Session 16: Roland Alphonso & Phoenix City
Ska has featured in Jamaican music since its shady roots in the 1930s, born from a blend of the indigenous calypso and folksy mento styles with the jazz and R&B from the neighbouring USA. Whether the distinctive beat of ska was influenced by weak radio reception or was a genuinely Jamaican response to the new sounds, we'll never know, but once the new rhythm took hold, Jamaica never looked back.
Popularised by the mighty mobile sound systems that began in Kingston ghettos during the '50s, ska became the signature sound of the two sound system titans: Duke Reid and Clement Dodd, better known as 'Coxsone'. This adoption was primarily due to the intense competition between the sound systems - new music was key to success, and the American single release schedules just couldn't keep up with the voracious appetite of the Jamaican groovers. So Coxsone and Reid turned to record production, recording local talent and to make unique music for their systems.
These magician musicians soon outgrew the US source material, and ska was truly born, an upbeat sound with its soul on its sleeve. This birth coincided with a new dawn for Jamaicans, having just gained their independence from the United Kingdom in 1962.
Ska was to evolve with its sister music, slowing down in tempo in the late 60s to match the new smooth soul from America. But before that, the heyday of quick tempo ska generated some ultra fine music.
Which brings us to today's selection. Roland Alphonso's 'Phoenix City' occupies a special place in King of Bongo's affections. in 1985 a friend opened the King's ears to old ska, which he had somehow missed during the 2-Tone ska revival in the UK. After listening to a C90 cassette (remember those?) chock-full of '60s sounds recorded from the friend's collection of treasured 7" ska singles, KoB underwent a cathartic musical taste revolution. So intense was this that you can believe that the tape is still in the King's possession, 21 years later! Unplayable though...
Track number 2 on this cassette of infinite joy was 'Phoenix City', a driving sax and brass groove replete with shouts and prototype human beatboxes. 3 minutes long, and not a second wasted - an almost perfect tune. And one that's going to be shared with all you good people.
Rolando "Roland" Alphonso made his name with the Skatalites, and in his half-century career was instrumental in many Jamaican musical developments. Involved in the recording of Theophilus Beckford's "Easy Snappin" in 1958 (some say the first true ska record, and to be featured on King of Bongo at some stage in the near future), multi-instrumentalist Roland was one of Coxsone's founding session musicians and chief musical arrangers. Any record collection would be blessed with an addition from Roland's huge achievements.
Sadly, Roland passed away in 1998 after suffering an aneurysm, aged 67. RIP.
Friends, please enjoy Roland Alphonso: Phoenix City (1965) [mp3 | 03:01 mins | 192 kbps | 3.1 MB] - it'll put a smile on your face, and a skip in your step!
Buy "Phoenix City: A History of the World's Greatest Ska" featuring "Phoenix City" by Roland Alphonso by from Amazon
File under: Uptempo Ska Beats
[Click on the link and you’ll be taken to rapidshare where you can download the track. First come first served people, only 10 days allowed! If you like the music, please support the artist]
Technorati tag: Roland Alphonso
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