Inner City Life – Ska & Reggae Mix

Background: Neighborhood conditions influence health, well being and individual’s economic chances for the future.  In NYC cause specific mortality rates are consistently higher in poorer as compared wealthier neighborhood (see Info-Graphix section).

Diabetes Mortality by Zip Code Poverty Rate, NYC 2013

Diabetes Mortality by Zip Code Poverty Rate, NYC 2013

The NY Times recently reported extensively on a large study showing how neighborhood circumstances affect the chances for achieving upward mobility for children from low income families.

Cluster faculty have conducted research showing that neighborhood disadvantage is associated with poorer cognitive development in children, higher body mass index, and smoking-related DNA damage in prostate tissue.

The Mix: The trials and tribulations of living in disadvantaged inner city neighborhoods has been a perennial theme for ska and reggae artists.  As the home to many early performers (Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Delroy Wilson, and Alton Ellis), life in the tough Trench Town neighborhood of Kingston Jamaica served as the inspiration for many early reggae songs.  The troubles in the Brixton neighborhood in London, home to a large Caribbean population that saw major riots in 1981 and 1985, also served as the inspiration for several reggae songs.

The play list kicks off with “007 – Shanty Town” by Desmond Decker, who counterpoints the glamour of urban life depicted in the 007 and Oceans 11 movies with the realities of violence in the shanty towns of Jamaica.  Three Bob Marley tracks reflect on life in Trench Town, while Steel Pulse similarly describe life in Handsworth, Birmingham. Songs by by The Clash and Eddie Grant focus on Brixton, while in “Ghost Town”, the Specials describe the urban decline they witnessed while on tour across England.  Finally, Dr. Israel sings about life in poor neighborhoods in New York City.


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