Here is a list of books that I suggest you search out and find to further your education on Reggae. -
I read “Bass Culture” after the books that follow so little of the factual information was new to me but Lloyd Bradley tells the story so well that I began to understand a lot of things for the first time reading this. The development of the music is lucidly intertwined with contemporary Jamaican politics and society throughout, always giving you the bigger picture, and though the author clearly isn’t a big fan of dancehall, he gives a very plausible and ultimately flattering explanation of its complete take-over in the 80′s – an event roots lovers worldwide have bemoaned ever since. Heartily, heartily recommended to anyone with more than a passing interest in reggae.
Not only an utterly indispensable record buying guide but also a very thorough account of reggae from the beginnings to Sean Paul. The perfect book for someone getting into reggae and I don’t own and probably never will own a book I have opened as much as this. Some of the record recommendations are a bit off, I think, and a book like this can’t help becoming old very fast with new reggae reissues and compilations appearing at an alarming rate (2009 has been a quiet year, though), but that’s petty criticism – a reggae fan can’t do without this book.
David Katz’s Lee Perry biography is the most meticulously researched of reggae books and the 500+ pages are spilling over with information. It’s also more than a mere biography as the whole history of reggae is unfolded to set the stage for Lee Perry’s life. The supreme focus of the book is on recordings and there is thankfully not too much speculation about Lee Perry’s “inner life” detracting from the music, though his increasing mental instability from the late 70′s onwards can’t help but play a part. Not one for the casual fan but serious fans will want to read it.
This book is evidently based on Katz’s research notes for the book above and it makes for a slightly stop-and-starty reading experience. I’ve come to use it more as a reference work (it has a 37 page long index) for looking up this and that. Lack of flow aside, it’s crammed with interviews and information and is just an editing overhaul away from being as good as “Bass Culture”.
The first and only book dealing exclusively with dub music and very different from other reggae books. It reads as a musicological thesis placing dub in the context of postcolonial deconstruction. Dub music is understood as a “disruptive” and “deconstructing” excercise, that is, in purely negative terms. But dub, surely, was neither the Jamaicans sticking it to the English or making some concerted effort against imperial essentialism, but a positive bringing forth of certain elements in their own music, reggae – if anything beyond merely a very cost-efficient way of producing music that worked in the dancehall. The academic theorizing has a sort of tagged-on feel which allows you to better concentrate on the excellent technical and biographical chapters.
Like “Solid Foundation”, “Roots Rock Reggae” traces the history and developments of reggae through interviews with key figures like Tommy McCook, John Holt, Horace Andy, Michael Rose etc. up to Luciano. It comes off more like an anthology of interviews, though, than a history of reggae told by singers and players of instruments.
For what it is, a reggae reference work running 320 pages, it’s surprisingly useless – half the time I reach for this to find out about someone, there’s no entry; Phillip Smart? No. Sylvan Morris? No. Watty Burnett? No. Kiddus I? No. It’s a passable first attempt at a reggae dictionary but needs to double in size to be really useful. To be fair, though, it does have a lot of good info on not too obscure movers in reggae history and makes for good toilet reading.
Ska: An Oral History
by Heather Augustyn
Ska: An Oral History is the story of ska music, told through the words and narratives of those who invented it. In Jamaica, and later in England, this music defined the culture and social conditions of the people. Through the words of their songs, the uplifting rhythm of their vivacious tunes, and the character and skill of each musician, ska music was the foundation for musical forms and the musicians that evolved. Hearing first-hand the stories of these tumultuous times, these creative times, the story of ska music is finally told by those who were there.
My Reggae Journey: Music’s Rough, Tough Roadby Roydale Anderson
Junia Reggae: The Journey from King Street
by Norman Walker
The Reggae story from the beginning through the eyes of aurhor Norman Walker. From the early days of Coxsone’s Downbeat and Duke Reid The Ruler, through the musical sparring of Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan, through The Blues Busters, The Paragons, The Wailers, Dennis Brown, Third World and a host of others along the way on the journey. Mixed in with the concurrent political, social and personal events that was ever present thoughout the period. Culminating in the resulting effect in the 21st century of outcomes pleasant and unpleasant unforseen in the earlier humble beginnings.