The women of Jamaican Music gets overdue homage in "SONGBIRDS: PIONEERING WOMEN IN JAMAICAN MUSIC" Image

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Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music by Heather Augustyn has been published by Half Pint Press and is now available. The book is a comprehensive look at Jamaican vocalists, instrumentalists, record producers, dancers, wives, mothers, and deejays who helped to shape the course of Jamaican music on the island and worldwide. 

Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music is the fourth book from Augustyn on Jamaican music and culture.

The book features dozens of interviews with women who found a way share their talent in a culture and industry that was marked by brazen displays of masculinity. They endured harassment and received little or no pay to perform as backup or alongside or in front of the male musicians. They sacrificed family and home for a life in the spotlight, or they brought their babies with them on the road. They took over the studio and made it their own, or they suffered unimaginable violence, even murder. They changed the course of music all over the world. The book also features over 100 exclusive photographs and memorabilia that supplements personal narratives and archival material.

Heather Augustyn spent two years researching and talking to such women as Millie Small of “My Boy Lollipop” fame who rarely grants interviews, and she obtained photographs from her personal photo album. Others include Enid Cumberland of Keith & Enid who is now in her mid-80s; Janet Enright, the country’s first female guitarist who performed jazz in the 1950s; Marcia Griffiths of the I-Threes, Bob Marley’s backup singers, and vocalist for the Electric Slide, the staple of every wedding reception; members of the first all-girl ska band, the Carnations, featuring the parents of Tessanne Chin, winner of The Voice; Doreen Shaffer of the Skatalites; Patsy Todd of Derrick & Patsy and Stranger & Patsy; Althea & Donna, and dozens of others.

Augustyn is also author of Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist, McFarland 2013; Ska: An Oral History, McFarland 2010; and Ska: The Rhythm of Liberation, Scarecrow Press 2013. She is a correspondent for The Times of Northwest Indiana and an adjunct professor at Purdue University’s North Calumet campus. She lives with her husband and two boys in Chesterton, Indiana.

Songbirds Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music is available at and

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