Living in East Kingston during the early 1960s was a joy for Rafael Allen. He played football for a local team, was member of a swim club, and often listened to the legendary Skatalites at Bournemouth Gardens.

That early introduction to ska made a lasting impression on him. Six years ago, he started production on what became Legends of Jamaica: A Tribute to Ska, a multi-song project scheduled for release on April 28.

Allen, a veteran musician who has played on numerous hit songs by Shaggy and Super Cat, produced the album for Skaville Music, a company he operates with Watty Burnett of The Congos.

Legends of Jamaica contains 34 songs by artistes such as Boris Gardiner, U Roy, Toots Hibbert, Marcia Griffiths, Dennis Walks, Max Romeo, The Melodians, Winston Francis, Ken Boothe, Bunny Wailer, and Lee "Scratch" Perry.

Boris Gardiner (Photo:Howard Levy)

"When we started, we spoke to the artistes about doing some new songs, but a lot of them weren't big on that. So we agreed to rearrange some of their old songs," Allen told the Jamaica Observer.

Gardiner does It's so It's so Nice to be With You, Wailer did The Wailers classic This Train, Boothe puts a new spin on Home, Home, Home, Francis revisits Mr Fix It, while The Melodians refresh By The Rivers of Babylon.

U Roy, the pioneer deejay who died two years ago, recorded a new song for the album. Titled Something, it has a big band, jazz sound.

"When Daddy Roy hear it, him love it! I guess because it different," said Allen, who played keyboards and bass on Legends of Jamaica.

Marcia Griffiths (Photo: Observer file)

Saxophonist Richie Cannata (best known for his work with Billy Joel); guitarist Alex Moseley (of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam fame); Sly and Robbie; saxophonists Dean Fraser and Glen DaCosta; guitarists Andy Bassford, Stephen "Cat" Coore and Dwight Pinkney; and bassist Val Douglas also played on the album.

Rafael Allen has lived in New York City for over 50 years. In the 1970s he established himself as a drummer and keyboardist in bands like Monyaka before becoming an in-demand session musician.

During the 1990s he was a pivotal figure in Big Apple dancehall circles, working mainly out of the Long Island recording studio of engineer/producer Phillip Smart.

Some of the hit songs he played on were Oh Carolina and Boombastic by Shaggy, Hot This Year (Dirtsman) and Cabin Stabbing (Super Cat).

Legends of Jamaica: A Tribute to Ska will also be available on digital platforms.

By Howard Campbell Observer senior writer enetertainment@jamaicaobserver.com

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login


  1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
  2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
  3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
  4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
  5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.
  6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.
  7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Which long-term investment option is more attractive to you at the moment?