My love for reggae, or dub in particular, dates back to my adolescence, the time when I emancipated myself from the listening behaviours of my peers at home and at school, the time when my musical interest was about to mature. Still, my relationship with Jamaican music remained superficial for the longest time. There were no specialist record shops anywhere near where I grew up, no radio stations with a reggae programme, and the internet was still unheard of. I caught a first glimpse of what dub was through No Protection, an album by a band from Bristol (Massive Attack) remixed by a Guyana-born, London-based producer (Mad Professor). In other words an entirely British affair, music produced about 7,500 kilometres (or 4,600 miles) from the motherland: Jamaica. While I got closer to that island over the years, I never was fully satisfied with what I got. Thankfully that was about to change after I reached out to my Twitter followers. This book by Lloyd Bradley was recommended to me by whoever operates the Hyperdub account on Twitter, and it’s what gave me an indepth education on Jamaican music.
On over 500 pages, Bradley writes down the history of Jamaican music since the 1950s. From early sound systems playing RnB records imported from the U.S., which eventually lead to the creation of ska and rocksteady, to the emancipation of Jamaican music through roots reggae, then later dub and dancehall. The book succeeds in putting all of that into a bigger picture, as it relates the the story of reggae to the history of the island. You will read about the politcal situation on the island, its independence, Marcus Garvey and Pan-Africanism, emperor Haile Selassie I., the role of rastafarianism, reggae conquering the UK, the Notting Hill race riots, Kool Herc bringing soundsystem culture to hip-hop – it’s all in the book.
Whether you can relate to what I said in the introduction text or simply want to broaden your horizon, Bass Culture is a book I can’t recommend enough!
Bass Culture, When Reggae Was King