It was a busy Saturday for Councilwoman Laurie A. Cumbo but she carved out enough time from her hectic schedule to present citations to veteran performers whose contribution to Jamaica’s music industry is indelibly imprinted in the nation’s historical archives.
Representing the 35th Council District, the legislator endorsed the city’s legislative governors acknowledging superlative achievement by pioneering Jamaican talents from the 1960s whose contributions with the island’s top recording band – The Skatalites—distinguished them uniquely distinctive in various aspects of their career.
Singer Doreen Schaffer, acclaimed to be the Godmother of ska along with the Godfather of ska dancing, Alphanso Castro and Sultan Ali who represented his father — popularly known as Prince Buster — accepted the high accolades heaped on them by an appreciative crowd that cheered their milestone honor.
Hosted by Jamaica Association of Vintage Artists & Affiliates (JAVAA) during their third annual vintage awards dinner gala in Brooklyn, the organization’s founder Dr. Luv performed emcee duties and also highlighted the pioneering achievements of the honorees.
“This is the only organization in New York that can say we are devoted to the preservation of Jamaica’s rich musical heritage” during that era, Doctor Love said.
“We have to thank these people for all they did back then when Jamaica did not even have its own music.”
Nostalgic reflections recalled Castro’s first visit to New York when he was asked to dance with the trailblazing band at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens.
He said he was privileged to act as ambassador for the island and in the process demonstrate his “skills” that added to the allure of the group.
Founders of the legendary jazz band included : Tommy McCook (died 1998), Roland Alphonso (died 1998), Lloyd Brevett (died 2012), Lloyd Knibb (died 2011), Don Drummond (died 1969), Jackie Mittoo (died 1990), Johnny Moore (died 2008) Jackie Opel (died 1970) and Jah Jerry Haynes who died in 2007.
James Haynes, the latter’s son who now heads Jah Jerry, Inc. attended the honors to accept a posthumous tribute to his father.
Tenor, saxophone player Alphonso — who lived in Brooklyn until he died in 1998 — was also posthumously hailed.
Beginning May, 1964, the group started performing in Jamaica and backed all the major acts on the island including Toots & The Maytals, Bob Marley & The Wailers and Prince Buster.
The gala held on the eve of the 77th birthday of Prince Buster lauded the singer, songwriter, producer and living legend.
He “is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska and rock-steady music.”
According to Wikipedia “the records he released in the 1960s influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that later reggae and ska artists would draw upon.”
His musical heir Sultan Ali, a California resident took time out to reprise the legacy of “They Got To Come My Way” – a song that dominated the charts for many, many months. He said he felt especially proud to accept the honor on behalf of his father but also that the occasion marked his first visit to New York and offered an opportunity to debut his own music here.
As newcomer Empress Minott serenaded patrons with a rendition of “Forever More,” a song vintage music lovers cheered with sentiments that her emergence to the 21st century roster of records will imprint a new generation of stand-outs.
As an encore Ali joined her to sing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”
Others in attendance included Cory Provost, district leader of the 58th Assembly District.