alton Ellis

Bunny (right) and Skully (left). I 16

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In the midst of all of this, there was a 1965 recording titled Heavenless by a Studio One aggregation that possessed a distinct reggae beat, yet no mention was ever made of this recording as being the first reggae song. Many musicologists agree that the birth of reggae was a spontaneous act born out of experimentation with the existing rocksteady beat. Others claim it was a deliberate attempt by some musicians to change the beat from rocksteady to something that was more lively and exciting. The theory has also been advanced that new producers like Eccles, Lee Scratch Perry and Bunny Lee, couldn’t always get the regular musicians, who almost invariably worked for Dodd and Duke Reid, so they resorted to lessexperienced musicians who tried something different and unwittingly created a completely new rhythm. Even with the present upsurge of the dancehall beat, authentic reggae remains a dominant force and continues to be such even up to the present day. The importance of the reggae phenomenon has led music administrators to designate July 1 as international reggae day each year.





Brent By Kwaku


H E north-west London borough of Brent’s contribution to the development of reggae music business in Britain cannot be denied. It was at the heart of recording, releasing, distributing and promoting reggae right at the start of the formative years of the genre in Britain. OK, I know others, particularly die-hards fans from south London, may want to claim that their area is the lick. But here are some of the unassailable facts which give Harlesden, Brent legitimacy

in claiming to be the reggae capital of Britain. I’m not going to claim Brent had the first sound systems, as we know the likes of Duke Vin and Count Suckle were running sounds out of west London from the late 1950s. Although the likes of Lord Koos and Count Nicks were running sounds from Brent by the late 1960s, few may have heard of Love Vendor. This sounds was run by Sonny Roberts. Whilst Roberts was not a big name in the sound system business, it’s no exaggeration to say that without him, perhaps reggae just might not have become

is the reggae capital of Britain

the big international genre it is today. Who? What? I hear some scream. Calm down history class is in session.

NUMEROUS RECORD LABELS, SHOPS Sonny Roberts, a Jamaican immigrant and a carpenter, built his sound system in the early 1960s to entertain London’s growing African Caribbean population. In 1962 Roberts opened the Planetone recording studio and record label in Kilburn - possibly the first Africanowned recording studio in Britain. Here’s where it starts to get interesting. Soon after






















Chris Blackwell relocated his Island Records business from Jamaica to London, it was to Roberts that Blackwell turned to enquire about office space. Roberts spoke to his landlord, and before long Blackwell’s Island enterprise was not only operating from the same premises as Planetone, but was occupying other rooms as quickly as they became vacant. The landlord of the property that used to be on Cambridge Road, but long since demolished, was an Asian Jamaican accountant called Lee Gopthal. Gopthal began moonlighting selling some of Island’s records, and in 1968 he became one of Blackwell’s partners, when Trojan Records version two was launched – in 1967, Blackwell for a short time issued Duke Reid productions on the Trojan label. When Gopthal decided to get into retailing, it was Roberts, who used his skills as a carpenter to build the first Muzik City chain of shops, which naturally sprung out of Brent into other parts of London. When Trojan and Island needed bigger premises, they moved to a warehouse in Carroll Thompson Neasden. From here, the hits flowed, and Trojan became arguably the biggest reggae shops littered Harlesden company in the world. It and its immediate environs. claims thirty-five top 20 UK These included Arawak, singles. But chasing pop the original issuer of Janet success was also its downfall, Kay’s Silly Games, which and it went bust in 1975. then got to no. 2 on the pop Trojan’s main competitor, charts when local distribuPama, was run by a trio of tor Lightning re-issued the siblings Jeff, Harry and Carl single on its Scope label. Palmer. Whilst Pama did not Another distributor, Mojo, aim for pop gold, it neverthebreached the pop charts less scored the odd crossover when some of its Ballistic hit. However, when it became releases by the likes of Jolly Jet Star in the late 1970s, Brothers went through its Reggae Hits compilation major company United series sold well among pop Artists. Ditto Hawkeye, and reggae consumers of the whose RCA-marketed Good 1980s/90s. This was a period Thing Going lodged Sugar in which Jetstar could claim Minott’s version in the top 5. to be the world’s number one RCA also released Venture’s th reggae company. 19Tradition Januaryrecords. 2019 Carib Gems was set up by In the 1970s and 1980s, former Trojan staffer Chips numerous record labels and

Voice Photo

Richards. His Harlesden base housed a recording studio. He released records from Jamaica, and homegrown talent, of which Carroll Thompson’s Hopelessly In Love album is still a perennial seller.

