Jamaican music expert and event host Junor Francis revitalizes ska and rocksteady in SoCal

If you’ve
been to a classic ska or reggae performance in Southern California in the last
decade, chances are Junor Francis had a hand in making that show happen. Junor
Francis has become an integral part of Southern California’s ska, rocksteady and
reggae communities. Born and raised in Jamaica, and having immigrated to United
States in the ‘70s, by 1988, he had acquired regular airtime on the IE’s
beloved independent radio station, KSPC. Inspired by his experiences with radio
and music in Jamaica as a young boy, Francis has worked tirelessly to bring
Southern California only the best in ska and rocksteady music, both via radio
stations and with hosted events at The Joint and Los Globos in Los Angeles. Recently
CULTURE was able to catch up with Francis
and hear all about the joys and hazards of working with ska and rocksteady
legends, as well as his lasting passion for radio, 20 years.

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You’ve been in charge of running “Skamania” since
2011. Can you tell us a bit about the company?

You know, to
be honest, I wouldn’t quite say it’s a company. It’s just, more or less, a
name. When I started working at The Joint, one of the club owners, Sire,
suggested that we should brand the name “Skamania” instead of just booking odd
shows.

Were you inspired to do that because you
found yourselves booking a lot of old ska and dancehall music?

Well, that
was our focus. Sire ran the club and provided the space, and then I’d bring the
artists in. So his recommendation was very clever, he said, “Instead of just
bringing artists to town, why don’t you brand a name that people will
recognize?” since I was planning on making it an ongoing event. It’s gotten
attention beyond the United States as well. It’s being recognized now both in Jamaica
and England.

In your scene, you’ve worked with many
artists over the years who are passionate about cannabis. How have your views about
the herb been affected?

I’m a big
believer and supporter of clothing, foods, paper and body care products made
from hemp seeds, and of course the medicinal properties of the plant as well. There
are so many benefits that most people may not realize!

Many classic genres of music are seeing new
interest these days. Do you see that happening with ska and rocksteady as well?

Are you
kidding? Yeah! And I credit it to the internet and video sites like YouTube. If
it wasn’t for that, I don’t think we’d be bringing acts down to places like
Mexico. People had never heard these songs before, and now they’re hearing them
and going crazy. In fact, I just got a message from somebody in Columbia who
wants help doing shows on a regular basis down there. Also, in Argentina and a
few other countries, the door is open for us to bring down that kind of music. Ken
Booth, Keith And Tex, Derrick Morgan and Pat Kelly are all going to Mexico for
the first time, and they could not have gone five years ago—there just wasn’t a
scene for them back then.

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