Research Guide to Reggae Lane: Toronto's Jamaican Music Scene, 1960s to the Present

June 2, 2016 | Barbara

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Getting Started

Reggae Lane signage

“Reggae Lane" is a the name of a laneway located behind the storefronts south of Eglinton Avenue West and east of Oakwood Avenue.  It was given this title in 2015 by Toronto Councillor Josh Colle to honour the rich music tradition of this area. The York-Eglinton BIA and the Laneway Project joined to help with planning related initiatives. 

The history of reggae in Toronto dates back to the 1960s when many Jamaican musicians settled in the city where they performed jazz, calypso, soul, R & B, and other popular genres. Around the same time, musicians in Jamaica had started a new sound - reggae - which soon was adopted by Jamaican-Canadian musicians. Before long, record shops, music studios, and performance venues lined Eglinton Avenue West between Marlee and Dufferin streets. The strip was also home to many West Indian clothing shops, beauty and barber shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses, and became known as “Little Jamaica”.  

Find research materials on reggae in Toronto in the Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection and at the Toronto Reference Library Arts Department

Searching the Library Website

Reggae Lane murals
Reggae Lane Murals by Adrian Hayles
Image courtesy of John Lee Firth

Recommended Subjects and Keywords

Jamaicans--Canada--History

Reggae Toronto

Reggae music

Recommended CDs

Jamaica to Toronto Series. Listed below are six CDs featuring reissued soul and reggae albums and singles that were compiled by DJ/Canadian music historian Sipreano with Light In The Attic Records of Seattle, Washington. There are extensively researched liner notes about the performers included with each CD.

Innocent youths 

Innocent Youths, by Earth, Roots & Water. 2008; originally released 1977.

 

 

 

  Jamaica_cover

 Jamaica to Toronto Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967-1974. 2006.

 

 

 

Noelellis_cover  

  Noel Ellis. 2006; originally released, 1983.

 

 

 

  Summer-recs-anthology-cover

 Summer Records Anthology 1974-1988. 2007

 

 

 


Wayne_cover
 Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy. 2004; originally released 1970.

 

 

 

 JACKIE MITTOO wishbone - cd

 Wishbone, by Jackie Mittoo. 2006; originally released 1971.

 

 

Recommended Books

Dubwise book cover

Dubwise: Reasoning from the Reggae Underground, by Klive Walker. 2005

Series of essays that delve into the Jamaican diaspora and its musical influence. See "One-Drop Dubs the Maple Leaf: The Story of Reggae in Canada," pages 155-176.

 

 

Global Reggae
Global Reggae, edited by Carolyn Cooper. 2012

Plenary lectures from the 'Global Reggae' conference convened at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica in 2008. Chapter 9 discusses "The Journey of Reggae in Canada". 

 

 

Book-cover-brown

Jamaican Canadian Music in Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s : A Preliminary History, by Keith McCuaig. 2012.

Master's thesis on the musical community of Jamaican musicians in Toronto in the 70s and 80s.

Read it online (pdf) 

 

 

Jamaican Popular Music

Jamaican Popular Music: From Mento to Dancehall Reggae: A Full Bibliographic Guide, by John Gray. 2011.

Bibliographic references to books, articles, reviews, dictionaries, newspapers, electronics sources, videos, and dissertations on popular Jamaican music and the music abroad. Materials about Jamaican music in Canada are detailed on pages 88 to 89.

 

 

Jam in Canada when ackee meets codfish-3
Jamaicans in Canada : When Ackee Meets Codfish, by Kamala-Jean Gopie. 2012.

Profiles of 250 Jamaican-Canadians from across Canada. Jay Douglas is featured on page 62.

 

Book-cover-brown

King Alpha's Song in a Strange Land : Jamaican Migrant and Canadian Host in Toronto's Transnational Reggae Music Scene, 1973-1990, by John Jason Collins Wilson. 2013.

Doctoral thesis on the migration of people and music from Jamaica as seen through the eyes of the immigrants themselves and locals.

Read it online (pdf)

 

Settling in Canada

Settling in Canada: Jamaicans Have a Story to Tell, by Billroy Powell, 2014.

Through interviews, this book provides accounts of the Jamaican experience settling in Canada over five decades from the 1950s to the 2000s. There are references to the Eglinton Avenue West neighbourhood on pages 181 and 267. Music and culture are described throughout.

 

Book-cover-brown

Jackie Mittoo at Home and Abroad: The Cultural and Musical Negotiations of a Jamaican Canadian, by Karen Anita Eloise Cyrus. 2015.

Doctoral thesis on the career of Jackie Mittoo and an analysis of his body of work.

Read it online (pdf)

 

 

Using Online Resources

Recommended Articles (newest to oldest)

‘May he rest in perfect peace’: Hundreds attend funeral for Toronto barber Jimmy Wisdom, by Morganne Campbell. Global News. December 14, 2019.

This article and video pay tribute to a "friend to all" as he is laid to rest.

Remembering Little Jamaica: This new film pays tribute to a disappearing Toronto neighbourhooda, by Amanda Parris. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. September 27, 2019.