EARLIEST REGGAE BANDS The crossover hits of Creole, one of the many label/ record shops in Harlesden, include Boris Gardiner’s chart-topper I Wanna Wake Up With You. Willesdenbased Gull also scored a chart-topper with Typically Tropical’s kitsch reggae ditty Barbados.


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Windrush, migration and reggae

REGGAE Continued from, 17

Starlight is a label and record shop started by another ex-Trojan staffer in Harlesden. Incidentally, we’ll be marking International Reggae Day (IRD) in Harlesden by unveiling a plaque by the Reggae Tree, which is opposite Starlight and Hawkeye – their owners, Popsie and Roy Forbes-Allen respectively, will be receiving (IRD) awards for still going after over forty years. Although the Cimarons, formed in Brent in 1967, are regarded as one of Britain’s earliest reggae bands, Freddie Notes says the Brixton-based Rudies were formed earlier, in 1965. There’s, however, no dispute about the stellar list of artists who came from Brent, or made Brent their home at some time in their career. The borough boasts a number of plaques on buildings where artists such as Bob Marley and The Wailers, Dennis Brown, and Liz Mitchell of Boney M lived. Brent has been home for the likes of Jackie Edwards, an early Island artist, and writer of The Spencer Davis Group’s pop chart-topper Keep On Running, Akabu, Alton Ellis, Arema, Aswad, Black Harmony, Carroll Thompson, Chukki Starr, Dambala, Delroy Washington, Don Campbell,


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By Kwaku

T Voice Photo Aswad Don Ricardo, Gappy Ranks, General Levy, Janet Kay, Joyce Bond, Junior English, Phoebe One, Prediction, Ruff Cutt, Sinclair, Sheila Ferguson, Storm, Sun Cycle, Sylvia Tella, Tradition, Tubby T, Undivided Roots, Vivian Jones, and Winston Francis. Wembley Pool (now Arena) was where the the first arena-level reggae concerts, the Caribbean Music Festival of 1969 and 1970, were staged, And the first Africanowned black music radio station, Dread Broadcasting Corporation (DBC), actually started broadcasting from Neasden, and not Ladbroke Grove, as is often reported.

With this much history, it’s no wonder that the Reggae Project strand features highly within Brent’s London Borough Of Culture 2020 programming. Before then, you can catch the key London IRD event in the evening of July 1 on the streets of Harlesden or at Tavistock Hall, where you can expect a diet of videos, prizes, awards, talks with music veterans, discussions on ‘Reggae’s Influence On British R&B/Soul’ and ‘Reggae And Mental Health and Wellbeing’, plus special guests including Winston Francis and Bluey of Incognito.

ODAY, REGGAE stands singularly apart from all music that come out of Africa and the Caribbean, in terms of global appeal and lastingness, particularly in the West. But how did reggae achieve this feat, as opposed to, say, calypso, which achieved fleeting popularity between the mid-1950s to early 1960s, the other musics from the Caribbean, or highlife from West Africa? This is essentially a precis of a talk I recently gave entitled Windrush, Migration And Reggae. Why waste a good title, when you can recycle it. I posited that without forced migrations of Africans to the Caribbean, and voluntary migration within the Caribbean during the so-called “post-enslavement” period, we may not have had the reggae genre. And was it not for the voluntary migration of Africans from the Caribbean to Britain, the so-called “mother country”, reggae could well have remained a niche music genre,

just like the various music that have their roots in the Caribbean.

