What better way to celebrate an election in Jamaica than with the ruler of them all, Prince Buster?! I recently came across this Swing Magazine dated January 1969 in which Prince Buster appears on the cover of the digest-sized magazine and the small feature cover story details, among other subjects, his recent rise to the top of the music charts, the characteristics of ska and rocksteady and the potential of Desmond Dekker & the Aces, and his brief boxing career (read more on Prince Buster’s boxing career here). Perhaps most interesting in this short article, however, is the discussion of Prince Buster’s conversion to Islam and troubles with the Jamaican authorities in becoming a member of the faith. When we think of religious persecution in Jamaica during this time, we tend to think of the Rastafari oppression at the hands of the government and colonial people, but little do we think of those members of other religions as well, such as Nation of Islam, to which Prince Buster converted after meeting Muhammad Ali during his travels to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York with the Jamaican delegation. Here Prince Buster had gone to promote his country’s culture and celebrate his dedication and pride in his country, yet the authorities in that country in turn harassed him for his own culture. I in no way single out the Jamaican government for being at fault in this, as I recognize any group or authoritative body is likely to persecute the unknown until there is enlightenment. Let us hope that we as a society evolve closer to a sense of humanism and acceptance within our lifetimes. The article is below:
During my recent visit to Kingston, I conducted some research at the National Library of Jamaica with my good friend and colleague Roberto Moore who has an excellent knowledge of the holdings there at the library. He introduced me to the rare books room where we went through a few bound collections of Swing Magazine from 1968, and therein we found the following articles and photo spreads on the reggae as a “dance craze.” The dance is done with “hunched shoulders, hands almost still, feet in a step by step trance, and a whole lot forward jerking of the torso and knees.” The article cites Studio One as ground zero for reggae music as Jackie Mittoo’s rocksteady keyboard blends with the “congo and bongo” drums of Afro-Cuba. The article below traces the evolution of reggae from ska and rocksteady, from Clu J, to Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan, to the World’s Fair, to Hopeton Lewis and Carlos Malcolm. Enjoy and kick up your heels this weekend!