The documentary short Tallawah Abroad: Remembering Little Jamaica, by writer and director Sharine Taylor, examines the changes that Little Jamaica has experienced over the past couple of decades.

Jay Douglas on the importance of Eglinton-Oakwood, the birthplace of Toronto's reggae, by Nana aba Duncan. Fresh Air radio show on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. March 2, 2019.

Listen to local reggae icon Jay Douglas describe the mural that features Canada's reggae pioneers on Reggae Lane. He talks about what it was like to be a reggae musician in the 70s and the rich culture that was happening in the Eglinton-Oakwood neighbourhood.

Revisiting Little Jamaican, by Phillip Dwight Morgan. The Ethnic Aisle. March 14, 2017.

This article discusses the socioeconomic repercussions that the massive Crosstown Light Rail Transit (LRT) project is having on the area known as “Little Jamaica” in midtown Toronto.

Walking Through Toronto's Reggae History, by York-Eglinton BIA. York Eglinton Business Improvement Association. May 12, 2017.

During the 2017 Jane’s Walk in the Eglinton West neighbourhood, Jay Douglas shared background stories of the musicians in the Reggae mural located in the Green P parking lot close to Marlee Ave.

Revisiting Little Jamaican, by Phillip Dwight Morgan. The Ethnic Aisle. March 14, 2017.

There is debate about whether the Crosstown LRT along Eglinton Avenue will threaten the "largest centre of reggae music outside of Kingston, Jamaica." Increasing property values that result may price ethnic neighbourhoods out of the downtown.

Is Toronto's Little Jamaica still a Jamaican neighbourhood?, Insidetoronto.com. January 12, 2017.

Even though the availability of West Indian products has spread out beyond this neighbourhood, there is hope to preserve the Jamaican heritage on Eglinton West.

Reggae Lane mural unveiled at Eglinton and Oakwood avenues, Insidetoronto.com. July 17, 2016.

The second mural by artist Adrian Hayles was unveiled at Reggae Lane.

Reggae Lane Crawl, The Laneway Project. n.d.

Reggae Lane event on July 16, 2016 will feature the unveiling of a second mural, performances by local reggae musicians, activities and a local reggae history station hosted by Toronto Public Library.

Video: A home for reggae in Toronto, by Adrian Mendes. The Laneway Project. January 8, 2016.

Video footage and interviews taken during the unveiling of the Reggae Lane plaque on September 19, 2015.

Reggae Lane mural unveiled in Toronto, by Amy Grief. BlogTO. September 21, 2015.

The Eglinton West neighbourhood got a new 1,200 square foot mural that throws a spotlight on Toronto's rich history of reggae music and culture.

IMG_4930a

Reggae Lane Mural and Plaque Unveiling, by McKie Rich, September 19, 2015.

Video of Jamaican and Toronto reggae artists perform and receive awards. 28 min.

Toronto’s reggae roots to be celebrated in Eglinton-Oakwood laneway celebration: Party for ‘Reggae Lane’ takes place Sept. 19, by Dominik Kurek. York Guardian. September 15, 2015.

Councillor Josh Colle is hosting the unveiling ceremony for Reggae Lane.

Eglinton Avenue laneway renamed to celebrate Toronto's reggae history: Coun. Josh Colle hopes Reggae Lane can be a successful model for revitalizing Toronto's side streets and alleyways, by Luke Simcoe. MetroNews. September 14, 2015.

Contains images of the mural and plaque dedicated to the musical history of the area.

Toronto Reggae Hall of Fame Launched, by Kerry Doole Mon, FYI Music News, August 31, 2015.

First inductees into the Toronto Reggae Hall of Fame are Jay Douglas, Leroy Sibbles, Everton 'Pablo' Paul and Bernie Pitters.

Toronto Laneway to Become Reggae Hot Spot (Once Again), by Ryan Ayukawa. Blog TO. April 18, 2015.

The clean-up project of Reggae Lane led by Dewitt Lee and JuLion King.

A Brief History of Reggae in Toronto, by David Dacks. Blog TO. December 24, 2014.

Chronicles the reggae music scene by collating the venues, musicians, promotors, and record stores which comprised the genre's infrastructure in Toronto.

Eglinton West's Music History Gives Beat to Street Name. The York Guardian. August 14, 2014. (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Eglinton Avenue West's rich music history to be remembered in the naming of Reggae Lane. 

Historicist: Sounds of Home II: After-hours clubs and the West Indian music scene of the 1960's, by Kevin Plummer. Torontoist. Dec 28, 2013

Details the West Indian after-hours nightclub scene in Toronto going back to the 1950s.

Wisdom’s Barber Shop and Hair Salon: A community hub in Little Jamaica, by Nancy J. White. The Toronto Star. July 13, 2012.

Jimmy Wisdom is a legendary singer from Jamaica who has been barbering on the Eglinton West strip for over three decades.

Toronto's Lost Soul & Reggae Stars Revisited, by Kevin Plummer. Torontoist. December 12, 2007.

