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Ska’d for life

The Estimators - along with Petty Thieves and Rocksteady Rockas - set for show at iconic Camden Town venue

13 June, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

The Estimators will play ska hits at the Dublin Castle on Saturday

TOP-RANKING ska hits Camden Town on Saturday, as The Estimators and friends celebrate the classic Jamaican genre.

The Dublin Castle, long considered one of the key venues in the growth of London’s ska movement in the 1970s and 80s, plays host to the band, and they are set to be joined by ska acts Petty Thieves and Rocksteady Rockas.

The Estimators started in 2009 when bassist Marcello De Martis joined forces with drummer Phil Staines to play some ska at a gig at ­Kentish Town Primary School in Islip Street.

“I was in bands when I was younger, playing punk and reggae, and I have always collected Jamaican vinyl – 60s and 70s stuff,” said Marcello.

“At the time, Phil was playing in a country band and one day he said to me, ‘I’d really like to play some traditional Jamaican ska’. I was thinking exactly that, so we put the band together.”

Since their inception, the band, who are usually made up of eight members, have gone through a few line-ups but always sought to bring the sound of Jamaican ska to their fans, using singers and toasters, a horn section, drummer, keys, guitars and, of course, Marcello thumping out basslines.

“We mainly did instrumentals at first, but we then felt we would like a couple of singers, so the band expanded again.” he recalls.

Popular shows above the Oxford Arms in Kentish Town Road showed they had a winning formula – and now the band travel the length of the country to perform.

Marcello remembers hearing the likes of Toots and the Maytals and Desmond Dekker when he first heard ska, but he adds that such household names of the genre are a tiny fraction of the type of music he loves.

“When you scratch the surface you realise how much there is,” he says.

And an Estimators gig is organised meticulously, like DJs playing a record set.

They find tunes that fit seamlessly into one another, so much so that the final note of one tune will become the opening note of the next.

“We do one after another, like a DJ would do,” he says.

The music ranges from Western soundtracks to ska’d-up versions of popular songs.

“Ska tunes have been used by Westerns, by country, by New Orleans marching bands,” he says. “You have to remember, New Orleans is close to Jamaica, so the marching bands music could be picked up over the airwaves. It influenced the music there.

“And in Jamaica in the 50s and 60s, record dealers were usually sailors who had travelled over to the USA and bought rhythm and blues to sell in Jamaica. That first influenced the island’s own style of music. All thee types of music got mixed up and became as particular style, unique to Jamaica, which would then become the catalyst for reggae.”

Marcello tells the story of a school in 1950s and 60s Jamaica run by a woman called Mother Ignateus, which had a focus on music, and how it influenced many performers who went on to make ska a global name.

“It was called the Apha School, and it is where the band The Skatalites went,” he says.

“Mother Ignateus made sure poor children had access to music lessons and it spawned musicians that went on to create ska.

“She would teach them how to play jazz, how to play soundtracks from popular films, and from there pupils learned how to jam together.”

Capturing this original sound is something The Estimators do so well, while adding their own London twist to it. Expect a heaving dance floor, and get ready to skank.


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