Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Our 20th Jamaican Christmas Fantastical 12-11-2016

A 1965 Christmas miracle from The Maytals on Rolando and Powie

Merry Christmas Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners!

For the twentieth year in a row, we played some of the greatest and occasionally rarest Christmas ska, mento, rocksteady, and reggae for you to put you in the holiday mood. We also kept our long-standing tradition of sharing with you all some of the holiday traditions of Jamaica.

There are many Christmas traditions that celebrate the holiday in Jamaica. We’ve talked about the treats at the Christmas market in the past. We’ve also extensively discussed the outrageously delicious treats served at Christmas time, including the Christmas fruit cake and sorrel. And this year, we’re going to focus on a Christmas time tradition that has seen a little less prominence recently but has a rich history that deserves some attention: Jonkonnu!

With its origins from Africa, the Jonkonnu has transformed over the centuries that it has been performed. It is mentioned in Jamaican history accounts as early as the 18th century, and it also has variations on the performance and characters in its different versions in the Caribbean and in various diasporas from the Caribbean. The modern day format seen in the major cities in Jamaica blends the original African tradition with English theater and music, but the original tradition still has remnants in Nassau and St. Elizabeth. At a high level, the Jonkonnu performances involve a group of ornately masked and costumed dancers who dance and play music.

Originally, the key instrument of the Jonkonnu was a box drum known as the gumbay, and the ceremony has a ritual and spiritual purpose. However, the modern day incarnation of the dance is usually performed with a fife and drums and additional percussion instruments such as rattles, bottles, and graters, and it is more of a secular tradition to be performed during the Christmas season. There are many characters in Jonkonnu, and we’ll learn more about them throughout the show

  • King & Queen – The King and Queen symbolize two forces that had in power in Jamaica: the English royalty and the English aristocracy.
  • Devil – The Devil is an original character who dances and pokes at the crowd with a pitchfork.
  • Pitchy-Patchy – Specific to Jamaican Jonkonnu, Pitchy Patchy is the crowd control character whose costume is made of many colorful strips of fabric. He is masked, and he often uses a whip to make sure that the crowd does not get too rowdy.
  • Belly Woman – The Belly Woman is a pregnant woman who dances and shows off her curves to the crowds.
  • Cow Head – The embodiment of the rolling calf duppy that is said to haunt Jamaica.
  • Policeman – The Policeman originates from the days when the Jonkonnu performances were prohibited. Originally, it is believed that a policeman would arrive to a performance, but he would get lured into the music and join the dance. Consequently, the policeman over time became a fixed character in the Jonkonnu.
  • Horse Head – The Horse Head teases the audience with a lance. The origins of when he appeared is uncertain, but given the allusions to jousting, we could guess that Horse Head is a newer character to the Jonkonnu cast who was added as the performance took on some European influence.
  • The Wild Indian can be male or female, and the character is responsible for providing a specific rhythm and dance. They stomp in an arched posture, have a cane and bow & arrow, and are often clad with pieces of mirror and a silver heart on a necklace.
  • House Head – House Head is one of the original characters of Jonkonnu and is consistent in most versions of the performance. House Head tends to be the leader of the group of dancers.https://www.mixcloud.com/bovineska/generoso-and-lilys-bovine-ska-and-rocksteady-our-20th-jamaican-christmas-fantastical-12-11-2016/

 

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Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Sir Cavalier’s Hi Tone Label 12-6-16

A very early Jamaican R&B tune from Jimmy Cliff on Sir Cavelier’s Hi Tone Label

On a challenge from our old friend Chris McBride, we started off the December 6th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady with two sets of Jamaican Beatles covers that we feel are not cheesy in the way that so many Beatles covers can be.   Our favorite from the two sets was Jackie Mittoo’s super cool rendition of Eleanor Rigby for Studio One.   After our Beatles reggae homage, we did a frantic mento set, and a long set of Jamaican rhythm and blues to put you in the mood for Sir Cavelier’s Hi Tone Label.

There are so many early sound system operators that we hope to shed some light on here on the Bovine Ska. Early sound system operators such as Count Boysie The Monarch did not open the labels while others did. Others such as Prince Buster, King Edwards, and Lloyd Daley made the full transition into recording business. And some, had short lived labels that had gems on them. Earlier this year, we spotlighted Mike Shadeed of the Sir Mike the Musical Dragon Sound System. And on this night, we highlight the Hi-Tone label, the short lived label of Sir Cavalier, the head of the sound system that bore the name of its operator.

