The Jamaican mythos is an impossibly potent one. A country tightly associated with "good times," "one love" and "excellent ganja," and also "rife with violent crime" and "extraordinary poverty levels" will never be a simple concept, especially for the simplistic First World imagination to sort out. My own conceptions of Jamaica are tied up in early, hazy childhood memories (like standing in the brush in rural Jamaica, patiently waiting in my denim overalls for a half-naked man to chop fruit off a tree with a dull machete) and a later, fraught one (being crashingly dumped months before my intended Jamaican wedding). The country is geographically and culturally richer than most others, but seemingly terrifying to live in. Heavy tokes, man.
From these complications, though, came reggae, dub and ska, and what better gift of existence, really, than these? Especially reggae, and especially in the summertime: Great reggae is almost comically effective in sweeping even the hardest of asses into a puddle of good times. Although every college slacker of the past 30 years has at least one Bob Marley poster stuck to their wall, producer/performer Lee "Scratch" Perry is equally responsible for teasing out the soul-stirring, story-telling Jamaican music that made it across every ocean.
A protégée of the Kingston producer Coxsone Dodd, Perry came up as a loopy musical polymath, who spent the 1970s producing Marley and emerging dub artists in the Black Ark, his low-fi, ad-hoc studio. Black Ark was an epicenter of hugely inventive and then-still-nascent reggae and dub scenes, and when the studio died (quite literally—by fire), Perry's profile and productivity spiraled sideways. A defiantly strange (if intriguing) character, Perry supposedly kept jars of human waste in the studio, was constantly at odds with his collaborators and worked inconsistently since he fled Jamaica. He's old now—like, grandpa-old—but still knocking out music with the "Scratch" sensibility, which is one that bland North Americans can appreciate, even if we don't necessarily understand.