Jamaican guitarist and composer Ernest Ranglin established his career while working as a session guitarist and music director for famous Jamaican record labels Studio One and Island Records. Playing guitar on many early ska recordings, Ranglin innovated the rhythmic style that defined the form, going on to work with the likes of Theophilus Beckford, Jimmy Cliff, Monty Alexander, Prince Buster, the Skatalites, Bob Marley and the Eric Deans Orchestra.
Born on 19 June 1932 he grew up in the small town of Robin’s Hall in the Parish of Manchester, a rural community in the middle of Jamaica. Music has always claimed a special place in the Island’s culture, and Ranglin’s destiny was set from an early age when two of his uncles showed him the rudiments of playing the guitar.
In 1958 Ranglin was leading his own quintet, playing the leading hotels in Kingston and the resorts on the north of the Island. One engagement was at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay, a show caught by a young would-be record producer called Chris Blackwell. Immediately Impressed by Ranglin’s extraordinary talents, Blackwell offered him the chance to make a record. The album featured a pianist called Lance Heywood on one side with Ernest Ranglin on the other. It was the very first release by Island Records and the start of a long association between Ranglin and Blackwell.
By the following year, 1959, Ranglin had joined the bassist Cluett Johnson in a studio group called Clue J and His Blues Blasters. This was a very different kind of style to the big bands. Jamaican music was in a state of flux, the traditional mento was superseded by a tough urban stance influenced by the pervading sounds of American R&B. Johnson and Ranglin recorded several instrumentals for producer Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd at Federal – the only real studio facility on the island. The first of these tunes, Shuffling Bug, is widely regarded as the first example of ska, the shuffle rhythm which exaggerated the ‘jump beat’ heard on New Orleans’ R&B records of the Fifties. Ska became the bedrock of Jamaican popular music, leading to rock steady, reggae, ragga and all the innovations the island has since brought into the global mainstream.
In recent years, Ernest has gone back to his roots and has made various cross cultural collaborations and concept albums. Now, after 60 years, Ernest is saying goodbye to the stage and his fans.
Cheikh Lô has forty years of music in his dreadlocks. Born in 1955 in Burkina Faso’s second city, where his father was a jeweller, this passionate Senegalese man took his first orchestral steps with Volta Jazz, starting out as a drummer.
As a vocalist, Cheikh Lô’s voice is unique – cosmopolitan, graceful, slender and high-pitched, pulsating irregularly. It can also switch suddenly to the bass line of Afrobeat, since the Nigerian Fela Kuti had left his mark on Senegal and Burkina Faso as well, and Cheikh has also worked with the Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen in 2010.
Lô has released five albums of his own music since 1995, the first being produced by Youssou N’Dour. The latest, Balbalou, was released in 2015.
Award winning alto-saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch is one of the most exciting and versatile young musicians in both the British jazz and hip hop scenes. Undoubtedly, one of the few artists in either genre with a degree in Modern History from Oxford University he has amassed an impressive list of accolades and awards on both sides of the Atlantic – including a Mercury Music Prize nomination, two UMA Awards and a MOBO for best Jazz Act in 2003. In October 2007, he won his second MOBO Award, at the O2 Arena, London where he was announced as the winner in the Best Jazz Act category- fending off stiff competition from the likes of Wynton Marsalis.
He has released four studio albums and in 2013 staged a performance of his concept album The Legend of Mike Smith at the Birmingham Rep Theatre, which encompassed dance and live music and received favorable reviews.
The drummer and unofficial music director of the late Fela Kuti’s band, Africa 70, from 1968 until 1979, Tony Allen helped create the sounds of Afrobeat. With his solo recordings, however, Allen has refused to remain stagnant, incorporating dub and avant-garde hip-hop influences into his modern African dance music.
A self-taught musician, Allen began to play drums at the age of 18 while working as a technician for a Nigerian radio station. Forming Africa 70 in 1969 with Fela Kuti, the group pioneered Afrobeat and began reaching out to an international audience. Despite critical acclaim, the group faced numerous obstacles, including financial difficulties, racial discrimination, and political oppression. Arrested during the first of a long series of government-sponsored raids of black townships in 1974, Allen spent three days in jail. The following year, he released his first album as a leader, Progress.
After leaving Africa 70, Allen has since released numerous albums under his own name and collaborated with a host of musicians, notably as part of Damon Albarn’s ‘supergroup’ The Good, The Bad & The Queen. His 2014 album Film of Life received widespread acclaim and he has been described by Brian Eno as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived.”