Anyone who knows a bit about Jamaican music’s history would easily agree on the fact that Black American music has been a great influence on the island’s sounds.
This is particularly true for the very early days of contemporary Jamaican music, when Coxson Dodd was bringing back U.S. R&B records to the island and played them on his soundsystems. More generally, there is a strong link between jazz and R&B music and the emergence of ska.
But when it comes to the ’70s, I have always wondered why the more U.S.-influenced tunes produced on the island did not have more success back then. With no clear answer, let’s focus on a sequence of the well-known Rockers movie, when Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace and Dirty Harry enter in a club with a crowd rocking to a U.S. disco track. In my opinion, the take-over action, when Dirty Harry enters the DJ booth to spin “Queen Majesty,” is representative of the fact that Jamaica had acquired its own musical identity at that time, with an audience very much more inclined towards “roots reggae.” Moreover, the Rastafarian ideas and beliefs were influential at that time and might have triggered a little defiance and distance towards disco/funk/soul sounds.
Thus, a number of great musical moments from Jamaica remained obscure and never made it up to the charts, despite their great quality.
I have been digging Jamaican music for some years now. I have come to realize that a great number of soul/funk/disco productions were actually produced on the island or outside the island—in places where the Jamaican diaspora is important in terms of population. For a few years, I have been focusing on these kinds of sounds when it comes to digging Jamaican music and records—thus, this is Red Stripe Disco.
As a matter of fact, this selection—brought to you by Laid Back Radio and Wax Poetics—is very far from what is commonly called “reggae music”: it’s all about soul, funk, disco, boogie, modern soul, even rap. Yet, very often, it keeps some of these idiosyncratic elements that makes Jamaican music recognizable (skanks, rimshots, bass line, etc.), making it even more special and attractive!
This mix features Jamaican-produced tunes, productions involving the Jamaican diaspora around the world (U.K., U.S., Canada) or things released on reggae labels. Most of these records are either obscure or very much under the radar, some of them being known by only a handful of collectors. A few tracks have been edited, but most of them are presented here on their original recording. The selection below symbolizes some of the best tunes of an under-looked area of music, and I am very happy and honored to present them to you in this mixtape.