Richie, Cole get Gala honour

Associate Editor —
Auto & Entertainment

Monday, August 06, 2018

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PIONEER ska singer Stranger Cole and Richie Stephens will be recognised at the Jamaica 56 Grand Gala scheduled for the National Stadium in St Andrew this evening.

Olivia “Babsy” Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, said the singers will be lauded for their contribution in spreading ska music to the world.

“Ska is the first indigenous music to break out of Jamaica on the international scene. Pioneer and veteran Stranger Cole is still actively touring, while new generation singer Richie Stephens is doing an excellent job in promoting the genre... Today, we have more ska bands in Europe than anywhere else in the world,” Grange told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

Ska originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. The genre combines elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues.

Cole, who is in his 70s, said he was elated at the gesture by the Government of Jamaica.

“This is a good thing. I feel very overwhelmed by the accolade, as I've been in the music business for a long time,” he said.

The veteran singer said this year is a special one for him.

“In 1962, when Jamaica got its Independence, the number song on the radio was Ruff And Tuff, so this is a milestone year for me,” he said. “I do hope this recognition will open the door for a National Award.”

Cole, whose given name is Wilburn Theodore Cole, started recording in 1961. He said he recently returned from gigs in Europe and California in the United States where ska is hugely popular.

“Ska is big outside Jamaica... In Europe, Australia, Japan and Mexico. Everywhere else but here in Jamaica. I don't know why,” he said.

Cole's hits include When I Call Your Name (with Patsy Todd), and Just Like A River.

Stephens, who is a brand ambassador for the Jamaica Tourist Board, (JTB), will be performing with his 17-member Ska Nation Band at this evening's event.

In a release, he hailed ska as one of Jamaica's biggest exports.

“Ska is big internationally, especially in places like Japan, parts of the USA and Italy but we don't celebrate it in Jamaica anymore. This is an opportunity to educate the youths of Jamaica about ska and let them know that this beautiful music originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to rocksteady, reggae and dancehall music. In fact Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Jimmy Cliff, all started out playing ska as teenagers. Ska is the mother of reggae. Without ska there would be no reggae” he said.

He said he was pleased to be on this evening's line-up.

“To be invited to perform at Grand Gala for the people of Jamaica ranks as one of our biggest and most important assignments since the group was formed two years ago,” said Stephens.

He is known for songs including Winner, Buss The Place, and Slop Dem.

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