In February, we reported on the 40th anniversary of VP Records, the world’s largest reggae label, which began in Kingston, Jamaica.
In continuing the yearlong celebration of its 40th anniversary, the company has announced the launch of the first phase of The Reggae Trail, an interactive map of locations in New York City that helped make the music genre an integral part of life in the city over the past five decades.
“The first phase of the project, launches in conjunction with Record Store Day 2019, includes New York area reggae and Caribbean record stores with significant in-house record labels,” said Carter Van Pelt, VP Records’ Director of Catalog Development. “These include several dozen initial locations, chosen from literally hundreds.”
The Trail will grow to include recording studios, performance spaces, and also identify individuals who nurtured the growth of reggae, a globally influential genre from Jamaica recognized recently by UNESCO as a cultural heritage asset. Virtual visitors to the website will see how the growth of reggae mirrored the migration patterns of Jamaican and other Caribbean immigrant communities in the city. On April 13, Record Store Day attendees at the VP Records location in Queens, NY, will receive a printed version, free with purchase.
“The idea began ten years ago when I pinned a set of locations in Google Maps of the New York area addresses I found on vinyl records,” said Van Pelt. “I didn’t initially take it beyond several dozen locations, but I could see the potential. Richard Lue, VP Records’ Director of Business Development, had a similar concept that showcased the role of VP Records in the history of reggae in New York. The Reggae Trail is a combination of these ideas.”
The Trail’s first phase highlights top record stores that brought the music to the people starting in the early 1960s. One of these is VP Records, which moved from Kingston, Jamaica, to Brooklyn and eventually Jamaica Queens in the late 1970s, becoming a major distributor and label in the global spread of reggae. After 40 years, VP Records’ flagship retail space is one of the oldest continuously operated records stores in the Northeast. Other locations of note on the Reggae Trail include Brooklyn’s former Super Power Records, Jah Life, and Coxson’s Music City; Wackie’s House Of Music in the Bronx, and Brooklyn’s 50-year old African Record Centre (the oldest of the group still in operation). Users can click on shop names and obtain a brief history, which includes everything from when it opened to classic productions that emanated from there. Users are strongly encouraged to tag @vprecords and use the hashtag #reggaetrail in social media posts to suggest additional locations or to offer images of their own.
“This project is very exciting and rich in its potential,” said Richard Lue, VP Records’ Director Of Business Development. “The Reggae Trail will continue to grow and the plan is to fill out as much detail about the history of reggae in New York as possible, giving users an opportunity to visit these past and present locations and understand how Caribbean immigration influenced the culture of the city over the past 50 years.”