Tells the story of the "Jamaica to Toronto" series and the reissue of classic Canadian soul and reggae albums by Seattle-based Light in the Attic Records. Includes an interview with Jay Douglas and his experiences with his band The Cougars.

Race, Rock and Soul: Jamaica to Toronto raises questions about Canada's pop past, by Matt Brennan. The Dominion. September 6, 2006.

Discusses the background of the CD series Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk and Reggae 1967-1974.

The soul survivors, by Murray White. The Toronto Star. July 15, 2006. (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Chronicles the process behind Light in the Attic Records' launch of the "Jamaica to Toronto" CD and the reunion of contributing artists such as Jay Douglas, Everton "Pablo" Paul, Terry Lewis, Jimmy Wisdom and Bob Williams.

Jamaica to Toronto: Lost stars of the city's vibrant 60s R&B scene finally get their chance to shine, by Tim Perlich. NOW Magazine. July 13, 2006.

The Mighty Pope and Jay Douglas discuss their thoughts on the new CD release of their music from the 60s.

Maple Leaf Soul Compiliation, by David Dacks. Exclaim.ca. June 30, 2006.

Announces the release of the From Jamaica to Toronto CD by Light in the Attic Records.

A Soul Man Lost...And Found, by Guy Dixon. The Globe and Mail. July 31, 2004.

Jay Douglas recalls finding his old friend Wayne Mcghie and reminisces about the Toronto music scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

Reggae Roots Run Deep, by Nick McCabe-Lokos. The Toronto Star. July 27, 2003. (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Highlights the immigration experience of artists from Jamaica to Canada within the context of Canadian immigration during that time.

Jamaica Beckons and Sibbles is Listening, by Peter Howell. The Toronto Star. April 26, 1991 (Access through Canadian Newsstand Torstar - Toronto Public Library card login required)

Leroy Sibbles, a reggae pioneer who moved from Jamaica to Toronto, describes his immigration.

Randy's take out shop
Randy's Patties at 1569 Eglinton Ave. West

 

Recommended Websites

The Canadian Encyclopedia

An encyclopedia article on the history of reggae in Canada written by Daniel Caudeiron.

Canadian Reggae World 

A blog by JuLion King that promotes and showcases Canadian reggae artists and events.

Reggae Lane Project  

Information about the laneway improvement project presented by The Laneway Project and the York Eglinton Business Improvement Area.

Reggae Toronto

Lists influential artists, and provides an interactive Google map of the venues, shops, recording studios, record labels and more.

See also this related Twitter account that features a historic Toronto reggae event or news item on each day. @ReggaeToronto

The STEPS Initiative

The public arts organization involved in designing the mural to be placed in near Reggae Lane.

Interviews

Jay Douglas and Everton "Pablo" Paul paid a visit to Maria A. Shchuka Library on June 16, 2015 to talk about what the Reggae Lane project means to them and their memories about their early days on the Toronto music scene. Jay and Pablo

  1. What does Reggae Lane mean to you?
  2. What can you tell us about the music scene in the Eglinton West area during the 70s and 80s?
  3. What infrastructure on Eglinton West supported local musicians?
  4. Some people refer to this area as "Little Jamaica." What did you call the Eglinton West neighbourhood?
  5. Hopes for the neighbourhood: studios, galleries, museum.
  6. Traveling around Quebec as the Cougars.
  7. What kept you coming back to Toronto?
  8. Memories of Yonge Street in the old days.
  9. Thoughts on Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967-1974 CD
  10. What were the barriers to breaking into the Canadian music scene?
  11. Why were you called The Cougars?
  12. How did Jay Douglas join The Cougars?
  13. Do you have any regrets immigrating to Canada before the music industry boomed in Jamaica?

 

 

 

 

Jimmy's Barber Shop
Wisdom's Barber Shop at 1754 Eglinton Ave. West

The Fabulous Cougars: Reggae in Toronto Jay Douglas and Everton "Pablo" Paul, with Karsten Frehe, 2010. This interview is on a German online magazine called Irie Ites, which features information, interviews, recordings, and live streaming on dub, reggae, dancehall and ska. 

Learning Portrait - Jimmy Wisdom TV Ontario, 2016. From TVO''s series about how learning has changed people's lives. Jimmy discusses his life. This video also features Everton "Pablo" Paul.

Everyday Ambassadors: Jimmy Wisdom. Toronto 2015: Panamania. This video (3:22) tells the story of Ronald "Jimmy" Wisdom who came to Canada in 1968 from Montego Bay, Jamaica and now owns Wisdom's Barber Shop and Beauty Salon on Eglinton West in Toronto.

Events

Organik Sound System featuring RAS Simeon plays a set during the Reggae Lane Heritage: Explore Eglinton Ave. West Jane's Walk. May 7, 2016.

Bonus feature: Listen to Jay Douglas sing his original song called Reggae Lane, written for the occasion of the lane naming.

This research guide was developed by Barbara Baillargeon, Librarian, Maria A. Shchuka, Toronto Public Library and Tania Gamage, Graduate Student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto.

Last edited on April 2, 2020.

 

 

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