When legendary Studio One producer Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd died in 2004, he left behind a real legacy: Ska, widely considered to be the first truly Jamaican music, was among his most enduring creations. To pioneer the style -- which combines the understated rhythms of 1960s R&B, jazzy horn sections designed to accentuate the rhythm (not overwhelm it, as most modern ska acts are apt to do), boogie-woogie blues, calypso and a percussive yet mellow island vibe -- Dodd gathered together the musicians who wound up forming the Skatalites in 1963. Despite its reputation for promoting the "wrong" rhythm -- the beat fell on the off second and fourth notes -- ska developed into a happy, carefree style that caught fire in the dance halls and with sound-system DJs. The Skatalites rose to the very top of the scene, and their first hit, "The Guns of Navarone," remains a classic. Although ska soon gave way to rock steady and reggae, the Skatalites preserve a vital part of Jamaican culture.
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