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Alpha Boys' School: Cradle of Jamaican Music

Adult; History & Military

Behind Jamaica's musical reverberation lies the unlikely story of a boarding school run by Roman Catholic nuns and a brass band that helped shape some of the world’s most beloved musical forms. Under a strict disciplinarian regime, 'wayward 'boys,' many orphaned or from deeply troubled backgrounds and hailing from some of the toughest streets in the world, went on to become the backbone of Jamaican jazz, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dancehall, and dub. Alpha Boys School: Cradle Of Jamaican Music takes a look at the lives of over 40 of these influential musicians who, against a backdrop of extreme poverty, gun culture, street gangs and a political civil war, reached the standards of virtuoso players and created their own sonic revolution. Told in a narrative style with a wealth of interviews, exclusive photos and archival material this book is a long overdue look at the lives and impact of the Alpha Boys.
The Alpha Boys’ School, a Catholic boarding school in Jamaica that counts among its alumni a large number of famous musicians, gets a meticulously researched overview by music journalists Augustyn and Reeves. The school, the authors argue, is the core of Jamaican popular music, and the influence of graduates from the school, established in 1880, is far-reaching and significant. The charismatic personality of music-loving Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, who came to teach at the school in 1939 at age 17, inspired such students as Cedric Brooks (saxophonist for the Skatalites), Joe Harriott (a pioneer of free-form jazz), David Madden (trumpeter for Bob Marley), Tommy McCook (founding member of the Skatalites), jazz flutist Harold McNair, and Yellowman, a reggae and dance hall DJ. The authors include an impressive listing of popular releases of Alpha Boys’ School alumni (the school has since been renamed Alpha Institute) that reinforces the legacy of the institution, along with photos. For fans of world music, especially Jamaican sounds, this enthusiastic, informative book is a treat. (BookLife)