King Alpha’s Song in a Strange Land
The Roots and Routes of Canadian Reggae
When Jackie Mittoo and Leroy Sibbles migrated from Jamaica to Toronto in the early 1970s, the musicians brought reggae with them, sparking the flames of one of Canada’s most vibrant music scenes.
In King Alpha’s Song in a Strange Land, professional reggae musician and scholar Jason Wilson draws on interviews and personal experience to tell the story of how the organic, transnational nature of reggae brought black and white youth together, opening up a cultural dialogue between Jamaican migrants and Canadians along the city’s ethnic frontlines. For Jamaicans, reggae gave them an advantage in the acculturation process by bringing them into contact with like-minded white Torontonians. For music-loving non-Jamaicans, reggae offered an entry point into a people and a culture that would have remained closed to them otherwise. When the two came together, they set the stage for bands such as Messenjah and the Sattalites to become household names for a brief but important time.
By looking at Canada’s golden age of reggae from the perspective of both Jamaican migrants and white Torontonians, Wilson reveals the power of music to break through the bonds of race and ease the hardships associated with transnational migration.
This book will appeal to anyone interested in Toronto’s reggae scene, Canadian music and culture, or multiculturalism and transnational migration.
Jason Wilson has gifted his readers with a nuanced yet deeply visceral account of Jamaican music as a medium for cross-cultural communication. This is an excellent contribution to the literature on Jamaican music.
What an incredible read! Jason Wilson takes us on a global historical and musical journey, encapsulating the entire routes and roots of Canadian reggae in one authoritative book. This is recommended reading for everyone.
King Alpha’s Song in a Strange Land fills a lacuna in the scholarship on reggae.
In King Alpha’s Song in a Strange Land Jason Wilson’s career in reggae, his relationship with Jamaicans, his intellect, and his Scottish heritage powerfully combine to nourish a fascinating exploration of how the music cultures of Jamaica, Britain, and Canada intersect and collide.
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction: King Alpha’s Song
1 Hybridity and Jamaican Music
2 Music of the Black Atlantic
3 Jamaica to Toronto
4 Place and Meaning in Toronto’s Reggae Text
5 The Bridge Builders
6 Blackness and Whiteness
7 In Search of the Canadian Sound
8 A Strange Land
Notes; Bibliography; Index
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