American rhythm & blues fervour, boosted by a multitude of sound systems playing 78rpm records on increasingly larger sets, gripped Jamaica from the late forties onwards but, towards the end of the decade, the American audience began to move towards a somewhat softer sound. The driving rhythm & blues discs became increasingly hard to find and the more progressive Jamaican sound system operators, realising that they now needed to make their own music, turned to Kingston’s jazz and big band musicians to record one off custom cut discs. These were not initially intended for commercial release but designed solely for sound system play on acetate or ‘dub plates’ as they would later be termed. These ‘specials’ soon began to eclipse the popularity of American rhythm & blues and the demand for their locally produced music proved so great that the sound system operators began to release their music commercially on vinyl and became record producers. Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, Duke Reid ‘The Trojan’ and Prince Buster, who operated his Voice Of The People Sound System, were among the first to establish themselves in this new role and the nascent Jamaican recording industry now went into overdrive.
In 1954 Ken Khouri had numbered among the first far sighted entrepreneurs to produce mento records with local musicians (mento is Jamaica’s original indigenous music) before progressing to opening Jamaica’s first record manufacturing plant. Three years later he moved his operation to Foreshore Road (later renamed Marcus Garvey Drive) where, with the assistance of the inestimable Graeme Goodall, he updated and upgraded his recording studio. The importance of this enterprising move was critical to the development of Jamaican music and its influence both profound and far reaching.
“It was Ken Khouri’s Federal Recording Studio, the womb that gave birth to the talented writers, artists and musicians that gave Jamaica its musical identity.” Prince Buster
Federal Records was not only the place for the sound system men to record their music but it was also where they had their records manufactured and, consequently, the company enjoyed a near total monopoly on recording and record pressing in Kingston. In 1963 Ken Khouri sold his one track board to Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, who established Studio One, and Ken imported the first stereo equipment to Jamaica and Federal began making stereo records. The following year WIRL (West Indies Records Limited) opened but the competition served to drive the company on to higher heights. Ken Khouri continued to work on his own productions and, in 1966, the seven inch release of Hopeton Lewis’ ‘Take It Easy’, recorded under the guidance of Trinidadian guitarist Lynn Taitt, ushered in the rock steady era.
These two essential albums showcase a stunning selection of well known hits, and not so well known rarities, from the vast Federal catalogue. All tracks have been transferred direct from the master tapes and assembled with the invaluable assistance of Ken Khouri’s son, Paul Khouri, who generously gave Dub Store unlimited access to the Federal tape vaults. The extensive liner notes feature extracts from extensive interviews with Paul Khouri whose knowledgeable recollections of working on Marcus Garvey Drive, not only as a producer but as an engineer and musician, are illuminating and educational. Both sets present an insight into the birth and growth of Federal Records and the Jamaican recording industry and are essential to an understanding of the real roots of reggae music.
Dub Store Records is the Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae and Dancehall reissue label run by the eponymous Tokyo based record store. The label aims at accurately covering the 50-plus years of Jamaican music, and pass on many rare and magnificent recordings, which are non-commercial and highly artistic. Carefully handing down the tradition of reggae music, Dub Store Records has so far issued recordings from labels and artists such as Studio One, Federal Records (Federal, Kentone, Merritone), Jammys, Bunny Wailer's Solomonic, Derrick Harriott, Kiddus I, Redman International, King Tubby’s Firehouse, Fam's, BMN and much more to come.
● More Dub Store Records info available at www.dubstore.co.jp/en/dsr.php
● Reggae, Dancehall, Dub, Roots, Rocksteady, Ska, Jamaican Jazz, Soul & Funk records at www.reggaerecord.com
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