Jama Rico

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"What I'm talking 'bout"

I've heard Rico twice in my life in concert. That was in 1981 with the Specials at the Metropol Theatre on Nollendorfplatz in Berlin. (The second was in Freiburg in Nov. 2004.) What I've heard in 1981 changed my life - it revived my musical interest. This music hit my soul while I had ignored "pop music" completely for several years. After I've bought and listenened all the 2Tone stuff, Rico's involvement led me to search for Man From Wareika and subsequently for other related music. What I found was wonderful, not only Bob Marley but digging deeper I found The Congos' Heart Of The Congos (and it's follow-up Face The Music) and other Lee Perry Black Ark productions; I discovered Linton Kwesi Johnson who's Bass Culture was another eye-opener. The music guided me further in two directions: to Jamaica's musical history (finding the Skatalites and lots of original ska as well as pre-ska music) and to Africa (finding a new musical continent and my place to work as a volunteer for several years in the 1980s). Never stopping to look where to find Rico's credits on records - hungry for his wonderful horn lines -. But since ca. 1983 and after my return from Afrika there was nothing more. What happened? The music press didn't say a word ... It was early in the new decade when he seemed to be back to life. Good to know.

Man from Wareika

Rico's music transcends something important, an almost spiritual feeling that has never lost its roots in life's reality. The foundation was laid already in the 1950s when he had to realise his poverty, when he had to play for food with the fishermen on the beach near Kingston. In Rico's words: "Because you were poor and had to eat, you stay down where the fishermen draw their nets, so you'd have food every day. Fishermen always give you fish, they like to hear you playing." (from an interview in 1973, quoted by Cane-Honeysett, 1995)

At the same time he made his first experience with Count Ossie's Rasta community at Wareika Hills. Rico says: "They're more developed, mentally and musically, than the average musician. When you play with them you can really explore. Most of what I know I learned from playing with them." (Williams, 1981)

This rasta experience - playing the burru drums - provided him with a link to the African roots, "his heavy African vibe" and one of his musical roots that had to be searched for by other black American musicians by going back to Africa personally like Don Cherry who once asked Rico: "How can you play like that ... To play like you I had to go to Africa to learn." (quoted by Hanafusa, 1998) or like his great collegue of the early Jamaican ska years, Ernest Ranglin, who went In Search of The Lost Riddim finally 1997 to Senegal.

On the other hand, Rico was classically educated at school and the interest of the young musicians during those early days of popular Jamaican music was jazz. So was Rico's and he remained linked to this music: giving many references during his recording career, from "Take Five" to "Red Top" to Jazz Jamaica - leading to a whole musical direction with the renaissance of the Skatalites in the 1990s, various ska-jazz-groups (e.g. Jazz Jamaica and New York Ska-Jazz-Ensemble) and not at least to an Island Records label called Island Jamaica Jazz with releases by the great names Ernest Ranglin, Dean Fraser ("It make me feel good to know seh well a younger man, from the same school like myself, is so excellent that you don't have no man fe better than him. No man better than him, he a de best ..." Rico on Fraser), Monty Alexander and - again - by the Skatalites.

Jazz kept Rico open minded. Musically open for new developments and for experiments he was able to realise or to participate in during the 1990s when he was no more depending on earning his living by doing other things than music. So - if Rico will be able to continue making music - he is now beyond 70 - it will surely be good music.


Rico Rodrigez' Biography



Day by Day


  • Grover Records; it's Rico's label in Germany since 1995; they've release one live and one studio CD, as well as two vinyl singles. Regular updates with tour infos. Their URL: and their Rico bio
  • Downbeat Special Tribute to Coxsone Dodd, by Rob Chapman

Enjoy the music, enjoy yourself

- Mr. Braunov, December 1999/April 2007

These sides are still hosted in their first incarnation at Rico's Music Now we have spring 2007 and I was searching for a better place I would like to move my content on Rico to this place!

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