FROM JAMAICA WITH LOVE
Record Collector’s selectors pick 10 great 45s for each year the reggae island has been independent
Jamaica was declared independent on 6 August 1962. Celebrations of the nation’s 50th birthday – in typically exuberant style – have been going on all year. Despite the best efforts of its athletes, writers, artists, chefs, comedians and actors, and the legions of less celebrated but no less vital figures who have exported their labour worldwide, there is no doubt that it’s the music of the island that has really made Jamaica’s mark on the world.
This body of work – generically known as reggae, but in fact a wide variety of rhythmic and melodic styles that vary from ska to bashment, taking in dub, rocksteady, ragga, digi, and all manner of variants in between – is remarkably large. It’s said that, per head of population, Jamaica has more recording artists than anywhere else. Collectors who innocently wander into this field of music are walking into a bottomless pit, with innumerable artists recording on myriad labels. During one period of the late 80s, for example, Gregory Isaacs was releasing over 10 singles a month – month after month. Many reggae records command hundreds of pounds, yet that doesn’t make them artistically great, musically or culturally significant, or even interesting: many are trophy records, collected by obsessives who must own that particular record at any cost. In this …
by Ian McCann
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