Among the most interesting happenings in the evolution of Jamaica’s music has been the smooth transition from one era to the other and the way the eras have fed off each other, ultimately producing their own distinctive sound.
It is equally interesting to note that despite all the changes that have taken place over the years, each era is still able to hold its own and any vintage session held today, presents the fans with music that can range from ska all the way to reggae.
Jamaica’s most notable vintage stage show, Startime, has over the past 24 years, played the lead role in keeping our musical history up-to-date and our musical pioneers in the spotlight. This beautiful musical tapestry will be on show in all its glory on Saturday night when Startime producers MKB, bowing to public demand, make a triumphant return to action after a six-year absence.
All our musical genres will be spotlighted as the stellar cast represent some of the finest stars to have graced the Jamaican musical stage over the past 50 years.
Stamping their class on this historic event will be Marcia Griffiths, John Holt, Derrick Morgan, Ken Boothe, Big Youth, the Mighty Diamonds, Johnny Clarke and George Nooks.
Marcia is unquestionably the best-known and most influential woman in the history of reggae. “Discovered” by the late Phillip “Boasie” James of the Blues Busters who overheard her singing at a friend’s party, she burst on the scene at age 15 when the music was still evolving from its roots in ska and rock steady.
Through the years Marcia has held pride of place among our female artistes. She has excited fans on stage, released many, many big hits, performed with the late Reggae King Bob Marley as a member of the I Threes, toured internationally on a regular basis, and released albums that run the gamut from polished love songs to roots reggae to fiery dancehall sides (dueting with the likes of Bob Andy, Shaggy, Buju Banton, and Cutty Ranks).
Holt who came prominence as a member of the famous Paragons, is known as the man with the dulcet tone. He is notably smoother and more romantic than most of his contemporaries, and is a recognizable forerunner of the lovers rock sub-genre. Across the decades, Holt was one of the first Jamaican artistes to record with a full orchestra, has made numerous acclaimed appearances internationally and continues to compose, record, and delight audiences.
When Jamaica attained Independence in 1962, Derrick Morgan recorded the first Independence song, challengingly titled “Forward March” which carried a message of national unity and freedom.
A pious and heartfelt man, Derrick wanted others to flourish in the harsh musical world and he went on to coach and produce some of Jamaica’s greatest: Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley (“Judge Not”), Maxie Romeo (1971 No. l hit,” Let the Power Fall On I” and “Children Don’t Weep”)
After his many decades in the business, Morgan’s influence continues to be very strong and despite his blindness, he continues to tour internationally and his monumental list of hit songs continue to be heard on sound systems and radio and played by ska bands all over the world.
He is unquestionably, the King of Ska.
Ken Boothe is acknowleged as one of the most popular and soulful singers of the rocksteady era, arguably second only to Alton Ellis. According to biographer Steve Huey “where Ellis was silky smooth, Boothe’s vocals were deeper and grittier, earning him a reputation as Jamaica’s answer to Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett”.
A stylish and artistic innovator of the highest order, Manley “Big Youth” Buchanan is a toaster par excellence and a big crowd favourite anytime he hits the stage. Many of his recordings” stark, proud lyrics, set against jagged, heavy rhythms, sound just as stunning over 30 years after their initial release. His innovations continue to reverberate through reggae and rap and Big Youth has remained at the top for longer than any other DJ apart from U-Roy, and he remains highly respected and revered by the reggae cognoscenti.
The versatile George Nooks is no stranger to having hit songs. In fact he did it under two different names! He held the top spot as Deejay Prince Mohammed with Zion Gate/’Forty Leg Dread'(recorded with Culture) and as his given name George Nooks with ‘Tribal War’. Even as “Forty Leg Dread” was enjoying chart success, George released “Tribal War” (under the name of George Nooks). He pulled off something no singer has managed to achieve, having two hit songs simultaneously under two different names.
Johnnie Clarke became known as the “Hit Machine” during the heyday of his career in the 70s/80; and is unquestionably one of Jamaica’s most outstanding vocal talents; but while he has never achieved the international acclaim of some of his compatriots, Johnny has carved a musical niche which places him among the most popular Startime performers.
The group has remained unchanged for 43 years and so have the sweet harmony and conscious lyrics which have kept The Mighty Diamonds …… Donald “Tabby” Shaw, Fitzroy ”Bunny” Simpson and Lloyd “ Judge” Ferguson in the forefront as one of Jamaica’s most soulful groups.
Yet another product of Trench Town, Jamaica’s musical mecca of the 60s, the Mighty Diamonds were formed in 1969 and with their soulful harmonies and polished performances, quickly became known as the young group with the Motown sound.
Rated as one of the most internationally popular reggae acts to emerge from the ’70s roots era, they balanced their spiritual and political messages with sweet romantic material, which gave them a more universal appeal than militant groups like Culture or Black Uhuru.
Led by bassist/singer Lloyd Parks, the We the People band have won numerous “Best Backing Band” awards and over the years have included some of our best musicians including Dean Frazer, Nambo Robinson, Tony Green, Keith Sterling, Franklyn “Bubbler” Waul, Chico Chin, Robbie Lyn and Steve “Lenky” Marsden.
According to Parks,” the association with MKB and Startime has developed into a partnership that has been rewarding for both me and my band.”