As Jamaica celebrates Reggae Month and remembers the birth of reggae music legend Bob Marley, this week’s post will focus on the notable Jamaican musicians that have shaped the culture and history of Jamaican music.
Jamaica’s leading female musician Marjorie Whylie epitomises the preservation of Jamaica’s diverse genres of traditional and contemporary music. As the musical director of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) Marjorie Whylie is responsible for the fusion of movement and musical complement into theatrical expressions of the culture and history of Jamaica. Whylie boasts over 20 years of experience in the field music, serving over the years not only as musician but composer, presenter, musicologist and educator. She is known for her ability to move seamlessly from genre to genre, blending effortlessly the sounds of classical jazz with the strains of traditional African folk.
Sonny Bradshaw the renowned trumpeter was a pioneer of the big band phase in 1940’s Jamaica. He formed the Big Band in the early 1950’s and was instrumental in the careers of saxophonist Dean Fraser and drummer Desi Jones who formed part of the Sonny Bradshaw Seven which he directed. Bradshaw served as president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians and educator on Jamaica’s music via his weekly column ‘Musicman’ in The Star newspaper.
The reggae music duo of Lowell ‘Sly’ Dunbar and Robert ‘Robbie’ Shakespeare has been hailed as ‘one of pop music’s most prolific and long lasting production teams’. Dating back to the 70’s, both drummer Sly Dunbar and bass guitarist Robbie Shakespeare were established musicians before meeting, playing for Skin Flesh and Bones and the Aggrovators respectively. It was not until the mid 1970’s when they joined the Revolutionaries that the creative fusion took place. Sly and Robbie are credited with influencing the development of reggae music’s distinctive sound throughout its early stages. They are also noted for the duo Chakka Demus and Pliers’ unique combination of vocals, having created their 1990’s hits ‘Bam Bam’ and ‘Murder She Wrote’. Sly and Robbie have worked with an extensive list of artistes including Grace Jones, Sugar Minott, the Fugees and the Rolling Stones.
Dennis Rushton, renowned Jamaican pianist, began his love affair with music at an early age. He began classical piano training in the Royal School of Music programme at age 9 and later ventured into other genres. Rushton was guided in his music career by some of Jamaica’s best including Marjorie Whylie, Jon Williams and Paulette Bellamy. Their counsel paid off indeed as in July 1999 Rushton was awarded the Best Instrumentalist award at the Annual Tri-State Music Awards in New York. His talent has also been recognised locally where he serves as judge on Television Jamaica’s hit series All Together Sing. Dennis has also opened for international artistes such as Kirk Franklin, Alvin Slaughter, Shirley Ceaser, CeCe Winans and others. His musical styling has been heard around the world, including performances in the United States and the Caribbean as well as features on BET Jazz and The Word Network, extending his reach to over 200 million viewers worldwide.
Saxophonist, manager and Musgrave Medal recipient Dean Fraser is one of Jamaica’s most talented and well respected musicians. His career goes back to the 1970’s and has included performances with the likes of Bob Marley, Sly and Robbie, and Dennis Brown. He is also recognised as a prolific producer, most visible in the songs and albums of rising reggae star Tarrus Riley whom he manages. Fraser’s talent and contribution to the development of Jamaican music was honoured by the Government of Jamaica with the nation’s 5th highest civic honour, the Order of Distinction.
Other notable Jamaican musicians include: Dennis Brown, Ernie Ranglin, Jackie Mittoo, Orette Rhoden, Desi Jones, Jon Williams, Peter Ashbourne and Danny Brownie.
Courtesy of: Island Buzz Jamaica