Reviews February 15, 2022
The Reggae Nation: New Book on Global Roots Reggae

With an estimated 700 books published on the life and music of Bob Marley, one might imagine there wasn’t much more to say. Enter Marley megafan, reggae researcher and author Martijn Huisman of the Netherlands with an epic, 400-plus page tome full of rare photos, maps, tour posters, illustrations and, most importantly, a comprehensive narrative of the impact of Bob Marley’s music and legacy in virtually every corner of the world.

The Reggae Nation (available here) begins with a sharp, thorough history of reggae, from African roots up through the Marley heyday. Huisman makes clear that his subject is “roots reggae,” not dub, dancehall and other spinoffs, however massively influential they too have proven to be around the world. Here, the focus is unabashedly on the Marley phenomenon—the music, the philosophy, the iconography, the vibe!

The bulk of this gorgeous volume concerns Marley’s resonance from the nations of South America and Africa to the far reaches of the Pacific and everywhere in between. There’s a strong focus on Marley’s 1979 world tour promoting the live double album Babylon by Bus. There are all sorts of anecdotes and testimonials from the many far flung places Marley and the Wailers performed, and details of their grueling tour itinerary. But in each case, Huisman goes further, delving into local history, politics and controversies, always looking for tie-ins, reasons why the message of revolution and spiritual transcendence works in that particular context, and how the music gets adapted and reshaped by local artists in local ways.

From the start, Huisman makes no bones about the fact that he is merging the voices of an exuberant enthusiast and a diligent—even academic—researcher. For me, that makes the book compelling, far more than a compendium of worldly travel and fame. I can’t say I have read the entire text: It’s a book you can read in any sequence, depending on what part of the world you are interested in at the moment. But from what I have read, I can attest that this is an invaluable and unique addition to the vast literature on reggae.

It's a limited edition, so if you want to own one, good to move fast. At last glance, there were just 75 copies left…

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