HYBRID OUTLOOK, MUSIC In Jamaica, the interaction of African and European created Pocomania, which took from African traditional and western Protestant beliefs to form a hybrid outlook and music. Fast forward to the 1930s into the 1940s, which is when we start to have Mento, which again takes from African and European folk styles, but has a definite style which can be called Jamaican music, although in there are influences from other Caribbean styles, notably calypso. From the mid-1950s onwards, following the growing penetration of transistor radio ownership in Jamaica, people became more exposed to American jazz, blues and R&B, which could be heard on the island from the southern US radio stations. Also, at this time, the so-called “swallow migrants”, such as Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, who went over

to the US for seasonal work on farms and factories, brought back blues and R&B records to boost their fledging sound system following. And it wasn’t long before their recordings, which were initially meant for one-off acetates for exclusive play on their sound systems, morphed into record releases for general consumption. By the late 1950s, the dons of the sound systems, such as Coxsone and Duke Reid, were also record producers and label owners. In 1959, the fledging domestic recording industry was joined by Chris Blackwell and partners, who launched Island Records. To maintain the prolificacy of record releases, the Jamaican recording industry needed the outside major markets. The US was a huge potential market, but the McCarran-Warren Act of 1952 meant migration from Jamaica had been drastically reduced, so had no large Jamaican hubs. But in the meantime, the journey to the “mother country”, signalled by ships such as the Ormonde, Almanzora and Empire Windrush, meant there was enough Caribbean migrants in Britain for British labels to fund releases for British and Caribbean consumption. First, it was calypso music that ruled. Indeed, there were four noted “calypso” artistes who came to Britain on the Empire Windrush on June 22




How Duke Reid inspired the Trojan Records story

The purchasing power of this fast developing demographic resulted in an explosion in sales and in the summer of 1969 the company enjoyed its first mainstream hit with Red Red Wine by a little known British-based singer Tony Tribe. Its success was soon eclipsed when the Upsetters, the Pioneers, Jimmy Cliff and Harry J’s All Stars all made their way onto the higher reaches of the mainstream listings.


Duke Reid with his Trojan sound system.


LMOST 52 years ago on July 28 1967, British-based Jamaican music company, Island Records launched a label to showcase the output of one of the most popular and successful producers of the ska and rock steady eras – Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid. The imprint, called ‘Trojan’ after the title Mr Reid had acquired during his early days in the music business, surprisingly failed to fulfil its potential and folded after


a matter of months. And this may well have been the end of the Trojan story had it not been for the creation of a new Jamaican music company, launched in the summer of 1968, which was in need of a suitably dynamic name. The result of a merger between by Island Records and one of its main competitors, B&C, Trojan Records promptly launched an ambitious programme of issuing singles on a variety of labels that highlighted music from

every producer of note, ranging from British-based music makers such as Robert ‘Dandy’ Thompson, to such esteemed Jamaican operators as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Edward ‘Bunny’ Lee and, of course, Duke Reid himself. Trojan’s rapid growth during its first year was due in no small part to the development of a working class youth movement that embraced Jamaican music as part and parcel of its culture: skinheads.

The Trojan bandwagon rolled on remorselessly into the new decade, with the likes of Desmond Dekker, the Maytals and Bob and Marcia all flying high on the British Pop charts. In the spring of 1971, Dave and Ansel Collins’ Double Barrel provided Trojan its first UK number one, while further chart entries followed with hit singles by Bruce Ruffin, Greyhound and the Pioneers. Aside from their overtly commercial output, the company also highlighted music by artists largely unknown outside Jamaica, many of which would later become major international recording stars – among these were Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and a Kingston-based vocal trio called Bob Marley and the Wailers. Trojan remained hugely successful over the next year or so, with further major hits from Dandy Livingstone, John Holt, Ken Boothe and

the larger than life exbouncer, Judge Dread, but in 1975, after experiencing financial difficulties, the label acquired a new owner in Marcel Rodd. Rodd’s inexperience with Jamaican music proved costly and despite signing new deals with a number of up-and-coming producers, Trojan struggled, but as the 1970s came to a close, the Ska Revival brought a dramatic upturn in its fortunes. The success of bands such as the Specials and Madness sparked renewed interest in vintage ska and reggae classics and for a time Trojan thrived once more, with compilations, such as 20 Reggae Classsics and Bob Marley‘s In The Beginning, compiled by label manager, Patrick Meads, selling particularly strongly.

