Seaga’s track-by-track commentary is fascinating, both scholarly and thorough in its credits (for songwriter, performer, producer, original Jamaican release date, publisher). He gives historical context for the music’s evolution and ends up covering a lot of ground. The first disc opens with Theophilus Beckford’s “Easy Snapping” from 1959, and the fourth concludes with songs from 2009. (Yes, that means Shaggy’s “Boombastic” made the cut.)
Familiar figures — from Jimmy Cliff to Bob Marley & the Wailers to Marcia Griffiths — are included alongside lesser-known artists worth discovering. The earliest recordings present a country in love with foreign sounds before developing its own identity. Millie Small’s version of “My Boy Lollipop” was nearly a carbon copy of the 1956 original by American singer Barbie Gaye.
Timed to the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence from Britain, “Reggae Golden Jubilee” is essential listening to understand how the island blossomed after that milestone.