Prince Buster – Death of A Musical Icon

On  Thursday September  8, I stopped by Herbie Miller, Curator of the Jamaica Music Museum at the Institute of Jamaica.

It was sad news on meeting Herbie as he told me Prince Busta was dead. The great musical icon, King of the Ska had been ailing for some time and finally has departed from us .

Nostalgia knocked me as I remember seeing Busta busy at work at his business place on Orange Street when we walked from Wolmer’s to downtown to take our bus to our homes in Kingston. I also reflected on the time at high school I used to tell his son how great his father was.

Prince Buster influenced my generation  with his ska and rocksteady music which emanated from the radios and the jukeboxes of the day.


‘Busta’ was as popular in my early childhood as Movado, Sizzler, Kartel Shawn Paul or the host of Jamaican musicians and entertainers we now have.

By Yerpo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
By Yerpo – via Commons

Every childhood friend I had knew Busta’s music word for word.  The proprietor’s of the  village shops and groceries in St. Ann would make sure they come to downtown monthly to acquire the latest Busta record.

Busta’s music would always a part of the early dances held at bamboo enclosed lawns, jukebox spaces, shop piazzas, market houses such as Alexandria and Cave Valley Markets.

The steel horns and sound systems such as Larkie’s, Cleve and Sir Davis would have not pleased the people without playing Busta’s music.

In the mid 1960’s Busta’s Judge Dread, Alcapone, Ten Commandments or Madness saturated the air of mass communication platforms such as Radio Jamaica and Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation.

The disc jockeys of those days made sure the Jamaican people listened and enjoyed the music of this icon. Busta’s music was likeable as it resonated with social issues though it dabbled in the trite and lewdness which was always the distinct character of “yard” music.

Busta was a prolific producer or creator of Jamaican music and set the rivalry for many. In fact some of his music was a retort to the lyrics and contents of other rival ska producers. Whatever his lyrics, the Jamaican masses consumed his records and thoroughly remain in sync with his songs.


The King of the sky toned down when he became a Black Muslim.  It was again radio which aired his opinions, theology  and philosophy which he would appear on expounding his new found faith. It did not take away from his greatness in the secular world.

Busta’s death gives us time to reflect on the creative geniuses of our people especially those from the inner cities and rural  Jamaica.  Because of their talent  our music is known throughout the world and we have made more popular music per capita than any other country. Isn’t that an achievement?

May his soul rest in peace.

By Winston Donald

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Winston Donald

My name is Winston Donald. I am currently completing a MA in Cultural Studies researching Street Art ( from a cultural studies perspective) I am Recruiting Officer and Enrollment Officer for University College of the Caribbean, New Kingston. I contribute to the Commonwealth Short StoryCompetition Columnist for the defunct Sunday Herald Newspaper Author on Marijuana : Export trade and Rural economics (manuscript being completed) Author on Rural Jamaican Cooking Creator of The Diaspora - Word Press blog Contributor to Sun Sentinel newspaper of South Florida Regular/Frequent contributor to the Gleaner and Observer newspaper