Very little is documented about Sir Cavalier, but we do know quite a bit about one person who recorded for the label. Jimmy Cliff recorded his debut single for Cavalier, and when Generoso spoke to Jimmy Cliff, he spoke further about that single entitled, “I’m Sorry.”   We then played the clip from Generoso’s interview with Cliff, and then the track immediately afterwards to kick off the spotlight on the Hi-Tone label.

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Harry Mudie’s Afro Label 11-15-16

This Dennis Walks cut was the inspiration for this label spotlight. Wonderful cut in every way!

We started off the November 15th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady with two sets of reggae, beginning with a gem from Earl Brown from 1973 on Aquarius entitled Suzanne. After a mento set that began with Lower Power’s Mambo La La, we went into a long set of rare rocksteady before delving deeply into Harry Mudie’s Afro Label!

Harry Mudie is a producer here that we have yet to spotlight here on the Bovine Ska, and he is a producer that demands so much attention. Born in Spanish Town, Mudie got his start in the sound system business. He left St. Jago High School early, and as a young man, he opened up the Mudies Hi-Fi system. Upon the success of “Oh Carolina,” Mudie tried to record with Count Ossie, but those tracks did not become as popular as “Oh Carolina.”

Soon after these initial recordings with Count Ossie, Mudie moved to the UK to study photography, and soon, he returned to Jamaica to open up the Scaramouch Garden Amusement Center. Consequently, there are few Mudie productions from approximately 1962 to 1970 because his focus was aimed toward the amusement center. In 1970, Mudie returned to production with a splash, releasing tracks from a session with Jo-Jo Bennett and Mudie’s All Stars that were some of the first reggae tracks to include full string arrangements, which gave rise to the Moodisc label and Mudie’s name as a producer.

As with many producers, Mudie opened up additional imprints, and Afro is one of them.  We found this label during last week’s discovery of Dennis Walks’s “Snowbird,” and we wanted to showcase the label on this week’s Bovine Ska.  Afro has not only Mudie productions but also Bunny Lee productions as well, and throughout all of the releases, you can clearly hear Mudie’s style and taste. In an interview, Dennis Walks said that Mudie was great to work with because he demanded the best of everything, and you can hear that in all of the Afro tracks.

Afro is only one label of Harry Mudie’s labels. The trademark was of course Moodisc but there were other imprints including: Jukebox,  Jungle, HAM Records, Moods International Records.

 

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Byron Lee’s Dragon’s Breath Label 9-6-16

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Keith Lyn on Lee’s Dragon’s Breath Label

Howdy Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

Firstly, thank you to everyone how was kind enough to let us know how much they appreciated our Deadly Headly Bennett Memorial show.  Generoso was fortunate enough to have met Deadly back in 1999, when Headley and trombonist, Vin Gordon were performing with Justin Hinds.  Generoso and Headley got a chance to speak that night as Generoso was introducing the show at the Ocean Mist in Rhode Island.  All three men were very kind and exceptional musicians.  Thank you and respect to Vin, who is still with us and much respect to Justin and Headley for their kindness and great contribution to Jamaican music.

The September 6th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady began with the to sets of rare rocksteady, starting with Stranger and Patsy with a lovely cut they did for Tip Top in 1967, Don’t Want To Be Hurt.  The second set began with The Wrigglers and their song, You Cannot Know, which they recorded for Giant in 1968 and that set ended with the King Of Rocksteady, Alton Ellis and My Time Is The Right Time.  Our weekly mento set featured another cut from our favorite mento, Count Lasher on Stanley Motta’s MRS label, Perfect Love.  We ended the first hour with a set of ska to get you ready for the sounds of the Dragon’s Breath label,    A standout during that ska set was from Joe White, a solo ska from him produced by Prince Buster for the Voice Of The People label in 1964, Nite Club!  That set ended with another Buster production, this time it’s the Maytals and their hit, Domino!  We then went right into our spotlight of the Dragon’s Breath label…

By 1956, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires had established themselves as a professional working band that toured the hotel and nightclub circuit. Before these touring years, the Dragonaires performed mento, but in order to play professionally, like so many other bands, they performed versions of American soul and R&B hits. Within three years, the group decided to take a shot at recording, and in 1959, they visited Edward Seaga at WIRL’s studios to record their first single, “Dumplins.” This single was released on the band’s label, Dragon’s Breath, appropriately named in the tradition of the group’s name and, this is the label of our spotlight tonight, which will exclusively contains Jamaican Rhythm and Blues and Ska. We kicked our label spotlight off with three tracks from the Dragonaires that were produced by Byron Lee himself, starting with “Dumplins,” the group’s recording debut.

