Monday, August 08, 2016

Day 282 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Theo Beckford - Walking Down King Street

If you're new to Jamaican music or really don't have an interest in the era before ska took over, you are missing some great stuff.  Jamaican rhythm and blues or bluebeat as it's often referred, obviously highly influenced by its American counterpart at the time but with just a little more "strut in its step" has always felt to me as it was being restrained.  Not restrained in terms of lyrics or means of expression but more like in tempo and pace, like ska is bubbling beneath the surface and straining to break free.  

Now I could go on a long-winded dissertation on a theory that for the most part, before Jamaica achieved its independence, its musicians and producers were content with trying to assimilate their sound into predefined categories of music that the outside world could easily understand and identify.  They weren't particularly interested in creating something new or expressing a feeling or experience that hadn't been shared before because they couldn't fathom its viability.  But before I spend the next 6-8 hours playing amateur sociologist and theorizing on Jamaica's pre-independence inferiority complex which many would agree stems from a sad history built upon colonialism, slavery, brutality, poverty, classism and racism, I will stop right here.  

Needless to say and to sum it all up succinctly when Jamaica got her independence in August of 1962, the collective artistic-limiters were broken and ska exploded forth.  Ska became a force of change in Jamaican music where catering to the outside markets became a lot less important than pleasing the ears of the local audience and I believe instilled a sense of national pride that they had finally freed themselves from "serving" others by expressing themselves as true Jamaicans.  Now at this point I could go off on a tangent about how this mentality came back full-force during the reggae era when big name foreign record companies wanted to latch onto the next big thing and promised money, fame and stardom to artists only to abandon them when the records didn't sell well in the U.S.  This lead to artists watering-down their sounds and adapting to foreign tastes and trends all in an effort to "break-through" to the wider international audience... but that's a discussion for another day.  

I've rambled enough let's get to today's song, the 280th in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge... it's called "Walking Down King Street" by the late great Theophilous AKA Theo Beckford and it has all the elements of pre-ska rhythm and blues, a bouncing piano lead, the accompanying horns, a vocal bordering on the bluesy and the undercurrent of something exciting beneath the surface that was yearning to break free.

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