by Howard Campbell
ATLANTA, GA – Ronnie Nasralla, the Jamaican music business pioneer who helped market Ska in the United States, died January 20 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Nasralla was 90 and had been ill for some time.
In the 1960s, he managed high-profile acts like Toots and The Maytals, The Blues Busters and Byron Lee and The Dragonaires.
Nasralla and Lee, who died in 2008, were friends since the 1950s. They attended St. George’s College, a prominent high school in Kingston run by Jesuits.
Lee’s wife Sheila, who like Nasralla is of Lebanese heritage, said “Ronnie didn’t have a mean bone in his body.”
Sheila Lee and Nasralla gave demonstrations on how to dance the Ska when he visited New York in 1964 to promote that sound.
The Jamaica Tourist Board, eager to capitalize on Ska’s popularity in the United Kingdom, assigned Nasralla to help promote it the U.S. along with The Dragonaires who had a massive hit song that year with Jamaican Ska.
In addition to management and promotion, Nasralla produced noted songs such as Wings of A Dove by The Blues Busters and Daddy by Toots and The Maytals.
He can be seen dancing in the Port Royal bar scene in Dr. No, the first James Bond film.
In 2012, Nasralla’s contribution to music was recognized by the Tribute To The Greats organization. He accepted the award with mixed feelings.
“I feel I have done a lot for entertainment in Jamaica but have little recognition to show for it,” he said.
He was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaica government in 2013 for contribution to the development of the country’s music.
Ronnie Nasralla is survived by one brother, two sisters, six children and six grandchildren.