Dragon’s Breath was pretty short lived, with releases stopping in 1964. Interestingly, there was a bit of a gap in the label; no recordings were released in 1962. We do not know of the reason, but one could be that the label changed hands because by 1963, Prince Buster was the producer for the label and  from that moment on out, we heard those Buster productions as he took the helm of the music released by Dragon’s Breath, including two from Eric Monty Morris which began the second set of the spotlight.

XO Generoso and Lily

This is the September 6, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady and our spotlight on the Dragon’s Breath label:

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: King Edwards’ Giant Label 8-16-16

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Roy Panton and Cornell Campbell as The Bellstars

Hello Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

A triple version of Delano Stewart’s That’s Life, a pretty 1968 tune for Sonia Pottinger’s High Note is how we commenced the August 16th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady.   We continued the with another set of early reggae that ended with Leonard Wilson’s 1975 track for Mighty Cloud, I Want To Thank You and the version by The Mighty Cloud Band, Thank You Instrumental.  We thought to go with an uptown mento sound for this week’s mento set…Baba Motta’s Jamaica Talk , Tony Johnson and His Carousel Band’s Give Her Banana, and  Clyde Hoyt and George Moxey Quartet’s Montego Calypso.   To end the first hour, a long set of rare ska to get you ready for the ska of King Edward’s Giant Label that ended with The Originators,  Chelip Chelip, which was released on SEP in 1966.  It was then off to the spotlight…

Vincent ‘King Edwards’ began his career as a sound system operator with his brother George. Vincent traveled to America in 1954 and brought back records and the equipment for a sound system. Upon his return to Jamaica, Vincent and George opened up the Rock and Roll soundsystem, but the first dance did not go well, and Vincent and his brother George took some time to improve the soundsystem. Rock and Roll returned to the scene in 1956, and immediately started to be called the Edwards Sound. Shortly thereafter, King was added to the sound system name, emerging as the King Edwards soundsystem. Vincent would get exclusive records from artists in America, specifically Philadelphia where his sister lived and from the south where, giving the King Edwards soundsystem an edge that would append ‘The Giant’ onto the name.

Like many other sound system operators, the Edwards brothers would play primarily American soul and R&B, but as the 60s arrived, they began recording acetates in Jamaica customized for his soundsystem, and that led to a natural transition into recording and releasing records for the public in the early 1960s. There is of course the flagship label that many know of: The King Edwards label, but here on the Bovine Ska, we wanted to spotlight a label that was the other part of the soundsystem name, and that is The Giant label.

Vin and George Edwards were extremely active throughout ska, but the label stopped releasing records as rocksteady and by the early 70s the soundsystem completely closed it doors. A few factors played into this: Vin’s interest shifted toward on politics; he served as a Councillor and then became a member of parliament. He was also getting into horse training, which is something he still does today. George moved to the countryside of Jamaica, away from the city and the music scene. Furthermore, Vin was not a marijuana smoker (nor an alcohol drinker), and after a while the rampant smoking that would occur in the studios made the music business difficult for Vin.

Please let us know if you enjoy the August 16th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady:

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: The 20th Anniversary Of The Bovine Ska! 6-14-16

Keith Tex Gene Lily

Lily and Generoso with Keith and Tex from 2015

Happy Anniversary Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners!

Twenty years ago this week, Generoso arrived to the basement of the Walker Memorial building at MIT and stepped into the studios of WMBR, 88.1FM Cambridge where he filled in for his friend Chris’ radio show, Spiddle, Urine, Phlegm, and Blood by playing two hours of a mix of original Jamaican and Two Tone Ska.  The program director at the time enjoyed his show and offered Generoso a slot on Tuesdays at midnight and the show remained at that time for the next nineteen years.  In 2010, Generoso met Lily and they began doing the show together ever since.  The show remained on the schedule at WMBR until 2015 when Generoso and Lily moved to Los Angeles where the show continues on Mixcloud.

