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Ska! Ska! Ska! and other Jamaican classics

Ska! Ska! Ska! and other Jamaican classics
 
Laura Angela Bagnetto

Jamaica has touched the hearts and tickled the stomachs of many with its multi-genre music and tasty food. There is a large Jamaican community in London, but only a tiny one here in France. That said, if you want to eat Jamaican Ital-style, you should hit up the only Jamaican restaurant around Paris, the Red, Gold and Green in Saint Ouen.

Located in the Clignancourt market, owner William Michaud, a rasta from Martinique, and chef Gregory Fagan, who hails all the way from Oxford Street in Kingston, Jamaica, provide freestyle Ital cuisine. Ital food is a Rastafari movement way of cooking healthy that includes a basis of vegetables without cooking with the seed, and for some, fish.

Michaud and Fagan prepare a mixture of salads and sandwiches made with coco bread.

Laura Angela Bagnetto

“In a Jamaican kitchen, an Irish is a potato, and saltfish is cod,” says Fagan. One menu item includes saltfish fritters, also called accras in French.

The Red, Gold and Green also features fresh juices, including hibiscus, carrot, ginger and pineapple, and includes an energetic drink called the Usain Bolt, named after the fastest runner in the world who hails from Jamaica.

Ska music, the melding of mento, traditional rhythmic Jamaican music, and Caribbean music called Calypso. Ska was in its heyday in Jamaica in the mid-sixties, and its happy sound paved the way for rock steady, a combination of ska, pop and r&b, and reggae.

Jamaican music made its mark on the UK scene in the 1970’s and 1980’s, including big ska groups such as The Specials and Madness. The United States was introduced to ska later on, and other ska movements are found in Spain and Germany. One of the most popular places to find Jamaican music however, is Japan.

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra is a group of nine guys who have been performing together over 20 years. RFI spoke to Kato, their guitarist, about the popularity of ska in Japan: “The uniqueness of Japanese culture is the force to observe and mix foreign cultures with our own and create a new style.”

He adds that this is the forte of Japanese culture. “Ska music is a style very easy to adapt to other styles. It works well with our culture, too.”

Watching nine men rev up the crowd into a frenzy is all part of the fun, says Yamaka, the saxophone player. “With Jamaican music, the biggest force of the music is the dance aspect. Not only with ska but with the reggae long beat that makes people want to dance. This force…has influenced us a lot as Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra,” he says.

Both Yamaka and Kato say that there is an exchange of cultures, however. One of their favorite tunes was not ska at all, but a 1960’s song called “Ringo Owaike” (“A Lonely Journey”) from Misora Hibari. This song was later covered by one of Jamaica’s longest-running ska bands, The Skatelites.

While good food and great music figure as the top two known exports from the Caribbean nation, other major contributions to society come from Jamaica, particularly in the world of agriculture. Thomas Lecky, a Jamaican, developed tropic-adapted cow, producing breeds known as Jamaica Hope, Jamaica Red, and Jamaica Black.

Those who use canasol to treat glaucoma can thank two Jamaicans, Manley West and Albert Lockhart who produced this remedy from cannabis.

Jamaican inventions also reach as far as India. Jamaican Joel Sadler, along with his partner Eric Thorsell, has developed the Jaipur knee, a prosthesis that costs 15 euros, to help amputees in India walk again.

Jamaica gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, and Jamaicans have been commuting both ways, shown by the large Jamaican community in London. Louise Bennett, a poet who addressed social issues affecting Jamaicans, wrote a number of poems in Jamaican patois, a dialect spoken more than written. One of her classic poems is “Colonization in Reverse," a Jamaican take on moving to England.

Playlist
Lord Tanamo, “I’m in the Mood for Ska”
Jimmy Cliff “The Harder They Fall”
Dawn Penn “No, No, No”
Nora Dean, “O Mama”
The Skatalites “Ringo Owaike”
Misora Hibari “Ringo Owaike”
Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra “Theme from Godfather”
Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra “Pride of Lions”

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