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Urbanology Magazine Theatre production brings ska to the forefront


Gimme One Riddim is a captivating dance-theatre production in Toronto hoping to educate people on ‘Ska’ – the grandfather of Jamaican music and predecessor of reggae and dancehall.

Presented by TD’s Then and Now 2013 Black History Month Series, Gimme One Riddim is a fun and exciting showcase of Jamaican heritage, sure to keep audience members engaged and wanting to groove. From the opening number to the final bow, the show’s cast dances to music of Jamaican trailblazers like Millie Small, Prince Buster and Jimmy Cliff.

Produced by choreographers Jasmyn Fyffe and Natasha Powell, the show is set in the 1960s and centers on a group of five men celebrating Jamaica’s independence from the United Kingdom.

“We really wanted to do more of a period piece this time and take people to a different era,” says Powell.

The show certainly does take the audience back to a time of carefree living and hope by using what the producers call Jamaica’s “freedom soundtrack”, Ska music. It also delivers an experience many productions don’t, an all-black cast led by five male dancers.

“With Ska music, a lot of the trailblazers were male and we felt like there wasn’t a show that focused on the black male perspective,” explains Fyffe.

Having that element is something the audience members certainly enjoyed as they hollered and screamed each time the men would perform. In a demographic that may be skeptical of showcasing male dancers, Gimme One Riddim pushes the boundaries.

“With Ska music, a lot of the trailblazers were male and we felt like there wasn’t a show that focused on the black male perspective.” – Jasmyn Fyffe

Dancer Hollywood Jade says this was a rare opportunity, as normally the men would be put against each other, competing for one role. “For the first time it was nice not to feel pressured and just to be able to go in and dance, it was really uplifting,” he explains.

The hour-long production had those in attendance feeling uplifted as well. Fyffe was thrilled by the response the show received from young people who aren’t familiar with Ska music and may only know Vybz Kartel or Bob Marley. Even older audiences left the theatre on opening night impressed.

“It’s awesome! Very high in energy, exciting and fast paced,” is how one man in attendance, Milton, described the opening night.

Also in attendance was Jamaica’s Consulate General to Toronto, Seth George Ramocan, who gave the show and its staff the highest praise for the production.

“I believe the way by you which you have utilized the music is something that is bringing in a new generation,” Ramocan says. “You are keeping alive the music and introducing it to young people.”

Words By. Patrick Dennis Jr. + Photos By. Martika Gregory

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