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Rockers International Records on Orange Street, Kingston: reggae playlist

Orange Street, also known as ‘beat street’, was the birthplace of many reggae, ska and rocksteady artists, as well as the area where these genres were championed – especially in the 1960s and 70s. We asked Mitchie Williams of Rockers International, one of the street’s last remaining record shops, to put together a playlist evoking the area’s glory days

Orange Street in downtown Kingston was once the heart and soul of Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae. The street and the surrounding area helped give one of the most important music genres of the 20th century to the world; the first ska recordings were made at Studio One on Brentford Road just around the corner from Orange Street. The street itself was alive with record shops and recording studios, and legends such as Dennis Brown and Prince Buster were even born on the street. Sadly, as with much of downtown Kingston, it’s a very different place today – dubbed Ghost Street by locals – but there are still a handful of studios and vinyl record shops flying the flag, and the area is a must-see for music fans visiting Kingston.

Stepping into the fabulous Randy’s records and recording studio (upstairs at 17 North Parade) is like going back in time (check out this gallery of Randy’s back in the day), while Rockers International exports vinyl to reggae fans all over the world and was refurbishing the store when I visited. We asked Rockers’ manager Mitchie Williams to compile a tribute to Orange Street’s pioneering (and speaker-throbbing) spirit.

How Magic!’s Canadian Reggae Won Over Jamaica

For six weeks last summer, the Number One song in America belonged to a group of Canadian reggae fans whose frontman sings plaintively to a girlfriend’s particularly impolite father who won’t approve his earnest marriage proposal to her. “Rude,” Magic!’s debut single, sold 3 million copies in the United States alone, but many objected to its syrupy take on a beloved genre. Time named the tune the worst of the 2014, and publications as diverse as Grantland and Jezebel brought similar ignominy. “America, we need to talk about our taste in reggae music,” wrote Slate. They might also want to have a few words with the adoring crowd that earlier this year gathered in the north shore parish of Trelawny to see the band headline the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival.

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Get Ready for Reggae on Tax Day

The Portsmouth Public Library is proud to present a rockin’ music series for Spring 2015, and all concerts are free of charge. Whether you like the blues, jazz, Celtic, Irish, reggae, folk or anything other kind of music, there’s something for you at PPL. All concerts will take place in the Levenson Room, but come early to make sure you get a seat!

On Wednesday April 15, join us for Reggae on Tax Day with Jah Spirit! Jah Spirit’s music sends a message of peace and freedom while celebrating social consciousness and universality among all peoples.

Under the dynamic leadership of writer, composer, singer Ras Michael I, the group blends an African-Reggae beat with elements of calypso jazz, blues and rock. Ras Michael, a native of Trinidad, captivates his audiences with spellbinding lyrics and a stage presence that has been described as charismatic, highly energetic and spirited. Interaction between the audience and the musicians is a recognized trademark of Jah Spirit.

Jah Spirit, reggae, Wednesday, April 15 | 7p.m.
Peter Bernstein, jazz guitar, Sunday April 26 | 2 p.m.
Two Old Friends, Sunday May 17 | 2 p.m.
Strathspey & Reel Society, Thursday May 21 | 7 p.m.

One Love: Obama, in Jamaica, pays respects to reggae superstar Bob Marley

And first order of business on the island?

The Bob Marley Museum.

Obama toured Marley’s former home at 56 Hope Road. It the place Marley held court from 1975 until his death in 1981. His wife, Rita converted it into a museum after his death. It’s full of memories and music and other personal artifacts of the reggae legend.

Tour guide Natasha Clark had no idea she would be the one who got to show Obama around. “I was so excited,” she says. “Not nervous. Excited. It an opportunity of a lifetime. It’s not everyday you get to meet the President of the United States, up close and personal.”

She says Obama wanted to know more about the music and the lyrics of Bob Marley’s tunes. “It was like a dream for Obama. He was very excited. When he got out of the car he was like, ‘Yes. This is it! Bob Marley,’” she says.

Obama says he was a big Marley fan back in high school. That’s when he ran with a group of overachieving potheads known as the “Choom Gang.” His high school buddy Tom Topolinski told PBS about the group back in 2012. “The Choom Gang was a bunch of typical high school teenagers, who were out to explore the world, to make it an adventure, to make it fun, to make it funny, and just generally become a family on our own. I mean, the Choom Gang became more of a family to me more than my own family,” he says.

Obama kept it straight during his visit. No questions about how much ganja Marley smoked back in the day. Obama is the first president to visit the island since 1982, and is focused on offering clean energy deals to Caribbean nations that are currently tied to Venezuelan crude. That’s the serious business he’s on the island to complete.

But there’s always time for Marley. Clark says the song “Jamming” played when Obama entered the building and “One Love” came on as he left.