Disco Reggae Rockers (Soul Jazz Records) (Standard Black 2LP Vinyl)
American black music first impacted on Jamaica in the late 1950s when Clement ‘Sir Coxsone’ Dodd and a generation of young sound system operators first scoured North America in search of obscure jazz and rhythm & blues 45s to play back home in Kingston dancehalls. This led to the emergence of ska, when Jamaican musicians created their own musical style that blended American jazz and rhythm & blues with Caribbean calypso and Jamaican mento music. This fusing continued into the 1960s as US soul music became the foundation of JA rocksteady.
But the lesser-known story is how this influence continued throughout the 1970s and 80s. And as Jamaicans started to migrate across the world, especially to the major cities of New York, London and Toronto, new micro-pockets of Jamaican culture laid seed to even more fertile new styles as first and second-generation Jamaican émigrés grew up influenced by both their original and that of their adopted cultures. Importantly for the UK, this gave rise to lovers rock (a combination of reggae and soul music). It also later laid the foundations for the emergence of hip-hop in the US, created by émigré Jamaican and Caribbean producers and DJs: these include Kool Herc (Jamaican), Grandmaster Flash (Barbadian) and Afrika Bambaataa (Jamaican & Barbadian parents).
Through these migrations a musical triangle was created between America, Jamaica and the UK, leading to some of the most brilliant musical cross-pollinations in the music of all three countries.
The most-straightforward definition of ‘Disco Reggae’ is to describe it as American disco and soul songs covered by reggae artists. But the relationship is binary – this is no mere subservient island appreciation of North American dominant culture but instead an example of the interweaving thread of Jamaican and American music that travels back and forth between the major cities of Kingston, London, Toronto, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Having said that all of the songs featured here are indeed cover versions of (or at least heavily based on) US soul and disco tunes. Curtis Mayfield, Diana Ross, Earth, Wind & Fire, Archie Bell, The Dramatics, Michael Jackson – the work of these artists resonated around the world and Jamaica was no exception. Of these figures Curtis Mayfield was of course already an iconic artist on the island, due to the influence that his vocal group The Impressions had on Jamaican rocksteady back in the 1960s.
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