There’s a new tune getting spun at Murphy Towers, ‘Oystah Card’, a fun uplift of JamaicanJerkMixedU.K. pepper sauce with a dash of humour, a pinch of patois, and a suspicion of hit about it.
And top hole of all… it’s by someone I’ve seen perform on many occasions about the London Reggae revival scene, namely at Tighten Up a night that has morphed about Town for many a year. Mark Byer aka Mark Professor.
It’s got cheek, he rides the riddim like lizard pon a limb, it has a certain Britishness, it’s light, but it’s heavy (ish). It reminds me of that quirky nod and knowing wink that Kilburn and the High Roads had, that was thusly imparted to Suggs and his lot of Mad Men.
Word is Roddy loves it too..
In my role as Bigmikeydread Reggae radio supremo and self inflated fat person people send me ’nuff demo, ’nuff tune, ’nuff stuff, ’nuff already. Mark Professor didn’t, Mark Professor just put together with his crew a tune worthy of spondoolick donations from my very own personal wallet, albeit a Paypal purchase on eBay. Further word is that it’s all but sold out, not a wonder to this here one.
Being a short study of one producer and label from Kingston.
Stanley Motta was a businessman living in Kingston Jamaica who originally traded in electrical goods and began his recording ‘studio’ in the early 1950s, before there were any other studios or mastering and pressing facilities on the Island. He would have artists record their songs in one shot and the acetates would then be sent for duplication in the United Kingdom. These records were then sent back to Jamaica to be bought mainly by early tourist visitors to the Island. Motta recorded Mento; a style of music that is sometimes inaccurately described as Jamaican Calypso. To this day Stanley Motta Cellular Repair is a Jamaican company, specialising in electrical repair.
First ever Jamaican production to get UK release.
In 1952 Melodisc the UK label reknowned for it’s ‘Ethnic’ output produced MELODISC Cat no – 1214 / MOT 01-8. This is the first Jamaican produced single to see a release in the UK. Having been written and recorded and ‘produced’ in Jamaica the acetates were sent to the UK and pressed both for release in the UK and Jamaica, both issues of the single share exactly the same Matrices. This intimates that they were pressed by the same company, but labelled with two different record company labels. MRS (Motta’s Recording Studios) and Melodisc.
The Home Market
Initially local interest was limited, the up-market Kingstonians were not interested in what they saw as the ‘Rural’ music of Jamaica and it wasn’t until the western white tourist audience grew that Jamaicans themselves, at least the wealthier ones, began to take an interest. Poorer Jamaican families could rarely afford the equipment to play the 78rpm records on and so it was left to them to write and perform the songs that Stanley Motta recorded.
Mento is now a sought after collectors commodity, rare and VERY difficult to find. Once it was just something that captured a little of the flavour of a visit to the Caribbean and something to put away in the attic with the Hawaiian shirt, holiday snaps and Bermudan shorts.
Later in his career Motta had a few now rare 45rpm singles and E.P.s pressed and also released his music on a well known series of 10″ Lps, amongst them the ‘Authentic Jamaican Calypsos’ Series with vols 1 to 4. Some of the material released on these 10″ Lps was also released by the London label as ‘Authentic Jamaican Calypsos’ this time without a series number and a as a compilation of tunes that appear on the Jamaican produced series of the same name. In England at least this London Lp is easier to find.
Mento continues to be more easily found in the United States where the short hop from Miami had meant that tourists from North America were more likely to visit than other nationals. Of course the Brisith colonialists only left Jamaica in 1962, however it remains hard to find Mento in Britain for some reason.
Being a discussion of the recent change in pricing of revival Reggae and what it’s all about?
Recently there seems to have been a move to up prices for some revival Reggae singles, both 7″, 10″ and 12″. It began a while ago with Japanese labels particularly, producing archive quality reproductions of singles, namely ones from the stable of Prince Buster. These were even offered in paper sleeves that had ‘fake’ stamps on from the original store they were supposedly purchased from, with an address in Orange Street, Kingston Jamaican no less.
Soon followed by some rare’ish Kiddus I material on Lp and 12″ these items had been difficult to find and so the price being asked for seemed reasonable, but recently revive singles by a Japanese re-issuer of Bunny Wailer tunes, some of them not particularly difficult to find have been surfacing with an asking price of up £13 per single! These Wailer tunes aren’t the only expensive items around now, there seem to be more and more coming onto the market. Why?
What has happened is that less and less people are buying revival reggae, but not because of lack of demand! The pressing industry in Jamaica is on the downturn. With much less homegrown up to date product to press up and everyone in Jamaica and worldwide turning to Cd and Download instead of Vinyl singles to reproduce their current product the pressing plants are increasingly redundant and the industry is suffering. The demand for revive Reggae on single just isn’t great enough to sustain the Jamaican vinyl pressing industry solely. Without a wider demand for up to the minute music on 7″ single the plants don’t have enough product to press up in order to sustain them. We are seeing the demise of a pressing industry that has miraculously survived this far into our digital age.
This has meant that those collectors who want to continue sourcing revive Jamaican music have found it difficult to source from a width of choice, not that it has disappeared entirely, but instead if you want a particular tune, you’re going to find that tune harder to find. The vendors have found that the collectors are increasingly willing to pay ‘through the nose’ in order that they may continue to collect and so have falsely created a premium priced market to satisfy this demand. There is no need for this market, the songs they often offer aren’t that rare and could be sourced as better sounding originals for marginally less money in many cases.
However as I’ve mentioned, there is some product on the scene that’s worth the asking price, Pressure Sounds continue to press up extra thick Vinyl revives of Rocksteady and Early Reggae gems, and then if it’s your thing, there are releases like the Sir Collins Down Beat stuff of recent issue, which though not my personal ‘thing’ is genuinely rare to find originals of.