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Ska legends highlighted in American documentary

Published:Tuesday | February 17, 2015 | 12:17 PM
Brad Klein
Frederick 'Toots' Hibbert
Derrick Morgan
Prince Buster

Brad Klein was born in northern USA, but the music he has embraced almost all his life is ska. For more than 30 years, he has enjoyed a love affair with the Jamaican genre, so much so that, one day, after an interview with Derrick Morgan, he decided to make a documentary about it.

"In 2000, I was the host of a ska radio programme at KUOM, a radio station in Minneapolis. At the time, the beautiful film Buena Vista Social Club was very popular and Ken Burns' Jazz series was about to be released," he told The Gleaner in an email response.

He said, after interviewing Morgan, he looked up at the other disc jockey in the studio and loudly asked, "When is someone going to make a film on the music we love?"

"At that moment, a light bulb went off in my head and I realised that I was going to be that person."

Klein said he started putting the wheels in motion from that very day and is "still tinkering with it, as it has not officially been released". However, he has been showing the documentary since last year on the international circuit at various film

festivals, to rave reviews.


huge impact


Legends of Ska: Cool and Copasetic is a documentary film focusing on the sights and sounds of Jamaica during the early 1960s. As the precursor to reggae, ska is a mix of jazz, R&B, and many other styles of music which continued to make a huge impact far from the island's shores.

The documentary features personalities like Toots Hibbert, Prince Buster, Patsy Todd, Derrick Morgan, Stranger Cole, King Stitt, Owen Gray, Alton Ellis, Justin Hinds, Roy Wilson, Doreen Shaffer, Lord Creator, Derrick Harriott, Pluggy Satchmo, Lord Tanamo, The All-Star Skatalites Orchestra, and a host of others.

The making of the documentary, he said, came with a lot of issues along the way. He had to deal with the lack of funding which persisted throughout the project, and song clearances has been a 'thorny issue' for him.

"Remember that, in the early 1960s, copyright laws for music in Jamaica were fuzzy at best and producers had free reign to claim songs as their own. I have worked diligently to make sure the artistes receive proper compensation for their efforts," said Klein.

Finding an audience for the documentary is not a challenge for him, though, as he says there are fans of original Jamaican music all over the world. "Their responses to the film have been fantastic. Since this past April, I have been screening the film at various international film festivals and special locations, to create the buzz," he told The Gleaner.

Klein, who was raised in Minneapolis, attended college in New York and was introduced to Jamaican music by his freshman roommate. It wasn't long after that he was hosting Reggae Explosions on his college radio, WICB. After completing college, it was a Negril trip for him that sealed his love affair with the music and saw him returning for a few Reggae Sunsplash events.