In the mid-1970s when he was a teenager in the Kingston neighbourhood of Waterhouse, Mykal Rose was exposed to roots-reggae and the message of Rastafari which drove that sound. In the 1980s, he was the voice of Black Uhuru, one of the genre’s greatest exponents.
But before Rose discovered Rasta-inspired music, he listened to ska, the jazzy, uptempo beat that is the focus of Ska Ska Ska, his latest album.
The 11-song set was released August 30 by InnerCat Records, a Miami-based company that specialises in Latin music. It is produced by Venezuelan musician Dario Amarado who also played all instruments.
“A song like Everybody Gwan Ska a tell di people fi hold a joy ‘cause di world get too savage an’ serious.”— Rose
According to Rose, Amarado had expressed interest in them working together for some time. Last year when Amarado contacted him, Rose said that he was ready to go, but wanted to do something different.
“Mi tell him: ‘Ska wi a go do, straight up’,” the 62-year-old singer recalled.
Rose cited the lack of Jamaican ska acts as the reason for him making a change in course.
Most of the recording took place at his home studio in South Florida. The result is a collection of songs including Everybody Gwan Ska, the lead single, and Need Love, a blend of Latin, ska and rock.
Fans around the world are used to hearing Rose belt out hardcore reggae songs like Shine Eye Gal, General Penitentiary and Abortion. He said writing for Ska Ska Ska was a different proposition.
“Right now, di world lacking joy, so there is a lotta pain an’ wrath. A song like Everybody Gwan Ska a tell di people fi hold a joy ‘cause di world get too savage an’ serious,” he explained.
Waterhouse is synonymous with roots-reggae, having produced artistes like The Wailing Souls, Don Carlos, Hugh Mundell, Lacksley Castell and Junior Reid. Guided by Sly and Robbie, Black Uhuru exploded in 1979 and made an international impact after signing with Island Records, the company that helped make Bob Marley a superstar.
“Ska wi a go do, straight up.”— Rose
After winning the first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1985, Rose abruptly left the group, which, at the time, included founder Duckie Simpson and American Puma Jones. He has since released several solo albums for American and European independent companies.
As he prepares to assemble a band to tour in support of Ska Ska Ska, Rose believes even his ‘bredrin’ back in Waterhouse will enjoy the album.
“Yeah mon! A man can smoke him spliff an’ enjoy himself. Is all about holding a joy,” he said.