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13th of November 2018


Without honour

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Jamaicans have made a significant contribution to the diversity of British pop music. Despite this, most have been overlooked for national recognition by their country's Government. Here are four of them:

Desmond Dekker: One of the forerunners for reggae's popularity in the United Kingdom, Dekker and his harmony group The Aces had two massive hit songs there in the late 1960s — (007) Shantytown and Israelites. The Kingston-born singer moved to the UK in the late 1960s and became a hero in the West Indian community and to white musicians like The Specials, The Clash and UB40. Dekker continued to tour Europe until the time of his death in 2006.

Duke Vin (Vincent George Forbes): British reggae authorities laud West Kingston-born Vin as owner and operator of the first sound system in the UK — Count Vin The Tickler's. He started that sound system in 1955, one year after arriving in England as a stowaway on a boat. Count Vin's greatest legacy is the Notting Hill Carnival which he co-founded in 1973, and where he performed regularly until his death at age 84 in November 2012.

Sonny Roberts: Born in Spicy Grove, Manchester, this carpenter went to the UK in 1958 and settled in London. Three years later he became the first Jamaican to open a recording studio there by producing and releasing songs by saxophonist Mike Elliott and trombonist Rico Rodriquez for his Planetone label. By the 1970s, Roberts had established the Orbitone imprint which produced some of the first songs featuring a sound that would become popular, first as Afro-Beat then World Beat. In the late 1970s, Orbitone had a successful run with the emerging lovers' rock beat. Now 86, he lives in St Andrew.

Lee Gopthal: The Kingston-born Gopthal moved to London in 1952 at age 13 to learn bookkeeping. He started Trojan Records 50 years ago in London with Chris Blackwell and played a critical role in exposing Jamaican music and pop culture to the UK mainstream. Trojan had a hand in promoting many of the biggest reggae songs released there in the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, including Young, Gifted and Black by Bob and Marcia, Help Me Make It Through The Night (John Holt) and Everything I Own (Ken Boothe). His work as an administrator is being acknowledged in the UK this year as Trojan celebrates its golden anniversary. He died in 1997.

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