From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Working with producer Lee Perry, Coxsone Dodd began documenting the pre-reggae ska sound on his Studio One label in 1963. The Skatalites, ska's most important instrumental group, was his house band. Singers Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe and Owen Gray and keyboardist Jackie Mittoo were the most influential performers in Dodd's stable."--Sholem Stein
The Caribbean island of Jamaica was inhabited by the Arawak tribes prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1494. Early inhabitants of Jamaica named the land "Xaymaca", meaning "Land of wood and water". The Spanish enslaved the Arawaks, who were so ravaged by their conflict with the Europeans and by foreign diseases that nearly the entire native population was extinct by 1600. The Spanish also transported hundreds of West African slaves to the island.
In the year 1655, the English invaded Jamaica, defeating the Spanish colonists. African slaves took advantage of the political turmoil and escaped to the island's interior, forming independent communities (known as the Maroons). Meanwhile, on the coast, the English built the settlement of Port Royal, which became a base of operations for pirates and privateers, including Captain Henry Morgan.
In the 18th century, sugar cane replaced piracy as British Jamaica's main source of income. The sugar industry was labour-intensive and the British brought hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans to Jamaica, so that by 1850 black Jamaicans outnumbered whites by a ratio of twenty to one. Enslaved Jamaicans mounted over a dozen major uprisings during the 18th century, including Tacky's revolt in 1760. There were also periodic skirmishes between the British and the mountain communities, culminating in the First Maroon War of the 1730s and the Second Maroon War of the 1790s.
Though a small nation, Jamaican culture has a strong global presence. The musical genres reggae, ska, mento, rocksteady, dub, and, more recently, dancehall and ragga all originated in the island's vibrant, popular urban recording industry. Jamaica also played an important role in the development of punk rock, through reggae and ska. Reggae has also influenced American rap music, as they share roots as rhythmic, African styles of music. Some rappers, such as The Notorious B.I.G. and Heavy D, are of Jamaican descent. Internationally known reggae musician Bob Marley was also Jamaican.
Many other internationally known artists were born in Jamaica, including Millie Small, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Big Youth, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, Desmond Dekker, Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, Shaggy, Grace Jones, Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Buju Banton, Sean Paul, I Wayne, Bounty Killer and many others. Band artist groups that came from Jamaica include Black Uhuru, Third World Band, Inner Circle, Chalice Reggae Band, Culture, Fab Five and Morgan Heritage. The genre jungle emerged from London's Jamaican diaspora. The birth of hip-hop in New York City owed much to the city's Jamaican community.
Christianity remains a strong influence on cultural life, particularly in music. Most people learn their music at church, and Biblical references are often used in popular songs. It is not uncommon for musicians to be playing dancehall music on Saturday night, and church music on Sunday morning.
Ian Fleming, who lived in Jamaica, repeatedly used the island as a setting in his James Bond novels, including Live and Let Die, Doctor No, "For Your Eyes Only", The Man with the Golden Gun, and Octopussy and The Living Daylights. In addition, James Bond uses a Jamaica-based cover in Casino Royale. So far, the only James Bond film adaptation to have been set in Jamaica is Doctor No. Filming for the fictional island of San Monique in Live and Let Die took place in Jamaica.
The journalist and author H. G. de Lisser (1878–1944) used his native country as the setting for his many novels. Born at Falmouth, de Lisser worked as a reporter for the Jamaica Times at a young age and in 1920 began publishing the magazine Planters' Punch. The White Witch of Rosehall is one of his better known novels. He was named Honorary President of the Jamaican Press Association; he worked throughout his professional career to promote the Jamaican sugar industry.
A look at delinquent youth in Jamaica is presented in the 1970s musical crime film The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff as a frustrated (and psychopathic) reggae musician who descends into a murderous crime spree. The American film Cocktail (1988), starring Tom Cruise, is one of the more popular films to depict Jamaica. Another popular Jamaican-based film is the 1993 comedy Cool Runnings, which is loosely based on the true story of Jamaica's first bobsled team trying to make it in the Winter Olympics.
The Rastafari movement was founded in Jamaica. This Back to Africa movement believes that Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was God incarnate, the returned black messiah, come to take the lost Twelve Tribes of Israel back to live with him in Holy Mount Zion in a world of perfect peace, love and harmony. Bob Marley, a convert to the faith, spread the message of Rastafari to the world. There are now estimated to be more than a million Rastafarians throughout the world.