A key figure in the emergence of reggae/dancehall in the tri-state area, John “Rafael” Allen was a member of the influential fusion band Monyaka and played keyboards on some of the biggest dancehall hits of the 1990s.
A ska man at heart, Allen spent the last five years crafting ‘Legends of Jamaica: A Tribute to Ska’, a 34-song album featuring some of the biggest names in reggae reworking songs they made famous.
‘Legends of Jamaica’ will be released on April 28 by Skaville Music, a company Allen operates with Watty Burnett of The Congos.
“This is something we wanted to do for a long time. We reached out to the artists, and they were quite receptive to our plans, and we think people will appreciate it,” said Allen.
The project comprises four vinyl albums but will also be available digitally. Some of the artists and songs on ‘Legends of Jamaica’ are Bunny Wailer (‘This Train’), The Melodians (‘By The Rivers of Babylon’), Winston Francis (‘Mister Fix It’), The Abyssinians (‘Forward on to Zion’) and Ken Boothe (‘Home Home Home’).
Originally from East Kingston, Allen was inspired to become a musician after watching the legendary band, The Skatalites, rehearse in his hometown during the mid-1960s. He played in various bands after migrating to New York City during the early 1970s, the most famous being Monyaka which was once signed to A&M Records
In the 1990s, Allen played keyboards on numerous hit songs such as ‘Oh Carolina’ and ‘Boombastic’ by Shaggy, ‘Cabin Stabbing’ by Nicodemus, Junior Cat and Super Cat and ‘Hot This Year’ by Dirtsman.