The Rough Guide to Reggae is a near-definitive guide to the music of Jamaica. The island has produced some 100,000 records over the last 45 years - an extraordinary output for a population of little more than two million. Although few of these recordings have crossed over to audiences beyond the Jamaican community, it's hard to think of any genre of popular music - other than the blues - that has had a greater influence in the past couple of decades. Mainstream rock stars from Clapton to the Stones, the Clash to the Fugees, have covered reggae hits, but more important has been Jamaican music's effect on the worldwide dance scene. Major features of Jamaican dancehall culture - the megawatt sound systems, the exclusive "one-off" recordings, the foregrounding of drum and bass, and the practice of rapping over rhythm tracks - have been appropriated by rave and dance culture. Other reggae innovations, like the dub remix, have been assimilated into wider popular music.
The Rough Guide maps a terrain that stretches from the music's folk origins to computerized ragga - via Jamaican r&b, ska, rocksteady, the varied strands that go under the name of 'reggae' itself, dub and dancehall. We've included interviews with crucial figures and have covered in depth the unique phenomenon of the sound systems, illuminating their pivotal role in the progress of the music, alongside the work of the legendary producers such as Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid, Lee Perry, Bunny Lee and King Jammy. Giving an in-depth view of the whole history of reggae (including the off-shoots that have taken root in the UK, the US and Africa), we have covered the careers of such stars as John Holt, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Freddie McGregor, Sugar Minott, Frankie Paul, and, most obviously, Bob Marley (the one truly global reggae superstar), in every phase of their development.
From the bewildering multiplicity of albums we have selected and reviewed the best, including plenty of singles compilations, as the humble 7" vinyl disc is still the main artery of Jamaican music. As much as possible we've concentrated on CDs and LPs that are currently available but there's also a number of vital albums that may require a hunt through the secondhand shelves. (And given the re-issue programmes from various UK, European and US record companies, it's likely they will eventually be re-released.) On the other hand, we hope we've done justice to the numerous performers who have yet to show strongly on solo discs - and wherever possible we've listed compilations on which they appear. A few worthwhile sets will no doubt have been omitted for reasons of ignorance, and we apologize to the artists concerned and their admirers. If you think we've neglected someone, let us know, and we'll put it right in future editions.
We have written this Rough Guide because we love this music, which has provided a major part of the soundtrack to our own lives. Our aim has been to share some of the excitement and pleasure we have found in this wonderful, multi-faceted music that goes under the name of reggae.
Steve Barrow/Peter Dalton July 1997
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.