Over the last twenty years The Bovine Ska and Rocksteady has played early Jamaican music from 1955-1975 ( we sometimes go much earlier than that but rarely later) concentrating on the earliest recorded musics in Jamaica, mento, rhythm and blues, ska, rocksteady, and early reggae.  We have also been fortunate to have some of the greatest recording artists in Jamaican music history visit the show from Jimmy Cliff  to Owen Gray,  Prince Buster, Roy and Yvonne, BB Seaton, Lynn Taitt, Eric Monty Morris,  Keith and Tex, Big Youth, Lord Tanamo and Laurel Aitken as well as modern performers like Dave Wakeling of The English Beat, Greg Lee from Hepcat and David Hillyard (who composed our opening theme) and Glen Pine from The Slackers.  This has been a blast these last two decades.

Over the last few weeks, Lily and Generoso have rummaged through the years via piles of old cassette tapes, DATs, CDs and MP3s to create this past week’s twentieth anniversary show,  Included are interviews from the aforementioned artists and live performances from the show, and even a set from the patron saint of The Bovine Ska, Magnus Johnstone, who passed away in 2013, as well as the rare recordings of tracks from the performers that you have come to expect over the last twenty years.

We have no intentions of stopping what we have been doing since 1996 and we would like to thank all of the listeners, artists, and WMBR for their support over the years.

So, celebrate with us by listening to our 20th Anniversary Special:

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Prince Tony’s High School Label 6-7-16

High School Label B

The Clarendonians On The High School Label

Hello Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

As the Bovine Ska veered towards its 20th Anniversary on June 14th, 2016, we decided to stay the course and do a traditional show (traditional for us) that you have heard these last twenty years.  Our spotlight, which occurs midway through the show as always, was on Prince Tony’s reggaerific HIGH SCHOOL LABEL!

The show began with two sets of superb rare ska beginning with a Maytals cut which has never before been played on The Bovine Ska, a gem from Toots from Rolando and Powie in 1963 entitled, Make Me Do.  We are still celebrating Toots’ return to the stage this summer after a three year absence.  Do check him out when he comes to your town!  Starting our mento set was Harold Richardson and The Ticklers’ cover of  Don’t Fence Her In on MRS in 1952 and we ended our first hour with a long set of rare rocksteady included a version to version on Studio One of Alton Ellis’ Mad Mad Mad.  After that set we started on our thirty minute spotlight on Prince Tony’s High School Label.

Prince Tony is the king of the deejays and the version, so this spotlight on the High School label had plenty of both! Known as Prince Tony as a producer, Tony Robinson began his production career in reggae. Many of his productions would make their way over to England, where plenty of his artists would see success. Though the High School label releases did get decent distribution through Trojan and Pama subsidiaries, Prince Tony’s production legacy is often tied to The Gladiators’ LPs Trenchtown Mix Up and Proverbial Reggae and Big Youth’s LP Dreadlocks Dread, so we are excited to show the brilliance of his earlier productions for the High School label. This spotlight has many major names in it, and we were excited to kick it off with one of the biggest deejays out there, Dennis Al Capone, here known as Young Al Capone and his recording “Girl Called Clover” and its version.

One of the deejays that spent a lot of time at High School was Winston Scotland. Believed to be the brother in law of U-Roy, another fine deejay and an artist who also stopped by the High School label, Scotland got his start toasting over the selections at the Sound of Muzik and the Soul King sound systems. As a recording artist, Scotland worked with Joe Gibbs and Phillip Monroe before heading over to the High School label. At High School, Scotland recorded some of his best tracks, including “Buttercup,” which Prince Tony had great ambitions for with his licensing of the track over to the Philips label in the UK for major distribution.

For our disco background for the first hour this week was The Tee Cee’s 1978 LP on AVI, Disco Love Bit and for the second hour, Barbara Mason’s Lady Love LP superb 1973 release on Buddha.

XO
Generoso and Lily

For your listening pleasure, here is our June 7th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: