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David Katz

Related: Lee Perry - reggae - music journalism


David Katz is author of one previous book, People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee Scratch Perry, a contributor to The Rough Guide to Reggae, and a contributor to the forthcoming A Jamaican Tapestry: The Best of Skywritings. His writing and photographs have appeared in many different international publications, including The Guardian, Mojo, Rhythm and the Beat. He has coordinated and annotated several retrospective collections of Jamaican music, released an original record in France, and has co-hosted reggae radio programs on three continents. Originally from San Francisco, he currently lives in London, where he sometimes deejays at select night spots.

People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee "Scratch" Perry (2001) - David Katz

  • People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee "Scratch" Perry (2001) - David Katz [Amazon.com]
    In reggae music, only Bob Marley rivals Lee "Scratch" Perry in importance. Scratch collaborated on some of the Wailers' best early stuff, and indeed, Marley's "career was largely shaped by creative interaction with Perry." Katz spent years sifting Perry's true story from the legends about him. Confusion about his birth date is to be expected, for public record keeping has not been a high priority in Jamaica, but Perry further muddled matters by claiming to hail from Jupiter, the sky, and Africa, as well. And then, "it is worth noting that the regular use of ganja . . . result[s] in short- and long-term memory loss." Ganja is, of course, a leitmotif of Perry's biography, and fans of Timothy White's Bob Marley book, Catch a Fire (rev. ed., 1995), will appreciate Katz's further exploration of the ganja-permeated world of reggae. Collections serving world music and pop music fans should consider this piece of reggae history absolutely essential. Mike Tribby for American Library Association

    Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae (2003) - David Katz

  • Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae (2003) - David Katz [Amazon.com]
    A groundbreaking and comprehensive history of reggae, with firsthand accounts by reggae's most prominent and popular figures.

    Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae is an original, in-depth look at one of the most influential music genres. Through exclusive interview material and previously unpublished photographs, David Katz brings to life over one hundred of reggae's most important artists, including Toots and The Maytals, The Melodians, the Skatalites, and the Wailers Band, Augustus Pablo, Culture, Sugar Minott, Cocoa Tea, and Frankie Paul, who speak for the first time about their roles in the music's progression. From the pre-ska years of the late 1950s to the dawning of the digital age in the mid-1980s, Solid Foundation charts the evolution of ska, rock steady, traditional and untraditional reggae styles, and the sub-genres of dub, deejay, and dancehall. The book is largely drawn from conversations Katz conducted with the architects of Jamaica's popular music, and with perceptive and detailed commentary, he celebrates the creativity and individuality that have made reggae music one of the most popular contemporary styles throughout the world.

    It's a fairly significant point that, in addition to the live bands, sound systems proved integral to the growth of Jamaican music in both rural and inner-city areas. "The sound systems' mobility and the fact that live musicians were not involved meant they could be set up at country venues that lacked a stage or had minimal facilities," Katz says. He goes on to detail the first truly legendary sound system operator in Jamaica, Tom the Great Sebastian, who was later supplanted by Duke Reid, proprietor of the Treasure Isle sound, who later established Trojan records. Reid is notable for not only his competitiveness (which sometimes involved physically intimidating would-be rivals), but also for being one of the first selectors to regularly utilize a toaster, or DJ (after American black radio jocks), to talk over the system. Reid's DJ, Count Matchuki, began a tradition that birthed the great Jamaican DJ U-Roy, American hip hop (which developed around Jamaican-born Kool Herc's Herculords sound system), and today's reggae rappers like Capleton, Elephant Man and Bounty Killer.


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