Fri | May 25, 2018

Out of many, one music

Published:Sunday | January 27, 2013 | 12:00 AM

The contribution made to the development of early Jamaican popular music by entertainers whose origins lay outside Jamaica was mentioned in last week's Music Diaries.

Lynn Taitt from the twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, was singled out and showered with commendations for his work in helping to establish the rocksteady beat as a legitimate music form. Others like Lord Creator and Lord Laro from Trinidad, Jackie Opel from Barbados, Laurel Aitken from Cuba, Carlos Malcolm from Panama, and the Caribs band, have also made lasting contributions and are worth mentioning.

Creator, who arrived in Jamaica on January 14, 1962, was passing through with a group of musicians on a Caribbean tour, fell in love with the island and its music, and decided to stay. He will always be remembered for his calypso-flavoured, informative and descriptive song about Jamaica's Independence, titled Independent Jamaica.

Creator followed up with some sweet-sounding ska pieces like, Don't Stay Out Late, Little Princess, Golden Love, Evening News, and the gentle ballad, in duet with Norman Frazer, titled We Will Be Lovers. He hit the jackpot in the late 1970s, when UB40's cover of his 1969 composition Kingston Town sold millions, earning for him enormous royalties.

Calypso-flavoured reggae

Another Trinidadian, Lord Laro, made his presence felt with some calypso-flavoured, reggae recordings.

Born Kenneth Laro in 1940, his first exposure to performing by way of talent shows, before joining the Calypso Tents in Trinidad and later the Forces, to become 'The Singing Soldier' in 1961, while stationed in Jamaica, Laro like Creator, got hooked on to the music and also decided to stay.

Referendum became one of his earliest hits. He studied composing and arranging for two years before becoming quite a successful club and hotel circuit performer on the north coast.

Lord Laro's contribution to Jamaica's recorded music is steeped in social commentary. The irony of not being born in Jamaica, yet demonstrating true patriotism, was brought into full focus when Laro denounced the unfair tactics of the foreign press in that recording:

They trying their best, to stop our progress

with bad propaganda in the foreign press.

Bad things are blown out of proportion, and spread all around,

But the good things of the island

They will never mention.

Like our scholars have sit and pass every test,

There's nothing bout that in the foreign press.

But if a man steal a mango or breeze blow up a woman's dress

Bet your life it making headline in the foreign press.

Laro virtually wrote all his songs. The earliest and most impressive pieces were done for Ken Khouri's Federal Records. Exhibiting a very humorous - but - distinctive Trinidadian accent on another of his recordings, titled Yu Have Fe Dread, Laro outlined, in his opinion, the advantages that a 'dreadlock' had over a 'baldhead' in his pursuit of love from a 'nice woman'.

Ah wore collar and tie and spoke like an English man

was a symbol of class and a symbol of position

but with that nowadays you can't get the 'nice woman',

you have to wear yuh beard and look dreader than lion.


His other early recording of note is Woman Ruler, a very real episode about the calamities that await the masculine kind, especially given the educational underperformances of boys in relation to girls:

They say women will rule this world in time to come

it will be a heck of a thing to see a woman ruling she husband,

saying "you got to wash, don't forget to cook or see about the children and all."

Because she have to go play cricket and play football.

From Barbados came Dalton Bishop, better known as Jackie Opel, who combined the name of his idol Jackie Wilson with his favourite motor car, 'Opel', to arrive at his stage name. Born in Barbados in 1938, he became obsessed with music from an early age and frequented the 'hot spots' in Bridgetown to listen to the latest R&B records.

Landing a gig at a popular Bridgetown nightclub, Opel became a favourite with the crowd.

It was reported that, not long after that, on a trip to Jamaica with the Mighty Sparrow in the early 1960s, when he was spotted during one of his performances at one of Kingston's Southside clubs, by a popular promoter, Lord Baskin, Baskin introduced him to Studio One Boss, Clement Dodd.


His recordings with the producer have gone down in history as being numbered among the best ska recordings ever recorded in Jamaica.

The first, You're No Good (1963), opened the floodgates for others like Turn Your Lamps Down, You're Too Bad, Push Wood, Solid Rock, Cry Me A River, and duets with Doreen Schaeffer, Welcome You Back Home and The Vow.

Australian musicians Peter Stoddart (keyboards), Dennis Sindrey (guitar), and Lowell Morris (drums), played key roles during the pre-ska era (1958-1961), as they played with the out-of-class, latin-rhythmed Caribs band which backed the unforgettable Wilfred Edwards classics, Tell Me Darling, Whenever There's Moonlight, and Tears Like Rain, along with Laurel Aitken's Boogie In My Bones, Little Sheila, and others.

They added a different flavour to the city's vibrant music scene and set the stage for the succeeding musical explosion.

Carlos Malcolm, born in Panama around 1935, to Jamaican parents, migrated to Kingston as a youngster and formed his band Carlos Malcolm and the Afro-Jamaican rhythms, in mid-1962. They played a blend of ska, mento, African and Latin rhythms, and had the big hits Rukumbine, Bonanza Ska, Coolie Gal, Cut Munu, and Slide Mongoose between 1963 and 1964. Malcolm, the holder of a bachelor of arts degree, apart from his musical contribution as a bandleader and trombonist, has lectured at several universities on the topic of music.

Laurel Aitken was born in Cuba in 1927 to a Jamaican father and a Cuban mother, and moved to Jamaica with his parents at age 11. He became the first Jamaican artiste to break Jamaica's music internationally, with the release in the UK of his two-sided hits Little Sheila and Boogie In My Bones, in 1958, on the new upstart label 'Island Records', founded by the Jamaican-Englishman Chris Blackwell.