Reggae's pulsating rhythms and appeals for social justice have galvanized music audiences all over the world
The Story of Jamaican Music
Search the full text of this book
Kevin O'Brien Chang and Wayne Chen
Bob Marley's recordings, some twenty years after his death, still enjoy enormous international popularity. For popular music fans in most of the world, reggae looms so large as to be Jamaica's only music and Marley its consummate musician. In this book, Jamaicans Kevin Chang and Wayne Chen, offer a history of reggae, accounting for its rise and devolution.
Jamaican music can be roughly divided into four eras, each with a distinctive beat-ska, rocksteady, reggae, and dancehall. Ska dates from about 1960 to mid-1966 and rocksteady from 1966 to 1968, while from 1969 to 1983 reggae was the popular beat. The reggae era had two phases, "early reggae" up to 1f and "roots reggae" up to 1983. Since 1983 dancehall has been the prevalent sound.
The authors describe each stage in the development of the music, identifying the most popular songs and artists, highlighting the significant social, political, and economic issues as they affected the musical scene. While they write from a Jamaican perspective, the intended audience is "any person, local or foreign, interested in an intelligent discussion of reggae music and Jamaica."
Featuring some four hundred illustrations that range from album covers and posters to rare photos, Reggae Routes profiles the innumerable artists, producers, and recordings that secured an international audience for Jamaican music.
Artists discussed: Toots and the Maytals, the Wailers, Gaylads, Desmond Dekker, Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis, Burning Spear, Itals, Wailing Souls, Skatalites, Heptones, and hundreds more.
"...Reggae means real music, music that tells a good story, music you can make sense out of. At first reggae sort of mean untidy or scruffy. But then it start to mean like coming from the people. Everyday things. From the ghetto. From the majority. Things people use every day like food, we just put music to and make a dance out of it. Reggae mean regular people who are suffering and don't have what they want."
"In an intelligent, accessible and entertaining book, two Jamaican amateurs divide the island's popular music since 1960 into four rough erasska, rocksteady, reggae, dancehall. ...This history and the subsequent analysis of important songs are punctuated by 400 sharp archival photos, eye-catching graphics and boxed articles on various cultural issues and personalities. The appendices here include not only a bibliography, notes and index by artist, but also lists of the top hits by year and artist rankings that are based on what islandersnot foreignerslove best. The authors' exploration and celebration of their island's far-reaching culture makes this both a crash course in Jamaican history and a fine guide to developing a 'riddim' record collection."
Read a review from Caribbean Studies Newsletter, Volume 29.1 (Spring 2002), written by Julian M. Smothers (pdf).
Read a review from Yearbook for Traditional Music, Volume 31 (1999), written by Daniel T. Neely (pdf).
Part I: The History
Part II: The Sounds
Kevin O'Brien Chang holds an MBA from the University of Toronto. He lives and operates a business in rural Jamaica. An occasional freelance writer, he has contributed to the Toronto Star, the Jamaica Gleaner, and the Jamaica Observer. His music interest ranges from reggae to the opera.
Wayne Chen holds a degree in law from the University of the West Indies. He is currently Chief Executive Officer of Jamaica's largest supermarket chain.