PBS FRONTLINE Streams Alpha Boys Segmant

Posted on February 10th, 2009 by JJ Loy

If you’ll remember back a few weeks, to the post Marco Werman submitted to SBB- it was essentially his collection of notes from his trip to Jamaica.  It seems those notes have bore more fruit than just a few segments on the radio.

PBS has just released his segment featuring Studio One, Alpha Boys School, and Kingston life in general.  A few familiar faces pop up along the way.  Werman knows to evoke the name of Bob Marley early on, but he quickly opens the story up to cover many more musicians.

Great job, Marco!

FRONTLINE World – Jamaica: The Alpha Boys

Related Posts:

Guest Blogger, Marco Werman: Notes From a Sound System

Ska Online: The World Loves JA Music

Comments (0) Feb 10 2009

Guest Blogger, Marco Werman: Notes From a Sound System

Posted on December 8th, 2008 by Marco Werman

I just came back from ten days in Kingston, Jamaica where I was collecting program material on the Alpha Boys School, an orphanage that was founded in the 19th century by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy (to be aired on Frontline/WORLD later this Spring). Hard to believe for me, but it was my first time on the island. I got an amazing overview of where Jamaican music is at in 2008.

But I write to share a sublime musical experience I had in the Kingston working-class neighborhood of Rae Town. As you may know, Sound System-style street parties (with massive banks of loudspeakers that are more comfortingly bassy than ear-splittingly treble) happen pretty much every night of the week around Kingston, starting with Uptown Mondays at a shopping plaza in New Kingston with current dancehall hits, and going right through the week.

The neighborhood of Rae Town has, for the past 20 plus years there, thrown a Sunday night dance and party. The local paper the Gleaner describes it as an oldies night, and the people reflect that, sort of. There are 70 year-olds, all the way down to much younger people. Classes mix: doctors and lawyers from uptown mingle with an array of characters out of Fellini. The crowd shows up around midnight. The people slowly line up along both sides of the main street running through Rae Town, almost like a dance showdown, and everyone begins a slow groove to the music. Grillers with jerk chicken, fish and pork are common, as are sellers of ganja who wander around with small bouquets of the herb still on the stem. As the crowd builds, so does the music.

It’s the music that really drew me in that night: mostly old school reggae and dub and anything ska: “Fiddler on the Roof” ska by the Soul Brothers, “Norwegian Wood” ska by Jackie Mittoo, you name it. There was also a seductive selection of oldies like Dionne Warwick’s “Wishin and Hopin,” Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” and “A Change Is Gonna Come” (a kind of plea to the hood that crime and poverty can be licked), Dionne Warwick’s et al “That’s What Friends Are For” (a neighborhood anthem, in which the DJ dropped the sound right before the chorus, leaving the entire block singing out loud), Maxine Brown’s “Oh No Not My Baby.” And the walls of speakers sent all this great music vibrating through my bones and making me feel inspired and happy, and isn’t that what music’s supposed to do? It was the best party I’ve ever been to. I find dancehall monotonous with a capital M. And maybe Rae Town put me in a time warp, a flashback to the great old days of this music that is disconnected in many ways to the fast and furious business of dancehall. But what a great scene and sound that was last Sunday in Rae Town. It’s wonderful to be reminded that the Loudest Island in the World isn’t just about the size of the sound system. It’s also about some of the coolest music ever made and the whole world of sound that boomeranged into it.

-Marco Werman, Music Editor, PRI’s The World

Editor’s note:  I’m a big fan of all things NPR- and for world news from your NPR affiliate, there’s none better than PRI’s The World.  It is an honor to include Marco’s piece (written a few months back) in our new Guest Blogger series.  Here’s an older post I did, linking you to several of the stories Marco did from the above mentioned trip to Jamaica. Ska Online: The World Loves JA Music


Comments (1) Dec 08 2008

Ska Online: The World Loves JA Music

Posted on August 20th, 2008 by JJ Loy

I can’t believe how many times I’ve heard a great NPR or PRI story that covers Jamaican music recently.  That’s National Public Radio and Public Radio International, for those that aren’t hip.  This time around, The World, an afternoon world news program presented by PRI and BBC World News, sent their host down to Jamaica to file a few reports on the regions musical history.

It’s clear that someone behind the story, be it host, Marco Werman, or another producer, loves Jamaican Music.  These stories didn’t cover the recent Dancehall or Reggaeton crazes- the focus is on the old school stuff.  One piece goes back to Alpha Boys School, while another finds Werman on the streets in search of Studio One.

This stuff was nothing new to me and there were a few things said that I don’t think are true- but they were definitely worth a listen if for no other reason than to hear our favorite music being characterized as a vital part of today’s musical framework.

Here’s the links:

Report on Alpha Boys School (Featuring Errol Dunkley!!)

Rise and Fall of Jamaica’s Music Scene

DJ Dice Set List – A reconstruction of an oldies Sound System party, thrown every week in Rae Town, Kingston, JA.

Geo Quiz – Largest City in Jamaica – A total freebie, from what is usually a really hard geography quiz- but with a shout out to Ska.

Related Ska Blah Blah posts (hours of listening within these links):

Dub Online: NPR profiles Reggae Ice Cream Truck

Ska Online: NPR hearts Jamaican Music

Comments (1) Aug 20 2008

Dub Online: NPR profiles Reggae Ice Cream Truck

Posted on January 4th, 2008 by JJ Loy

The spirit of the Sound System is alive and well as evidenced by Aurelito and Shakespeare’s tricked out, 1960′s era ice cream truck. Instead of selling Bomb Pops and poorly designed sherbet on a stick, these LA DJ’s sling cds and spin vinyl for the neighborhood kids.

Get the whole story from this 2004 Day to Day segment. Link


Fans of my favorite blog, Boing Boing, might recognize the name in this story’s byline is that of the host of Boing Boing TV, Xeni Jardin. Not only does she have the hottest voice to regularly grace NPR, but she is easily the foxiest of all the BB.net editors. But we love her for her mind, of course. She brings a unique perspective to tech journalism by focusing on the cultural side of science. Yes, I’m a Ska Geek, but I’m also a Geek Geek.

Comments (1) Jan 04 2008

Ska Online: NPR hearts Jamaican Music

Posted on November 16th, 2007 by JJ Loy

Maybe you are already a fan of NPR. For those of you that aren’t- that’s National Public Radio. Think PBS, only radio. My love of NPR began with shows like Car Talk and This American Life, and has since grown to include the core of Public Radio’s musical programing. Shows like, American Routes and World Cafe offer listeners music and context that steer towards ethnic, traditional and revivalist styles and away from commercial influence.

Links of Interest:

Live Performance:
LIVE NOW: Toots and the Maytals in Concert
Dave Wakeling: Ska and The English Beat
Lily Allen in Concert with The Bird and The Bee
NPR’s All Things Considered: The Slackers

Ska Cubano

Gypsy Punk Group Gogol Bordello in Concert
Fishbone Flies the Black Rock Flag High
Jackie Mitto: Infectious, Philly-Style Soul, by Way of Jamaica
Ska Cubano: A Parallel Musical Universe
Bob Marley’s Music and Magic Endure
Bob Marley and the Culture of Reggae
Music Review: ‘Mento Madness’ from Various Artists
Jamaican Independence Day

Desmond Dekker, the ‘King of Ska’
Remembering Reggae Pioneer Coxsone Dodd

Comments (2) Nov 16 2007