Reggae Frame of Mind

A genre’s racially charged history

Canada, especially Toronto, can deliver stunning blows to reggae performers — particularly up-and-coming artists. The country’s music industry is relatively small, mainstream producers are hard to come by, and you can forget about so-called big radio playing your songs. It’s even harder if you happen to be black. Jason Wilson presents first-hand testimonies to these struggles, and more, in King Alpha’s Song in a Strange Land: The Roots and Routes of Canadian Reggae.

Wilson, a Scottish Canadian who grew up among Jamaicans, is a seasoned performer in his own right, having earned two Juno nominations and a Canadian Reggae Music Award. His book offers a history of reggae music and takes readers blow by blow through the hardships post-war Jamaicans faced in immigrating to a strange and lonely Canada. I’ve felt those blows myself. I moved from Grenada to Toronto in 1989 with big musical dreams. I have...