The History of Reggae

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This is an unfinished draft of a poster project I started and could hardly extricate from, to diagram the history of Reggae. What inspired it was this quote from Paul Gilroy:

“Both soul and reggae consciously reconstruct and celebrate their own histories through complex sequences of answer records in which different artists criticize and comment on each other’s work or extend a narrative over several discs by putting different points of view. In reggae, the same idea has been refined to a point where an alternative sense of time and historical process is one of the most important effects of music. For example, in the nine months following the release of Wayne Smith’s ‘Under Mi Sleng Tend’ in 1985, an estimated 239 versions of the rhythm were produced by different artists. Very often the repetition of a certain piece is a calculated invitation to embark on an archaeological operation, tracing it back to its original version.”
Paul Gilroy, Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack, p.282

I think that way it maps the development of the music against social and political history of the Caribbean works well. It can be accused of reductionism, but hey a meaningful kind of reductionism is the point of diagrams. Three events (in black boxes) around 1980 mark the end of the roots era: the death of Bob Marley, the (alleged) burning down of the Black Arc study by Lee Perry, and the election of the JLP.

I had two problems with finishing it. One was I just didn’t know when to stop – it has too many artists on it. The other is that while in a broad view, the forms make sense, if you think about it too much it doesn’t. For example, people’s biographical lines start to become geographical lines of travel and lines of movement across genres. On the one had, I kind of like the kaleidoscopic mass this might produce, but really, I think it needs simplifying.

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