Words by Jesse Serwer—
The Alpha Boys School in Kingston, Jamaica is one of the most significant places in Jamaican music. The four original members of the Skatalites—Tommy McCook, Johnny “Dizzy” Moore, Lester Sterling and Don Drummond—got their start in the Alpha Boys band; other notable Alpha alumni include drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Jamaican jazz great Cedric IM Brooks, dancehall pioneer Yellowman and the great singer Leroy Smart. It’s been called “the cradle” of both ska and reggae music.
Today, the school, run by Sister Susan Frazer, continues to be an oasis for troubled boys in Jamaica (many of the aforementioned names were orphans), and an incubator for musicians. (Perhaps you caught the scene in the recent Snoop Lion documentary, Reincarnated, capturing the rapper’s visit to an Alpha Boys music class; it’s the best part of that movie).
A number of efforts have been made recently to draw attention both to the school’s rich past, and current needs. A T-shirt line produced by Alpha Boys students themselves, with all profits going to the school, was recently launched. And, now, there is Alpha Boys School Radio.
The Internet radio station, which launched yesterday, will exclusively play music made by Alpha alumni. Now, that is truly impressive. What other school could pull such a programming coup?
Current students will provide on-air talent. They are receiving training in radio production by Michael Wadleigh, Academy Award-winning director of the documentary film Woodstock, and his US non-profit Gritty, which has donated studio equipment for use at the station, as well as expertise. In addition to providing public entertainment and building skills for students, it will also serve as a fundraising platform to improve services at the school.
“Alpha’s graduates have played a part in so many genres of Jamaican music that we can safely say Alpha Boys School Radio is a go-to source for the best of Jamaica’s music and culture,” Sister Frazer says. “And since we are a small school in a small city on a small island, the radio will be a powerful platform to share Jamaican culture with the world.”
We wish much success to Sister Frazer and the Alpha Boys on their venture. Tune in at www.alphaboysschoolradio.com.