Tag Archives: Chris Salewicz

A questionable view on reggae history

Island Records, the legendary label founded by Chris Blackwell in Jamaica in 1959, has put out a huge box set titled Sound System: The Story of Jamaican Music, as a celebration of Jamaica’s 50 years of independence. It follows the 1993 release Tougher Than Tough – The Story of Jamaican Music.

Sound System: The Story of Jamaican Music comes in a massive cardboard package and collects almost 130 tracks on eight discs along with a 100 page hardcover coffee table book by respected writer Chris Salewicz and photographer Adrian Boot.

This is an ambitious and impressive project, and for the reggae novice it’s a bona fide treasure chest of widely known, as well as lesser known, tracks from the 60’s up until the early 2000’s covering ska, roots, rocksteady, dancehall, dub, instrumentals and ragga. The emphasis is however on the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Smash hits such as Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come or Ken Boothe’s Everything I Own rub shoulders with Buju Banton’s Bogle Dance and Val Bennett’s exquisite rocksteady gem The Russians Are Coming.

The tracks are randomly put together and those longing for a set of Bob Marley tunes must look somewhere else. Because the only Marley represented musically is Damian with his Welcome to Jamrock. And his contribution is actually also the only tune released in the 2000’s. If I didn’t know better I would have thought reggae disappeared after the 90’s.

But nothing could be more wrong. Reggae is perhaps more alive than ever before with producers, artists and labels making themselves heard from the four corners of the globe.

And it’s a shame that Island decided to focus on the so-called golden years of reggae and didn’t bother to recognize the impact reggae has had over the last ten years.

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