EVER-COMPETITIVE MARKET Unfortunately, the good times were not to last and in 1985, with the ska boom long since over, Colin Newman – an accountant by profession and avid collector by nature – purchased the label. Under Newman’s direction, Trojan’s primary focus was upon its formidable back catalogue, with various specialists employed to ensure it maintained its position as the world’s leading vintage reggae record company. Some 15 years later, Sanctuary Records became Trojan’s fourth owners, paying over £10 million for the privilege. Over the next

few years the label went from strength to strength, its already vast catalogue augmented by those of RAS and Creole, resulting in an astoundingly diverse range of releases, highlighting everything from ska to dancehall. The Trojan Records story took its next dramatic turn in June 2007, when the Universal Music Group purchased Sanctuary in its entirety, so bringing the Jamaican music imprint back under the same roof as Island, the label that had been instrumental in its creation some 39 years before. Universal maintained the catalogue for the next seven years, issuing numerous acclaimed collections and reviving the much-missed Trojan Appreciation Society, before reluctantly selling the imprint to BMG, a subsidiary of one of Europe’s biggest media companies, Bertelsmann. Much has changed since the summer of 1968, yet despite the rise and fall of numerous music trends and the development of new formats on which music can be acquired, Trojan Records has consistently maintained a significant and relevant presence in an ever-competitive market. And such is the vast wealth of music at its disposal there is no reason why it should not continue to do so for many, many years to come. - This article was re-produced courtesy of TrojanRecords.com

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reggaedayfeature MIGRATION Continued from, 18

1948. They were all Trinidadians – Mona Baptise, Lord Beginner, Lord Woodbine, and Lord Kitchener. The latter’s ‘London Is The Place For Me’, which he sung a cappella on the Pathe newsreel, was released by London record company Melodisc three years later. Melodisc was one of several British companies, big and small, that gave the emerging Jamaican blues and ska records their first international profile. Demand was such that Melodisc created a specialist label called Blue Beat, which was so successful with its ska releases, that the label’s name became synonymous with ska.

FIRST JAMAICAN GLOBAL HIT However, it was a London recorded single produced and licensed to a major company by Island, which relocated to London in the early 1960s, that landed the first Jamaican global hit record. Millie’s My Boy Lollipop has the distinction of reaching no. 2 on both the UK and US pop charts in 1964. She was followed by Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker and a whole host of Jamaicans who had hits in Britain, which opened the way for

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further exposure in Europe, Africa and Asia. It was UK record companies such as Island, Trojan, Pama, Virgin and countless small indie labels, managers, agents, promoters, publicists, and journalists, who were the vanguard in the process that propelled the Jamaican styles we now call reggae unto the world stage. But although the Caribbeans in Britain were important in expanding the consumption of reggae music, we should not forget the British European consumer. The Mods fanatically embraced the ska of the early 1960s, whilst the skinheads did the same with reggae from the late 1960s onwards. Their interest and buying power cannot be underestimated. We even had homegrown European reggae acts. In 1968, when the music gained the over-arching term reggae, The Mohawks released the enduring club and turn-table hit The Champ, and The Locomotive released Rudi’s In Love. Even the biggest pop band of the day, The Beatles, had a go with the jerky, ska Ob-La-Di, ObLa-Da, of which the Scottish band Marmalade’s version went to no. 1. Britain was indeed the mecca for Jamaican artists,

Prince Buster musicians and producers, with some of them, such as The Pioneers, Dennis Brown, and Gregory Isaacs, relocating to Britain. But with the coming of age of the post-Windrush second generation young adults, Britain began to do its own thing. Firstly, we developed a fusion of soul and reggae, called lovers rock from the late 1970s, popularised by the likes of 15, 16, 17, Paul Dawkins, Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson. We created the fast-chatting

