JIS News

An interactive exhibition on the life of Jamaican singer, Laurel Aitken will open in October at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester, in the East Midlands of the United Kingdom.
The ‘Ska with Laurel’ exhibition tells the story of the legendary Jamaican ska artiste, Laurel Aitken, who died in 2005. Described as a major force in ska music, Mr. Aitken was an influential figure in the development of new Jamaican musical styles in the 1950s and 60s.
He also played a key role in bringing these genres to popularity in England.
The exhibition will include audio-visual material, costumes, photographs, posters, and press cuttings of his work.
He lived in Leicester for 35 years and was credited for his contribution to the cultural life of the city, by inspiring and helping hundreds of young musicians. Long-time friend and colleague, Earl Robinson said Mr. Aitken was a truly legendary performer.
Mr. Robinson who wrote a special tribute to Mr. Aitken, told JIS news that the exhibition was a fitting tribute to Mr. Aitken, who had moved to England from Jamaica in the early 1960s.
“Laurel Aitken’s big break came in 1958 with the release in Jamaica on Chris Blackwell’s newly formed Island Records both in Jamaica and England of ‘Little Sheila’ (which) held the number one spot on the former Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) charts for 11 weeks. Laurel Aitken had claimed to be the not only the first ever Jamaican artiste ever to have a number one hit song in Jamaica, but also the first artiste to have two hit songs in the hit parade for 11 weeks,” Mr. Robinson explained.
He said that Mr. Aitken’s music proved to be popular in the 1960s and 70s and also influenced the ‘two-tone’ sound of the early 1980s, particularly with British bands such as The Specials, and Bad Manners. He was also a popular performer in Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Mr. Aitken’s career included working with artistes such as Jimmy Cliff, Owen Grey, Winston Groovy, Ruddy, and Skitto. He moved to Leicester in 1971, and lived mainly in the Belgrave area, with his wife, Sandra.
He was presented with community achievement awards from the Gleaner Company, and Jamaica National Building Society in 2000, as well as from the Leicester Society of Jamaicans in 1986. These awards are in recognition of his support and contribution to many local upcoming bands, and artistes in the East Midlands region.

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