Ska bandleader Carlos Malcolm was an underappreciated figure of the music's early days, and also
made some recordings in New York in a more Americanized vein. A native of Kingston, Malcolm
received formal musical training and broke into the business playing trombone with the legendary
Don Drummond in a jazz group in the late '50s. In 1962, he was tapped to head the ten-piece house
orchestra of the newly established state radio organization the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation,
and wrote some of the first formal ska arrangements as a result. He also composed uncredited
music for the soundtrack of the first James Bond film, Dr. No (which was partly filmed in Jamaica),
and formed his own group, the Afro-Jamaican Rhythms, whose music melded ska, African, Latin,
and jazz rhythms. They scored hits in Jamaica with "Rukumbine" (1963) and, especially, "Bonanza
Ska" (1964, a reworking of TV's "Bonanza" theme song); they also recorded three albums, the most
prominent of which was Ska Mania. During the '60s, Malcolm also traveled to New York and recorded
three albums that blended a Caribbean sensibility with American musics. The Roulette release Don't
Walk, Dance! (around 1964) was the first of these, boasting a jazzy, Latin-flavored sound; it was
followed in 1966 by Sounds of the Caribbean (Scepter), credited to Carlos Malcolm & the Jamaica
Brass. Perhaps the most prized item in Malcolm's catalog, Bustin' Outta the Ghetto (released on AJP
in the late '60s) was a collection of full-fledged funk instrumentals that touched only tangentially on
So legendary have the Skatalites become that over the years every other one of their contemporaries
have virtually faded into oblivion. Certainly, all of the Skatalites deserve their glowing reputations,
but there were many other groups equally crucial to the formation of the island's music scene, and
they deserve recognition. This includes Carlos Malcolm & His Afro-Jamaican Rhythms. Malcolm
first came to prominence in 1959, when he was hired as the band arranger for the Jamaican
Broadcasting Corporation. An equally talented composer and skilled trombonist, Malcolm formed
the Afro-Jamaican Rhythms in 1962, and set about thrilling Kingstonian audiences with their unique
take on ska, easily grabbing the Best Band award from the island's national Daily Gleaner
newspaper. Ska-Mania was the group's second album, overseen by Malcolm himself, and engineered
by Graeme Goodall. Featuring such recent singles as "Skarmaouche," "Wings of a Dove," and
"Hopalong Kassidy," this reissue also tosses in the title track from their first set, "Bonanza Ska,"
today the group's best-remembered number. But the song that best sums up their intent is
"Skamania," led by Winston Turner's exhilarating, dizzying trumpet blasts. This stunning, nearly six-
minute medley exuberantly melds together mento faves, beautifully tying together that indigenous
style with the new ska sound that had swept the island. As keen as Malcolm was to incorporate
Jamaican folk music into the band's own repertoire, he was equally eager to blend in jazz, R&B,
Spanish stylings, and Afro-Cuban rhythms with the group's covers ranging as far afield as the
hymnal "Wings of a Dove" to classical (Rossini in the case of "Bonanza Ska"). Check out the
inspired "Hunchback No. 1," where jazz slams straight into R&B and rocks right into ska, "Tip Toe"
through cool, sophisticated Latin-spiced fields, or bossa nova along with the skanking "Sweet
Charlie," swing with the big band sound of "Run for Cover," or fly away on the ska-themic "Dove."
Like the Skatalites, many of the Afro-Jamaicans were also graduates of the Alpha Boys School,
signalled by their phenomenal musicianship. And with no disrespect to the late Tommy McCook and
Co., the Rhythms were a much tighter unit, with smaller egos, so one never hears the kind of jostling
for attention that fired the Skatalites' number. This was ultimately due to Malcolm's superb
arrangements, in which every instrument was seen as crucial to the sound, and thus treated with
equal dignity and respect. A phenomenal album from one of the island's greatest groups, one that
has remained in the shadows for far too long.
In the world of Reggae Music the Carlos Malcolm is known as a grandfather of Ska music and the facilitator of Reggae music to the world stage. Carlos’ Jamaican father, Wilfred Malcolm, was employed as a bookkeeper by the Panama Canal Company and eventually became part-owner of a large bakery which supplied baked goods to the U.S. Armed Forces stationed in Panama. As most Jamaicans do, Carlos’ father sent his five children back to Jamaica to be educated. As a young man growing up in Jamaica and Panama, Carlos was exposed to a diversity of modern Jazz and Afro-Cuban music in Panama. As a young musician he was also active witness as Jamaican music producers tried to duplicate the New Orleans and Shuffle rhythms which eventually and blended with Jamaican Mento Music. Carlos’ father had studied liturgical music and was director of a church choir. His father was also trombonist/bandleader, played a mean Dixieland trombone. He taught his son to play the trombone and gave Carlos his first lessons in harmony..
