“Oh Carolina” & the history of reggae & ska


Growing up in Southern California, the sounds of ska and reggae were ubiquitous. The lull of the slow beat of reggae and Bob Marley’s mythology hypnotized me.

Ska, rocksteady, and reggae are important historically (and musically) as they were influenced and directly descended from the Rastafarian religion/movement and contained lyrics of social justice, poverty, and the realities of third world living and taking a stand for oneself and people. Granted, some songs are just simply for the fun of it and party music, however, the political importance of reggae cannot be discounted.

Recently, a friend introduced me to an important historical song and artist in the history of ska and reggae, Count Ossie and his version of “Oh Carolina” recorded in 1973.  “Oh Carolina” was originally recorded by the Folkes Brothers in 1960 and some say is the very first ska song. Count Ossie actually played drums on the 1960 Folkes Brothers Version! In 1993, reggae/dancehall artist Shaggy did a version of the song that became very popular.

Count Ossie  is considered a reggae and Rastafarian legend. Here is a little background according to Wikipedia: “As a young boy Ossie grew up in a rasta community where he learned techniques of vocal chanting and hand drumming under the tutelage of Brother Job. In the early 1950s he set up a Rasta community in Rockfort on the east side of Kingston, where many of Kingston’s musicians learned about the Rastafari Movement. In the late 1950s, he (with other percussionists) formed the Count Ossie Group. His first sound recordings were made after meeting Prince Buster. One of those was a song by the Folkes Brothers, “Oh Carolina”, regarded by some music historians as the first-ever sk record.”

Here is the original 1960 version of “Oh Carolina” by the Folkes Brothers with Count Ossie on drums:

The 1973 Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation version:

And here is the 1993 Shaggy version:

One thought on ““Oh Carolina” & the history of reggae & ska

  1. Pingback: My reintroduction to dancehall reggae | ROOT NOTE MUSIC

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