Universal tells story of Reggae’s exodus to the UK

September 2, 2014

In a recent posting on udiscovermusic.com, the Universal Music-owned media publication decided to chronicle and detail the story of how the sounds of Jamaica made their way to the United Kingdom after World War II. This great and informative article tells the story not only with words, but also with videos, photos, and of course music. Below is an excerpt of the introduction, but we encourage you to read the full piece here:

It was in 1948 the first group of West Indian immigrants arrived in Britain to help rebuild the country after World War Two; over the next two decades the number of West Indians that moved to the UK continued to grow. Those come to settle in the UK, with the promise of a bright economic future, were confronted with bleak winters and arguably an even colder local population. With the “No Irish, No Blacks” signs confronting would-be tenants, even finding a place to live was hard. Unsurprisingly, the largest communities established themselves in the deprived inner city areas, often occupying run down ex-middle class areas like Brixton, Harlesden and Notting Hill in London, St Pauls in Bristol, St Anns, Nottingham, Toxteth Liverpool, Handsworth in Birmingham. The majority of the immigrants were from Jamaica and brought with them their culture of late night ‘blues’ dances at illicit drinking dens called shebeens. These would sometimes be in a friend’s front room, where they met to play dominoes, drink rum, and remember the Caribbean and more importantly to listen to the latest American R&B.

Back home in Kingston, Jamaica, the wardrobe sized speakers of sound systems like Tom The Great Sebastian, Duke Reid and Coxsone Downbeat and Prince Buster were blasting out Fats Domino, Little Richard, Lavern Baker amongst others. This was to be the inspiration and catalyst for the formation of Jamaica’s own music industry. Artists and producers emerged wanting to emulate and evolve their own music. Ska was born and was fervently bought and listened to by the large expatriate communities in the UK. It was from this that the pioneers of the British reggae scene established themselves.

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