Carlos’ father had an extensive collection of eclectic music including the music of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Stravinsky, Paul Robeson, George Gershwin and the big bands of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Count Basie wafted through the house every day. Carlos holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was among a cadre of creative writers, producers and musicians employed by the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC). Their purpose was to create programs, which would showcase Jamaican talent, in preparation for the Independence Celebrations. Carlos helped to create the Jamaican Hit Parade, a radio TV program, which was based on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, with a view to ferreting out Jamaican talent in the performing arts and providing a showplace for talented artists to develop professionally.
As head arranger/director in the Variety Department of the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation in Kingston, Jamaica, Carlos Malcolm was one of the creators of the popular Jamaican Hit Parade and the first arranger to write formal arrangements of Jamaica Ska music. He penned arrangements for the JBC Studio Orchestra so that artists could perform live on the weekly live Jamaican Hit Parade. Many of the early Ska musical arrangements for singers were “head arrangements” improvised by the accompanying musicians “at the mic”. The popular Jamaican Hit Parade program spawned and influenced the careers of many Jamaican artists such as Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley, who became international Jamaican music icons. While at JBC, Carlos was commissioned by the Jamaica Little Theatre Movement to compose and arrange music for two full-length musicals, “Banana Boy” and “Jamaica Way”. In 1961 Eon Productions of London went to Jamaica to film the first movie of its James Bond series – “Dr. No.” The producers were keen on using Jamaican talent and music to capture the ambience of the island. Carlos Malcolm was commissioned to compose, arrange and record original, tropical background music for the movie.
Carlos Malcolm was also appointed Musical Director of Jamaica National Dance Theater and composed and arranged music for the debut performance of the
Internationally famous dance company at the Inaugural Independence Celebrations of Jamaica. His production company, CAM Music Producers and Publishers has produced commercial jingles for U.S. companies operating in the Caribbean such as Shell Oil, Texaco, Maxwell House Coffee, Vick’s Vapor Rub and many Jamaica companies.
Over many years in Jamaica and the United States Carlos has coached singers and worked as Artist and Recording manager for record companies. He has also coached
vocalists and delivered lectures on the genre of World Music.
In 1996 Carlos was inducted into the Jamaica Ocho Rios Jazz Festival Hall of Fame along with legenday jazz sax-man, James Moody.
In 1999, Carlos was inducted into the Artist in Residence program sponsored by the Arts Council of the State of California. He collaborated with a Child and Adolescent Coordinator for the Youth and Community Services of the San Diego Teen Recovery Center to re-direct youth by using music to teach the elements of Critical Thinking to encourage them to improve their choices. Sponsored by the Lemon Grove Project, in Lemon Grove, and the California Arts Council, the joint academic remedial program of Carlos Malcolm and Anthony Ackee called “Music?Yes!/The Age of Reason” was utilized by the San Diego Youth Community Services, The Balboa Academy of Arts and Sciences Community Day School, the Juvenile Court & Community Schools/ San Diego County Office of Education, the Children Youth and Family Services Network and the Palm Middle School, Lemon Grove (After School).
In August 2000, the Government of Jamaica flew Carlos and his orchestra home to play for the 37th Independence Celebrations of Jamaica. Carlos was presented with the Primed Minister's Award for both his excellence in music and for his contributions to the development and enhancement of Jamaican music, internationally.
Two years later, Carlos was again invited by the Government of Jamaica to participate as guest conductor in Jamaica’s 40th Year of Independence Celebrations, held at Jamaica House in Kingston, Jamaica. He rehearsed and conducted a 30-piece orchestra, specifically assembled for the occasion. In 2001, Carlos also began to write the story of his personal experiences and musical contributions to the various Jamaican genres, of which there is very little documentation. Carlos has dubbed the period of 1958-1965 as a period of “accelerated metamorphosis” in the history of Jamaican music. It was one in which Jamaican [folk] Mento music was “urbanized” by a fusion to the New Orleans Blues Shuffle Rhythm to produce Jamaican Ska music, the precursor of internationally accepted Reggae music.
In 2003 Carlos expanded his learning program and re-named it Back1bay6 – With a Musical Twist”. He was interviewed by Florida Today and the article published on the Internet. The article brought inquiries from educationists in several countries, including Canada, Jamaica and Australia. Carlos was invited to Australia in 2006 to deliver a lecture at Victoria University of Melbourne on “Bak2bay6 – With a Musical Twist” to a group of academicians from various cities and also to conduct a lecture/demonstration on the “History and Origins of Reggae Music” Australian National Public Radio. Both events were very successful. In a three-hour concert at the Prince Albert Ballroom, sponsored by Carlos conducted the 27-piece Melbourne Ska Orchestra as he spoke and demonstrated how Jamaican music “urbanized” from Mento (folk music) to Reggae music, popularized by Bob Marley. Carlos was invited back to Melbourne to demonstrate the program to the Australian Adult Literacy Symposium.
Carlos presently lives in Palm Bay, Florida, where he dedicates his time to creating childhood educational programs, taught through music, and playing concerts with his 10-piece band, Carlos Malcolm and his Caribbean Rhythms.
Carlos now dedicates much of his time to the developing of other academic programs in Early Education and remedial Adult Education, using music as the agent to deliver
Several of his albums have been re-mastered on CDs for presentation of CD Baby.