Kingston, Jamaica: Reggae’s Chinese roots
Did you know there are Chinese roots to sunny Jamaica’s reggae music?
Vincent Chin was born in 1937 in Jamaica; his father was a Chinese immigrant and his mother was of African-Irish descent. As a teenager, Vincent’s job was to maintain and refresh the music on the jukeboxes in Jamaica’s bars. Stockpiling the old, used jukebox singles in his garage, the records kept piling up and in 1958, Vincent started a record store called Randy’s
Jamaica was still under British rule and the only music played on local radio stations came from Europe and the US: Doris Day, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and the like. Wanting to promote local music, Vincent expanded Randy’s and started to record and market the music of native artists.
The rise of local Jamaican music went hand in hand with the island’s political independence struggle and both developments drew strength from one another. Songs like Lord Creator’s ‘Jamaican independence’ (1962) were recorded at Randy’s and inspired a great sense of social cohesiveness.
Vincent’s son Clive inherited and took over Randy’s, and the studio became the center of musical creativity in Jamaican music’s most vital period from the late sixties to the mid seventies. With its organic, rough and rugged sound, Randy’s was the birthplace of classic recordings by Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Peter Tosh, Lee Scratch Perry and many, many others.
In addition to functioning as a record shop and a recording studio, Randy’s (nicknamed ‘Studio 17’) was also a music distribution outfit. As the only other distributor on the island was also owned by a Chinese-Jamaican, it is safe to say that the Chinese had a major impact on the establishment of reggae music!