Securing the future
Lloyd Parks, Dean Fraser get behind schools' band competition
Lloyd Parks

As speakers at the recent Jamaica Best School Band (JBSB) launch addressed the importance of supporting music programmes in schools, Lloyd Parks and Dean Fraser nodded in agreement.

The veteran musicians came of age during an era when it was cool to play instruments.

Both spoke to the Jamaica Observer after formalities at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts recently.

The two fully support the mission and objectives of the competition which starts March 16.

Dean Fraser

Parks, a bassist who founded We The People Band 48 years ago, has been a judge for the JBSB and donated two bass guitars to winning schools.

"When I see the young talent and how they master their instruments, it touches me," he said. "It means a lot to me and I'll always be on board."

Prior to starting We The People, Parks was a singer in harmony groups The Termites and The Techniques in the late 1960s. He played guitar on songs like Double Barrel, a song that topped the British pop chart in 1973.

Self-taught, his bass lines can be heard on many hit songs by Dennis Brown including Should I, Love Has Found Its Way and Inseparable. Parks also played on Ken Boothe's Everything I Own, which went number one in Britain in 1974.

Fraser, Jamaica's premier saxophonist, was a member of We The People Band for several years. In the late 1960s, he developed his musical chops at the feet of Babe O'Brien, his mentor, then joined the Sonny Bradshaw Seven.

Watching footage of the school bands revived memories of those years.

"This means a lot to me 'cause that's where I started as a youth," said Fraser. He endorsed a statement by Ewan Simpson, chairman of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association, and one of the launch's speakers, who urged national support for music programmes.

"As one of the speakers said earlier, it [music in Jamaica] is to be looked at as something serious, and not something that if you don't get 10 CXC subjects, then yuh guh play music," he stated.

Parks and Fraser fine-tuned their skills in the 1970s, the golden age of roots-reggae. They rubbed shoulders with pioneer musicians, many of whom attended Alpha Boys' School, such as saxophonists Tommy McCook and Herman Marquis, trumpeter Bobby Ellis, and drummer Lloyd Knibb.

Their contemporaries included drummer Sly Dunbar, bassist Robbie Shakespeare, keyboardists Robbie Lyn, Tyrone Downie and Franklyn "Bubbler" Waul, and guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith.

Unlike many of his colleagues, Fraser never feared computers would replace musicians, even in the 1980s when most of the music produced in Jamaica was done digitally.

"That was a myth as far as I was concerned. There was always younger, up-and-coming musicians, so that was never in my thoughts," he said.

The 2023 JBSB, which ends April 23, has eight bands divided into two groups.

Pembroke Hall High School, Papine High School, St Mary High School and St Thomas Technical High School are in Group I, while Group II comprises Belair High School, May Day High School, Ferncourt High School and Lennon High School.

By Howard Campbell Observer Senior Writer

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