Alpha Boys’ School – Cradle of Jamaican Music
Chicago based Heather Augustyn is the author of several books about the Jamaican music industry: “Ska: An Oral History” (2010), “Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist” (2013), “Ska: The Rhythm of Liberation” (2013) and “Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music” (2014). She is a continuing lecturer of composition in the English Department at Purdue University Northwest where she also directs their writing center. Adam Reeves from Brighton has been a lifelong devotee of the music of Jamaica and loves nothing more than to showcase its greatness by spinning his favourite records to a packed dancefloor—something he has been doing for over fifteen years. His background has been in the field of holistic health and well-being. He later trained as a magazine journalist and wrote for the leading UK natural products industry trade journal. He has also worked on a documentary on Alpha musicians many years ago, a project that still needs to see the light of day! They started working on the book at the end of 2013, the next year the actual writing began. Let’s not forget to mention that there is a chapter written by guest author Roberto Moore. He penned a chapter on Sammy Ismay which includes exclusive photos and even notations of Sammy’s musical scores. Both authors had already been working on Alpha Boys School during the course of their work, and Adam could use he resources of the documentary. The cover painting is by Paris based Jean-Christophe Molinéris who also painted the cover of “Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist”. The cover design was done by Chris Sick. Britain’s connoisseur of reggae, David Rodigan wrote the foreword for the book.
The Skatalites [Photographer unknown]
Alpha Boys School
Alpha Cottage School, better known as Alpha Boys School, was the name of the vocational residential school on South Camp Road in Kingston, Jamaica, still run by Roman Catholic nuns. Established in 1880 as a “school for wayward boys”, it became renowned for both the discipline it instilled in its pupils and the outstanding musical tuition they received. In 2014 Alpha’s residence closed and the school continued as Alpha Institute to focus on educational and vocational training for inner city unattached youth. The role of Alpha Boys School can never be underestimated. Without the institute many of the musicians that have laid the musical foundation of reggae music, would not have been able to shape the form of our beloved music.
The Black Disciples with Bobby Ellis on trumpet, third left from back [Photographer unknown]
The list of outstanding musicians coming from Alpha Boys School is impressive. The book opens with an in depth historical overview of the institute followed by a chapter about Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, arguably the best known nun on the island! In the other chapters you’ll meet historical figures from the Jamaican music industry. Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez, Tommy McCook, Owen Gray, Lester Sterling, Bobby Ellis, Johnny Osbourne, Leroy Smart, Karl ‘Cannonball’ Bryan, Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore and Winston ‘Sparrow’ Martin to name but a few. Many of them already deceased, others (like Johnny Osbourne) still very active in the music industry. The book provides the reggae fan with nuff reading pleasure, and shines the light on the background of many reggae artists. The book is illustrated with hundreds of photos, many from private family collections, and gives you a nice insight in the history of the institute. Furthermore it includes a suggested listening section by Adam, a selection of favourite Alpha-related records, handpicked by several authorities on Jamaican music such as David Corio, Noel Hawks, Steve Barrow and David Katz.
Simply a must-have for any reggae fan!