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An encyclopaedia for reggae

Published:Thursday | November 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Professor Mike Alleyne hands over a special copy of his book, 'The Encyclopaedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae', to Professor Carolyn Cooper during the launch of the work at the University of the West Indies' Undercroft last Thursday.

Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer

Reggae music now has its own 'encyclopaedia'. Written by overseas-based Caribbean author Professor Mike Alleyne, the book is called The Encyclopaedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae and features colourful pictures and textual information, trailing and documenting the development of the internationally renowned reggae movement which has brought much attention to Jamaica over the years.

"The Encyclopaedia of Reggae is a timely addition to the list of books that have been dedicated to the genre, and is worth being placed on every single bookshelf," said guest speaker Herbert 'Herbie' Miller, curator of the Jamaica Music Museum.

Author and lecturer at the University of The West Indies Professor Carloyn Cooper was also present in support of Professor Alleyne's latest work.

According to her, it is important that Caribbean writers have begun to document their own culture.

"I think it is so important that particularly Caribbean people have started to document Caribbean music. We have to give credit to non-Caribbean people who did work on Caribbean music but I think when we have Caribbean people writing about the music, we are going to get a more sophisticated and a more rich understanding of the music. I think the establishment of the Reggae Studies Centre at the University of the West Indies has been a catalyst, and we are going to see more and more books coming out," said Cooper.

Alleyne, in his short speech, revealed that his book was inspired by Jamaican artistes, musicians and other creators of Jamaican culture.

filling the gap

He also gave The Gleaner an insight as to why he decided to go all out with the visual presentation of the book.

"I think there is the need for an updated compendium on reggae. If you look at the bulk of the literature that is out there, they have attempted to do similar things; those publications are six years old at the youngest and several decades old at the oldest. So I think there is a niche in the marketplace for a new volume that brings a new perspective while showing the maturity of reggae, especially with this year being the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's Independence and the 50th anniversary of Bob Marley's first recording of reggae. So it is a fitting time for the release of the Encyclopaedia of Reggae historically, musically and culturally," he continued.

"I had been moving to get visuals in documentations for a while, and there is an article I wrote for Billboard Magazine which focused on the importance of album covers in 2009. So, luckily, the right publisher found me, and they were prepared to invest and source all of the different visual archives to produce a document that was not only textual, but visual as well. I feel that a book that brings the reader into the world of the music will have a better chance of communicating," Alleyne said.

The book is currently available in a number of countries, including North America, France, Germany, Japan, China, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and India.

The book is also available online at sites like and, among others.

The book's launch was held at the Undercroft at the University of the West Indies and also featured up-and-coming reggae artiste Dax-Lion.