MCing style, popularised by the likes of Peter King and Papa Levi. The latter has the distinction of being the first to top the Jamaican charts. Britain has pushed the reggae-based music envelope, by creating genres such as drum & bass, etc. The likes of Maxi Priest, UB40 and Steel Pulse, sell reggae on the world’s markets, hence continuing Britain’s contribution to the development of reggae music globally. And had the Empire

Millie Small

Maxi Priest performing live at CFW 2014

Lord Kitchener

Steel Pulse

Windrush not offered cheap fares on its single journey to the Caribbean, resulting in hundreds of Jamaicans migrating to Britain, might reggae have become as big as it is? I leave you with the name of one of its Jamaican passengers – Sikarum Gopthal, who was listed as a mechanic on the passenger list. If he hadn’t worked hard to buy a house on Cambridge Road in Kilburn, north-west London, which he left to his son before going back

to Jamaica, perhaps reggae might not be as big as it is today. Why? Because Sikaram’s son was Lee Gopthal, who became landlord of the Cambridge Road property, from which foundation record companies Planetone, Island and Trojan companies operated . Kwaku is a history and music industry consultant, and author of ‘Brent Black Music History Project’. He’s the co-ordinator of IRD UK.



Seaga’s musical contributions must also be remembered Shereita Grizzle

Gleaner Reporter


AMAICA’S FIFTH prime minister, Edward Seaga, has had an illustrious political career. He served as Jamaica’s prime minister from 1980-1989, and spent more than four decades as the member of parliament for West Kingston. He was also leader of the Jamaica Labour Party from 1974 until 2005. He will perhaps be remembered most for his immense political contributions, but the formidable public figure also made his mark on the country’s musical landscape. Jamaica’s musical history records Seaga as one of the main influencers of ska in the ’60s. He founded his own label, WIRL (West Indies Recording Limited) and signed Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, Slim Smith, along with the duo Joe Higgs and Roy Wilson. As a producer, he was involved in releasing some of the country’s earliest tracks, including Higgs and Wilson’s hit song, Oh Manny Oh. The song was one of the first records to be pressed in Jamaica, and went on to sell 50,000 copies. After becoming a member of


Gleaner photograph In front:- Joseph Higgs and in back:- Roy Wilson.

parliament, he sold WIRL to Byron Lee, who renamed it Dynamic Sounds Recording. Sheila Lee, widow of the late Byron Lee, shared fond memories of the former prime minister. Describing him as a man who genuinely cared about Jamaica’s music and its culture, Lee said she hopes he will be remembered not just for his political contributions, but also for his work in the entertainment industry. “I’ve known Seaga since I was a child. He was very close friends with my parents. They used to go to all the New Year’s Eve balls together, which was a big thing back then. And he always loved music and entertainment. He absolutely had every interest in seeing Jamaica’s music grow to new heights,” she said. “He was very much serious in his endeavour to get Jamaica’s music worldwide. When I was living in New York, we had a team of us that would promote ska there. He wanted ska to gain worldwide recognition and he worked tirelessly at that.” Lee says she hopes that when history is being taught to the future generation, a shadow will not be cast over

Seaga’s contributions. She says she hopes he will get his credits where they are due. “I don’t know anything about politics, and so I know very little about the politician side of him. I know him to be a true friend who was very instrumental in my husband’s

career, and a true lover of Jamaica and Jamaica’s music,” she said. “I am very sad that he has passed, and I only hope that people in whose hands the future sits will remember him as the man who loved Jamaica’s music and its culture. I hope he gets the credit that he’s due when people speak about Jamaica’s musical history because he was genuine.” Seaga died from cancer on May 28 - his 89th birthday. He is survived by widow Carla, children Christopher, Andrew, Anabella and Gabrielle Seaga.

Marlon Myrie Photo Former Prime Minister of Jamaica Edward Seaga (seated) in New York signing copies of his 4-CD boxset ‘Reggae Golden Jubilee - Origins of Jamaican Music. Joining Seaga are (left-right) Olivia Grange, Dahved Levy, Bobby Clarke and Pat Chin.

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