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Pama International: It Exists in the UK

There aren’t too many places in the world where a musician can make a living – and kind of be a star – while playing Jamaican based music of any variety. And while Bob Marley tribute bands are going to be a constant draw – and a consternation – the likes of Pama International won’t be waiting around for multi-million dollar contracts, MTV videos and tours with the Gorillaz.

Well, probably not.

Regardless of the group’s lot in the musical world, Finny, Sean Flowerdew and their affiliated consort, which occasionally includes former Specials’ player Lynval Golding, has been issuing music for something like fifteen years at this point. Pama International’s career now spans the American third wave, a brief turn of the millennium fascination with modern roots and now the whole dubstep thing.

Remaining relatively true to one’s initial vision in a band that doesn’t now, nor at its inception, have too much chance at stardom is truly laudable. What’s as cool as that, though, is the Pama crew was able to record an album with Mad Professor – another UK based JA music aficionado.

The collaborative album, Rewired! In Dub, finds the younger group recasting some Mad Prof work from days past. And while there are moments that work, indisputably “Dubstance,” there’s a persistence of new sounds that serves to mitigate some of the album’s success. That doesn’t mean Rewired! should be relegated to the dustbin, but all involved have more to do with the British Isles than a Caribbean one. And it shows.

Either way, a few years on and Pama International went and issued Pama Outernational. The album looks like it should be about forty years old at this point – it’s probably supposed to. But even beyond the fact that an album looking like this isn’t going to move a single unit, songs like “Are We Saved Yet?” are too upbeat for most current JA music fans. The one’s in passing, at least.

The track works as a protest song while the vocalist (Lynval?) wonders how much more singing needs to be done before some tenable situation is reached. There’s not answer now, nor was there one just about forty years ago when folks were singing the same thing.

Pama International couldn’t exist outside of the UK – Outernational, while titled in a clever manner, wouldn’t do well in the States. But that’s part of why the States and the UK sport different popular music trends. It makes Pama a rarified thing, though.