A New Day - Songs heralding JA’s Independence

Basil Walters

Sunday, June 03, 2012

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Gather together,

be brothers and sisters

We’re independent

Don’t be sad and blue

The Lord is with you

Because the time has come

For you to have some fun

We’re independent

— Derrick Morgan, Forward March

THE creativity of Jamaican singers and songwriters stood out in 1962 when the country gained Independence from Britain. A plethora of patriotic songs marked the nation’s birth. However, the most popular were Independent Jamaica by Lord Creator, Rise Jamaica (Independence Time is Here) by Al T Joe and Derrick Morgan’s Forward March.

David Brown, senior research fellow at the African Caribbean Institute/Jamaica Memory Bank, at a forum earlier this year, said: "We owe a great depth of gratitude to all musicians. And by all, I mean collective; those from the Eastern Caribbean, and also our indigenous musicians who provide for us in a very creative and unique form of documentation of our history."

Lord Creator, born Kentrick Patrick, in the San Fernando Valley of Trinidad and Tobago, started as a calypso singer before coming to Jamaica in the early 1960s.

He recorded his first hit song, Evening News, in 1959. Independent Jamaica, done three years later for producer Vincent ‘Randy’ Chin, was written at Chin’s east Kingston home.

In a 2003 interview with the Jamaica Observer, Lord Creator said a well-known sports reporter helped him draft the song.

"I knew Jamaica was getting independence but I didn’t know the details, so Raymond Sharpe brought me copies of The Gleaner, we went up to Randy’s house in Deanery Road and I made the song from the information in half-hour," Creator recalled.

Sometimes called ‘Jamaica Fats’, Al T Joe’s vocals mirrored New Orleans Rhythm and Blues singer Fats Domino. In the late 1950s, New Orleans R&B was a big influence on Jamaican music.

When Jamaicans got a taste of ska music on the verge of their Independence, his Rise Jamaica (Independence Time Is Here), was no exception.

Morgan’s Forward March was one of the biggest Independence anthems. Born March 27, 1940, in Mocho, Clarendon, the singer/songwriter enjoyed great popularity in the early 1960s with producer Leslie Kong.

Reflecting on Forward March, Morgan said it highlighted the buoyant mood in the country leading up to Independence.

"We were very happy even though many people did not know what Independence meant. The song came to me as a way to tell everyone to move forward," he told the Observer.

"When I heard Jamaica was getting Independence, I decided to write this song. I sit down and write the song with Leslie Kong who gave me the idea for the intro to Forward March."

Morgan said he performed Forward March for the first time on August 5 on the eve of Independence at a civic ceremony in downtown Kingston.

Since the start of the Festival Song Contest 46 years ago, Derrick Morgan has written a number of winning songs for fellow artistes.

The first was Jamaica Whoa in 1998 by Neville Martin. Then in 2000 with Fi Wi Island A Boom by Stanley Beckford, followed two years later by Progress from Devon Black.

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