I strongly doubt whether there was ever any ska recorded in China in the 1960's. But it
is a well-known fact that some very important producers of Chinese descent were
active in Jamaica: Vincent 'Randy' Chin, Leslie Kong, Justin 'Philip' Yap and Byron
Vincent Chin was a record shop owner whose father had left mainland China in the
1920's to settle in Jamaica after a brief stay in Cuba. In the first half of the 1960's, Chin
was doing recordings with the Maytals, the Skatalites, Lord Creator, John Holt, Alton
Ellis, Stranger Cole and Ken Boothe. His Randy's four track studio, opened in 1968,
was the most significant recording facility on Jamaica, outside of Studio One.
Leslie Kong was one of the first producers to make inroads into the international
market. He produced the first recordings by Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley and worked
with nearly all of the top names in Jamaican music. In a well-known song, Prince Buster
accused Derrick Morgan of being a 'Black Head Chinaman' after Morgan began
recording for Kong. In the late 1960's Kong crossed into the UK charts with hits by the
Pioneers, the Melodians and the Maytals and achieved big international hits with
Desmond Dekker. Kong's Beverley's label came to an end on his untimely death from
heart failure in 1971.
Unarguably, the cream of the Skatalites work was for Justin Yapp, not least because
this Chinese-Jamaican producer was willing to spend more time and money on his
sessions. Famous killer instrumentals like 'Confucius', 'Chinatown', 'Ringo', 'China
Clipper' (Skatalites) en 'South China Sea' (Johnny Moore) were released on his Top
Deck label. Apart from that, Skatalites musicians also recorderd instumentals for other
producers, with 'Chinese' titles like 'Shank I Shek' (Baba Brooks) and 'Red China'
(Upcoming Willows) for King Edwards.
In Jamaica Byron Lee is partly resented because he is of Chinese descent in a mostly
black land and because he grew rich from a music he did nothing to help create while
the true originators ended up poor. Most literature is not always friendly toward the half
Chinese producer, musician and entrepreneur. And ska purists seldom agree with me
when I state that the ska of Byron Lee is fantastic. Bass player Lee put together the
Dragonaires in the 1950's and worked as a support act and backing band for touring
famous American singers. They also toured extensively in the West Indies and North
America and did much to popularize ska and soca, although many say their success
was largely due to Lee's business and political connections. They were, for example,
cast as the hotel band in the first James Bond movie, Dr No. In 1969 Lee established
Dynamic Sounds as the best equipped and most popular studio in the Caribbean.
(see also: United States)
Ska Boo- Da-Ba on Top Deck, with signatures of Lloyd Knibbs, Ronald
Alphonso, Lloyd Brevett and Tommy McCook