Caribbean Popular Music: An Encyclopedia of Reggae, Mento, Ska, Rocksteady, and Dancehall by David V. Moskowitz

Caribbean Popular Music: An Encyclopedia of Reggae, Mento, Ska, Rocksteady, and Dancehall by David V. Moskowitz

This is a beast of a book, coming in at 368 pages, but it’s pretty much the only encyclopedia of Caribbean that you’ll need. Epic in scope and a brilliant read (as well as an invaluable reference book).

From Booklist
Caribbean Popular Music provides insight into the lives of Caribbean musicians and the styles they have created over the last 50 years, focusing primarily on the music and musicians of Jamaica. Although the island nation is best known for reggae music, its musicians have created and been influenced by many other styles. Some styles were homegrown, like ska and mento, and some imported from the U.S., such as jazz and rhythm and blues.

Arranged alphabetically, entries are generally two to four short paragraphs in length, with the exception of a three-page entry for reggae artist Bob Marley, whose influence on music of the Caribbean and carryover popularity into the U.S. have made his name almost synonymous with reggae music. Most of the musical styles mentioned in this book have upbeat sounds, with humor an often-used tool. Even the artists’ names are entertaining, such as Count Sticky, Fathead, and Eek-A-Mouse. In addition to musicians, this work sheds light on terms and styles unknown to many of us. For example, Toasting means talking very fast over the beat of the music either with words or nonsense syllables, akin to but distinct from rap. Entries for producers and record labels that influenced musical developments in Jamaica and the region are also included, as are more than 200 black-and-white photos of artists.

The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, v.2 (1998), covers South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, but its main focus is on the history, culture, and styles of the various regions and not on individual artists. Garland is considered an essential reference set, with 10 volumes and CDs accompanying each, but reference books such as Caribbean Popular Music serve as complementary works. Written in authoritative yet readable prose, Moskowitz’s volume is appropriate for public and academic library collections. Steven York
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Reviews
“Moskowitz does an admirable job of covering all periods of Jamaican popular music. People seeking to learn about everything from early mento music to reggae to dancehall to the most up-to-date style of ragga will not be dissapointed. More than 700 concise and informative entries discuss singers and songwriters, producers, record labels, and different musical styles that sprung from reggae….[t]his handy reference will appeal to scholars and music consumers alike, and comprehensive collections at both public and academic libaries would do well to purchase.”–Library Journal

“David Moskowitz has not only succeeded in producing a beautiful and accessible reference work, but he has managed the more difficult task of trying to come to terms with the umbrella term of reggae which covers a whole range of musical styles… imperative for any library that supports the teaching of music and the arts, or the history, politics and culture of the Caribbean and Rastafarianism. It is also essential for public libraries which serve a community that includes Caribbean descended patrons… Although this is most definitely a reference work, it is very easy to get engrossed in the encyclopedic entries… As a reference work it is exemplary, and, more unusually, it is an enjoyable read in its own right.”–Reference Reviews

“The emphasis is understandably on Jamaican artists; however coverage includes other areas of the Caribbean, as well as successful reggae musicians in Great Britain and the United States. Dozens of cross references help sort the many aliases used by artists. The index allows the user to track the influence of particular artists and styles. A select bibliography and list of Web sites leads the user to other sources for research. This groundbreaking guide will be popular in high school, college and public libraries.”–Lawrence Looks at Books

“Caribbean Popular Music provides insight into the lives of Caribbean musicians and the styles they have created over the last 50 years….In addition to musicians, this work sheds light on terms and styles unknown to many of us….Written in authoritative yet readable prose, Moskowitz’s volume is appropriate for public and academic library collections.”–Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin

“Moskowitz does a capable job of defining the various genres, instruments, and elements of Jamaican popular music and identifying artists both well known and obscure. Also covered are the recording labels and key venues for live performance. Cross-indexing and indexes in front and back make the book accesible.”–MultiCultural Review

“Caribbean Popular Music: An Encyclopedia of Reggae, Mento, Ska, Rock Steady, and Dancehall is perfect for college studies: while plenty of references have been written on the topic, none have embraced the full extent of Caribbean music history with an overall scholarly approach, providing annotations on figures ranging from Bob Marley to the drum and bass movement and the Flying Cymbal drumming technique….[i]ncludes all the background history necessary to fuel any report on the topic.”–The Midwest Book Review/California Bookwatch

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