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SINGER RICHIE STEPHENS HELPING TO KEEP SKA ALIVE!

BY BALFORD HENRY—
Observer senior reporter

 

SINGER Richie Stephens feels he is doing his part in keeping ska music alive. And, according to him, it is quite imperative as we celebrate our 55th anniversary of Independence.

“Ska is big internationally, but we don’t celebrate it in Jamaica anymore. It’s sad that we treat our own music like this,” Stephens told Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

Originating in the 1950s, ska is the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. The music is characterized by an outstanding jazz bass and drums, bluesy keyboards, and an animated Caribbean rhythm guitar.

Richie Stephens and Ska Nation Band

Richie Stephens and Ska Nation Band

Bands, including the Skatalites helped put the music on the world stage. However, in the late 1960s the music found favor among white skinheads in the United Kingdom. They embraced the music of ska performers like Derrick Morgan, Prince Buster, Laurel Aitken, and The Pioneers.

Stephens is hoping to do the same. He performed with his Italian Ska Nation band on the recently concluded Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, St James. The singer was pleased with the reception.

The band includes: Stephens on vocals; Papa Leu, guitar; Ranking Lele, vocals; Luca Manno, saxophone; Giancarlo Dell’Anna, trumpet; Gianluca Ria, trombone; Fossa, drums; Leo Klaus, bass; Maestro Garofalo and Lenky Marsden, keyboards; and DJ Morello Selecta.

“I was amazed that we ended up on a Sumfest stage. I am extremely happy that Joe really believed in us and had the audacity to give us the opportunity and the platform to showcase our talents. Given the feedback we have been getting, [it] seems like we delivered in a big way,” he said.

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Joe, to which Stephen refers, is Josef Bogdanovich, chairman of Summerfest Promotions — organisers of the annual Reggae Sumfest.

During his set, Stephens not only performed his regular catalogue of songs, but tracks from his debut Ska Nation album titled Internationally. Released last year, it includes Fire, Fire; Foundation; Salento; Internationally, featuring Sud Sound System; and Original Style, featuring Sean Paul and Gentleman.

“We are booked for some of the biggest ska and reggae festivals in Europe this year. We plan to spread the word and excited fans about Jamaica,” Rankin Lele said.

For Stephens, he is intent on spreading the ‘gospel of ska’.

“For years I have dabbled into ska, but it was not until recently that I took it on full-time,” he added.

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