Arts & Culture

Reggae exhibition opens in Canada

Thursday, January 31, 2013    

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A month-long photo exhibition focusing on the burgeoning dancehall scene in Kingston and Toronto, 30 years ago, opens tomorrow at the Gladstone Hotel in the Canadian city.

'Reggae or Not: The Birth of Dancehall Culture in Jamaica and Toronto', is based on a collection of photographs by New York-born photographer Beth Lesser.

Lesser and her then fiancé Dave Kingston made several trips to Jamaica during the 1980s to cover the emerging dancehall sound.

Kingston, a Canadian, was a disc jockey in Toronto known as Lord Selector.

"Originally, we wanted to do a fanzine about Augustus Pablo and his Rockers International organisation," Lesser told the torontoist.com website. "We made contact with him and we went down to Jamaica to talk to him...From there we started going down to Jamaica twice a year."

They also discovered a promising dancehall movement in Toronto. Their photos and stories on the genre's rise in both cities were published in Reggae Quarterly, a magazine the couple operated.

The prolific Lesser's photos have appeared in four books, as well as numerous albums.

Kenneth Montague, curator of the exhibition, said the Toronto reggae scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s was much larger and active than documented.

"Many high-profile reggae musicians recorded albums at Canadian studios, and some, including Johnny Osbourne and Leroy Sibbles, lived here for a time," he said.

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