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Jazz in Jamaica, at Home and Abroad

Le jazz jamaïcain, sur l'île et à l'étranger
Herbie Miller and Roberto Moore
Translated by Dario Rudy
Le jazz jamaïcain, sur l'île et à l'étranger


Jazz is not the first genre to come to mind when one thinks of Jamaican music. However, already quite lively in the 1920s, jazz gathered a limited but brilliant group of musicians, especially after the war. These Jamaican jazzmen, such as Ernest Ranglin, Monty Alexander or Douglas Ewart, will play their role in the first steps of their island’s music, and will bring their irreducible Jamaican feeling to the sounds and evolutions of jazz, in the United Kingdom or in the United States. This essay recounts the story of jazz in Jamaica, as well as the careers of its most famous figures.

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Alpha Boys School: Jazz in the midst of colonial inculcation and education
The formative Years: Jazz Joints and Musicians
Jamaican jazz to the world: S.S Empire Windrush
Horns from Alpha to the UK
Ernest Ranglin
Monty Alexander
Douglas Ewart

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Alpha Boys School: Jazz in the midst of colonial inculcation and education

Of all its creative and cultural aesthetics, music is perhaps Jamaica’s most dynamic cultural contribution to the world. This has been so since the old plantation days of slavery and colonialism when music played an important role in reconstructing and maintaining an identity for many Jamaicans of African descent.

Among the enduring institutions signifying Jamaica’s colonial past is the Alpha Cottage School, which opened in 1880 when Justina Ripoll (Sister Mary Claver) of the Roman Catholic Order of the Sisters of Mercy established an industrial school for orphaned, neglected, and errant boys. By 1893, a drum and fife corps was established, which became the foundation to the school’s emphasis on music. With instruments received in 1908 from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Jamaica, Alpha’s legendary music programme took root and flourished. In the ensuing years, the school earned the distinction of being the singl...

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Electronic reference

Herbie Miller and Roberto Moore, « Jazz in Jamaica, at Home and Abroad », Volume ! [Online], 13 : 2 | 2017, Online since 21 April 2017, connection on 21 January 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/volume.5313

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About the authors

Herbie Miller

Herbie Miller est historien et ethnomusicologue spécialisé dans la culture et l’identité caribéennes – celles des esclaves particulièrement. Il est conservateur du Jamaica Music Museum à l’Institute of Jamaica. Manager, parmi d’autres, de Peter Tosh, The Skatalites et Toots & the Maytals, Miller a géré la Blue Monk Jazz Gallery, le seul lieu entièrement consacré au jazz en Jamaïque.

Roberto Moore

Roberto Moore est chercheur conférencier, spécialiste de l’histoire, de la culture, et de la musique des îles – ainsi que collectionneur de vinyles. Il a notamment été consultant pour Grounation, un cycle de conférences annuel créé par le Jamaica Music Museum à l’Institute of Jamaica. Son prochain livre dépeint l’histoire du jazz et du swing en Jamaïque, ainsi que leur influence sur le reggae.

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L'auteur & les Éd. Mélanie Seteun

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