Jamaica Magazine

Reggae Explosion: The Story of Jamaican Music – Book Review

About the Book

Reggae—a potent blend of Caribbean folk, American rock ‘n’ soul, Rastafarianism, and politics—is more than just a style of music: it’s a cultural movement. With more than 400 illustrations, many from the world’s most comprehensive reggae archive (based on Chris Blackwell’s Islandlife collection), Reggae Explosion charts the course of the rhythmic revolution that began on the tiny island of Jamaica and took over the world.

In their exhaustively researched text, reggae authorities Chris Salewicz and Adrian Boot tell the stories behind the distinct sound and capture the contrasts that typify its birthplace: the poverty, societal strife, deep spiritualism, and energy of Jamaica. Culled from the world’s most comprehensive collection of reggae memorabilia, hundreds of images—including album and poster art, portraits of such greats as Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, and concert stills—document the past 50 years of ska and dub, dancehall, even drum ‘n’ bass.


This book does what it sets out to achieve. It is a thorough history of Jamaican music and its progression. While slightly general at times, it covers the course of Jamaican music from the mid-20th century up to today- ska, rocksteady, roots, dancehall and much more. But what makes this book great is the pictures. There are so many photos and illustrations which give you a real sense of what all these musicians were like. There are also collages of many pictures for certain notable artists (like Burning Spear, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Luciano, etc., Marley gets his own chapter full of photos) In fact the book is just packed with photos, i don’t even know if they could have stuffed many more in it.
The book goes into how Jamaican music has impacted many other musical genres and cultures around the globe. For instance, the fact that the DJ and MC has its origins in the selectors and dj’s of Jamaica. The modern ideas of electronic music can also be traced back to the origins of dub and other production techniques developed in Jamaica (notably by King Tubby & Lee Perry). This island of a few million has impacted the entire world in ways that are still not completely realized. The roots movements especially has affected my life in significant ways for the better. This is a very quality book, full of excellent photos, interesting text, and an overall good ting. Solid stuff, pick it up an feel irie. – Xam

Where to buy the book:
The book can be bought on Amazon.com

About the Author
CHRIS SALEWICZ’s writing on music and popular culture has appeared in publications around the globe. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer (Faber, 2007).

About the author

Staff Writer