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The Indonesian Prince Of Ska – From The Streets To The Stage

The ska scene mushroomed in Jamaica in the ’50s and ’60s, with acts like Derrick Morgan, Desmond Dekker and Prince Buster at the fore. The genre was birthed as early producers and sound system operators like Clement ‘Sir Coxsone’ Dodd sought to develop a Jamaican-bred form of music, instead of waiting on the latest releases from the American jazz and blues market. Despite its influence on subsequent genres like rocksteady and reggae, ska has lost its glory days in Jamaica, and has taken flight in southeast Asia.

One of the prominent ska figures in that part of the world is Denny Frust, a 38-year-old Indonesian singer who is deemed the Prince of Ska in his homeland. Listening to his body of work spanning two decades, one could almost believe it was produced at the hands of Buster himself, as the off-beat guitar chop (skank with horns), use of sax and drums incorporated with a kicking bass are consistent with ska formations. The only difference is the foreign voice of Frust, who speaks Indonesian.

Born Richard Nope in Surabaya, the entertainer said his father introduced him to music and he started singing at the age of five. It was his time at secondary school that exposed him to Jamaican music. “I was in the second year of high school when I started falling in love with ska music from the first time I heard the bass and the drum beat,” he told The Gleaner. “I listened to The Skatalites, The Paragons, Justin Hinds & The Dominoes, Toots Hibbert, John Holt, Desmond Dekker, Pat Kelly, Prince Buster … so many Jamaican artistes have inspired me.”

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