Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Extensive Reggae Archive Fills Seven Rooms

Published:Wednesday | February 22, 2017 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small
Roger Steffens' extensive Marley library.
Roger Steffens, owner of the largest Bob Marley memorabilia in the world, at the opening of Queen Mary exhibit of his 'World of Reggae' archives in February 2001.
Roger Steffens (centre) poses with I-Three members, Judy Mowatt (left) and and Marcia Griffiths.

To date, Steffens has completed eight books about the Wailers and on Jamaican music history and culture, "including two that I feel will have a long life. Bob Marley and the Wailers: The Definitive Discography, the only true discography ever undertaken for Jamaican artists, with all the recording and personnel information, matrix data and session dates that a college textbook requires," he said.

The other book, So Much Things To Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley, will be released on July 1, by W. W. Norton. Steffens told The Gleaner, that the book is the result of four decades of research into his Bob Marley's life and works, which took the last 15 years to organise and write. The book has interviews with 74 of Marley's closest associates, along with interviews with Bob himself.

Steffens watched The Harder They Come, then bought the film's soundtrack, as well as the Wailers' first foreign album, Catch A Fire, release by Island Records. In June 1976, three years later, Steffens made his first trip to Jamaica, just as then Prime Minister Michael Manley, declared the National State of Emergency.

"I went to Kingston to find records by the artistes I was most attracted to," he said.

Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Alton Ellis, Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, Slim Smith, the Heptones, the Mighty Diamonds, Joe Higgs, Phil Chen, Johnny Osbourne and Junior Marvin, are just some of the reggae acts Steffens listed as being the 'dearest friends of his reggae obsession', and subjects of his archived materials.

"They have enriched my life and made me want to alert the world to their greatness," he said.

The archivist revealed that his reggae archives have grown to

fill seven rooms of his home in downtown Los Angeles, and are destined to become a museum.

"People have come from all over the world to see and use them; dozens of books have been researched here, many films use footage I've preserved. Jamaicans are the most enthusiastic visitors, surprised that so many of the one-of-a-kind treasures are in California and not back home," a sentiment he shares.