„THE QUEEN OF JAMAICAN SKA“
by Sarah Juric
SJ Thank you so much for presenting your new LP But people would always go to Studio One, be-
“Groovin”in Stuttgart, Hallschlag tonight. It was cause at that time people wanted to hear their
a fabulous concert together with the Moon In- voice on a record. See, I never worked with
Bob Marley, but knew him and had met him
DS Oh, it was a priviledge for me.
there... and The I-Trees - Marcia Griffith Rita
Marley and Judy Mowatt, too.
SJ Do you use your name Monika Johnson or Doreen Shaf-
fer in day-to-day life?
SJ How do you work and produce the songs?
DS Well, Shaffer, That´s my name original. Do- DS From at home. I do a little writing on my own
reen - my parents came up with that. But, going first and then recording. I listened to Dinah Wa-
to school, I used Monika Shaffer. And going to shington a lot and this song „What a Difference
New York I kept using Monika, got married and a Day Makes“ made me sing „Adorable You“. I
became Monika Shaffer Johnson.
used the melody and put my words to it.
SJ One does not find a lot of information about you on the SJ And with other songs - do you from certain topics or
net. Would you share your beginnings with the Skatalites? do melodies exist first?
DS Well, I just worked with the band and started DS Ideas come to you. I might be singing so-
out very early, back in the 60s, in 1964. So I just mething in my head, a melody may come to me
made contact with a lot of people all over and and I put it on tape so that I don´t forget. And
started out with the Skatalites because we met in this is the finding for upcoming music. So I go
the studio. I went there for an audition at Studio to the musicians, try and develop something
One and was introduced to the drummer, Lloyd and they may help me in some or the other way.
Knibb. At that time they were studio musicians. They would say „use this line and leave out the
No band was formed or anything. So I was asked other“. Riddim same. And improvisation is a
to try something with Jackie Opel, a duett „Wel- part of it, too.
come Me Back Home“ and „Vow“ and then he
informed me that their intention was to form SJ When did you move from Jamaika to the US and reu-
a band and it would be good to have me in the nite with the Skatalites?
band, that´s how it started. I did my first show DS I got married and my husband was in Ame-
with them and there were a lot of people in that rica and I have two kids with him and we fight
audition, some of them not around anymore. So for our souls, that´s all I got back then. In 1992
our first show was a Matinee Dance beginning the Skatalites were already in America and I
at 2 o´clock and it went all day through til it was joined them in Central Park on a festival and
late at night. That was in Bornmouth Club.
we met up again and been working ever since.
SJ What producers did you work with during the 60s?
Music and performing was for man. But I´m
DS A lot of people that I was related to in Studio thankful I had my feel and I am still doing it.
One. But within the seventies, after the band bro-
ke up, I went to Freeport, Grand Bahamas and SJ Is touring different today than in former days?
stayed there for eighteen months in a club that DS No, it hasn´t changed, because I´ve been tou-
people knew as the Island House. I think it´s a ring for years with The Skatalites, so it´s still the
Casino now in place.
same. They are nice people and we never had
But I worked with Bunny Lee also with Island any difficulties. I appear as a performer and they
Records. So I did an album for him together with are doing their work while I´m doing mine. I´ve
another young lady, Niaomi Philips. She had a done many tours... some days you´re up some
good voice but wasn´t persistent. With Sunny of days your down. It´s nothing new. And with the
Light Gamble I also recorded quite a few covers. Moon Invaders one week ago, everybody was
I worked with Joe Fraser of Miramar in Florida. sick. So we got a couple of days off and everybo-
and Duke Reid came from London to Jamaika in dy is like new again. It´s a part of me.
order to produce „Read Me Right“. But I´m al-
ways at Studio One, Coxson Dodd, that´s where SJ How come you´re working together with the Moon
I started and always stay with it.
Invaders from Belgium?
DS I was supposed to work together with the Stin-
SJ How did you deal with singing, touring and raising your gers but they broke up. The first time seeing the
Moon Invaders was at a festival, somewhere in
DS Well, you gotta give up something for so- Switzerland. Well I came to them with my ideas
mething. For the kids I just took a break. So at a and they liked them. That´s how the fourteen
certain time nobody heard me or about me. And tracks on the new CD „Groovin´“ were made. It
then I took the opportunity and went back. I´ve was by the end of 2008 and before we went on
been up and down and been in the studios wor- the „Skankin´Round the X-mas-Tree“-Festival
king, playing a lot of concerts on Jamaica with tour. Really nice men.
Deborah Wilson, The Caledonians, Hortense El-
lis and other women like Phyllis Dillon.
SJ Thank you so much for the Interview.**
SJ Still, there were not so many female artists...
DS Nononono... it wasn´t easy, because it was
looked upon as a man´s world.