Ska was born in Jamaica in the late 1950s, as the island’s artists put their own spin on the US R&B that had dominated sound systems for a decade. But in the mid-60s, as rude boys waged war in Kingston’s ghettos, the musicians slowed the sound down in an effort to calm tensions. The result, rocksteady, only had a brief moment in the sun – by 1968 the pace had dropped even further and the sound morphed into roots reggae.
But in those four years, Jamaica’s artists picked up and reimagined US soul, with groups like the Gaylads and Heptones transplanting the melodies and close harmonies of Chicago and Detroit to Jamaica. A new compilation from Soul Jazz records has collated rocksteady highlights recorded at Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One, with tracks from the likes of the Termites, John Holt and the Paragons, with sleevenotes from Rough Guide to Reggae author Steve Barrow.