In 1954, back in Jamaica, [Coxsone Dodd] set up the Downbeat Sound System, being the owner of an amplifier, a turntable, and some US records, which he would import from New Orleans and Miami [***]
Theodoros -Ted- Bafaloukos: The people who began ska also began reggae: no more than two or three drummers, guitarists, and bassists. The quality of the singers became crucial, their ability to inspire the musicians. The sound was there, and the only thing missing were the little 45 rpms that had to be cut as quickly as possible—in two hours, even in a half hour—so that costs were kept at a minimum. The recordings would be done in rudimentary studios, the new tracks played in big outdoor dance sessions, over the weekends, traveling with vans chock-full of amps and massive speakers. This was music intended for immediate consumption. Later they began recording 45s on the spot and selling them in just a few shacks or shops. That’s how it was. And they sold more in the UK and fewer in the US.
[It was] Very localized. You could call it a ghetto, but it wasn’t really. Ghettos in Jamaica were neighborhoods of blocks built around courtyards, like Athens in the 20s and 30s or like African villages. In them were social structures with a life of their own that functioned separately from the broader context, which was the government, the police, the army, and the justice system. The local radio stations seldom played any reggae. They played soul and disco, as did the clubs.
Jean Bernard Sohiez/urbanimage.tv - Photo taken at a Sir Coxsone Sound System Dance and the man putting the needle on the record is Festus Coxsone. [***]
[They didn’t support their own scene?]
It wasn’t their own scene, because no one made any money from it. Only a few guys who owned the sound systems made any money. In fact, only two people were behind most of the first releases: Coxton Dodd [of the Studio One label] and Duke Reid [of the Treasure Isle label]. When the genre started gaining ground internationally, things began to change, and by the mid-70s reggae as we knew it disappeared. It was impossible for the same people to be in so many bands. There were only enough musicians for five or six bands. Bob Marley took with him some of the best. The others started moving to New York and London. By the end of the 70s, there was no one left. You could say that it all ended with the One Love Peace Concert in 1978. —Vice Magazine
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