SSO#7 Sound Systems at the Crossroads

Sound System Outernational #7 online

in association with Sonic Street Technologies (SST) ERC research project:

SOUND SYSTEMS AT THE CROSSROADS

9-16 July 2021, 4pm to 6pm UK time (BST)

https://linktr.ee/Outernational

 

Conference Overview

Sound systems are currently at a crossroads despite the unprecedented explosion of the form during the last decades. Sound system culture has gained increasing attention from cultural organisations, the music industry and researchers. But the pandemic has been accelerating trends in both positive and negative directions.

In a positive direction online formats have been encouraging a new inventiveness and creativity in formats and content. A whole new range of opportunities are in the process of opening up for both practitioners and audiences and SSO #7 is part of this process.

In a less positive direction we have all certainly been missing the in-body experience of the sessions that are at the beating heart of sound system culture. The lockdown has silenced the streets worldwide, freezing sound system activities and depriving practitioners and the wider community of their primary source of income.

Even before the pandemic, the increasingly restrictive legislation, the gentrification of cities, the closing down of venues and public spaces, the threat and promise of commercial success, and the further policing of public life have posed a threat to the wellbeing of the culture.

SSO #7, ‘Sound Systems at the Crossroads’ aims to open a space for sound system practitioners, performers and scholars to come together to reflect on the challenges facing the culture today and to discuss which resources the movement can muster to pull through and ensure our continued flourishing.

In SSO #7, we ask, what are the obstacles facing sound systems today, and what kind of solutions can be found for them? In what ways can sound systems build a collective challenge to structures of power in present conditions? How do sound systems respond to the restrictions brought by hostile legislation, a lack of venues, and tightening noise regulations? What strategies have practitioners deployed to sustain themselves and the community when they are not allowed to play out? How has the role played by social media platforms to keep music alive under lockdown conditions affected this auditory, physically shared, street-based culture? How do we imagine the streets after the lockdown? And how do we envision our shared future in its aftermath?

We host artists, engineers, musicians, selectors, academics, activists, researchers and anyone else who participates directly or indirectly in sound system culture to address these questions.

Who we are

Sound System Outernational is an ongoing initiative of practitioners and researchers, in association with Goldsmiths, University of London, dedicated to recognizing, stimulating and supporting sound system culture worldwide. SSO creates spaces for dance and discussion. We organize events to bring together:

  • Practitioners and researchers: we believe the ways of knowing of a popular culture and the knowledge systems of the academy have a lot to learn from each other.
  • Past, present and future sound system culture: intergenerational conversations strengthen our culture and ensure its future.
  • Technologies, aesthetics and politics: to understand the culture’s numerous forms, styles and media of creative expression.

Our collaborator for SSO #7 is Sonic Street Technologies (SST). SST is an ERC funded research project (2021 – 2025) examining the culture, diaspora and knowledges of subaltern and Global South uses of sound technologies. Jamaican sound systems, Brazilian aparelhagem, Mexican sonideros and Colombian picos provide good examples. The project aims to map the distribution and history of these SST worldwide; to investigate the social, economic and cultural conditions from which they are born; and to achieve a deeper understanding of the nature of technology itself and its uses for social and economic progress. SST adopts a practice-as-research methodology as a respect for the knowledge embodied in current sound system and similar street cultures and to help build capacities for their autonomous development.

SSO#7 Programme in full

FRIDAY 9 JULY

4pm UK time:

Launch Session

The Sonic Challenge: Post-Pandemic Sound System Practices

Chair: Brian D’Aquino

 

Roundtable featuring:

Feminine Hi Fi (Brazil)

Conscious Way Outernational (Guadeloupe)

Kebra Ethiopia (South Africa)

El Gran Latido (Colombia)

 

REGISTER ON EVENTBRITE:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sso7-the-sonic-challenge-post-pandemic-sound-system-practices-tickets-159817613785

 

Feminine Hi-Fi is a creative platform founded in 2016, focused on promoting reggae as an appreciation of the role and presence of women in music. Dani Pimenta and Lovesteady select songs and Laylah Arruda drops into versions and communication. In addition to the musical selections, the FHF activities include online talks and workshops, and also the Feminine Hi-Fi Records label, the first in the country dedicated exclusively to recording, promoting and distributing music with a focus on female reggae voices. Feminine Hi-Fi has toured Europe twice, in 2018 and 2019, with passages in Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Ireland, and UK. In 2018, we produced the jamaican singer Jah9’s first concert in São Paulo, as part of her first Brazilian tour. Since May 2021, Feminine Hi-Fi has been a resident of the Brazilian branch of Dublab, an important radio station based in Los Angeles (USA).

Conscious Way Outernational. Unity in Diversity. Selectress Abigene and Tiqur sound operator are the heart of this Roots & Dub Culture Sound System hailing from Guadeloupe, Caribbeans. Talented Caribbean artists like Djahibre, Sistah Jahia, Nattywell, Ras Beni and more are regularly featured on the Hi Powa sessions.

 

Kebra Ethiopia Sound system (Glory to Africa) has been playing Reggae Roots music at township community parks for over ten years. It was established in Kwa-Thema, one of the townships located in the south-west of the East Rand in Gauteng, South Africa. By using Reggae music as a tool: it is a movement that concerns itself with community upliftment, socio-economic issues, ghetto living and spreading Pan African teachings. Throughout this activism it has been able to recruit and inspire the community: by offering a safe socializing space of meditation. The music communicates spiritually, thereby maintaining African pride embedding roots and culture with authentic integrity.

El Gran Latido Sound System. The project was born in November 2107 with the guidance of Channel One Sound System. We are a roots & culture sound system focused on promoting SS culture in Colombia and South America. One of our strengths is our family/crew. Since day one we decided to be involved in social action, supporting actions and projects in the different neighbourhoods of Bogotá and other cities of Colombia.  In this short period, we have been out more than 100 times amplifying the messages of many communities that live very heavy struggles in this country.

MONDAY 12 JULY

4pm UK time:

 KEYNOTE by Professor Carolyn Cooper (University of West Indies, Mona, Jamaica)

Chair: Julian Henriques

 

REGISTER ON EVENTBRITE:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sso7-keynote-lecture-by-carolyn-cooper-tickets-159818781277

Wheel an Come Again: Sound System Culture In Lockdown

Abstract

Long before the Covid-19 pandemic decimated live entertainment, Jamaican sound systems operated in a state of precarity, constantly subject to the threat of lockdown.  Seven decades after the invention of the sound system in Jamaica, this revolutionary art form still has not received at home the critical acclaim it deserves. The origins of the sound system in the concrete jungle of Kingston have obscured the technological brilliance of this megawattage musical instrument. The Jamaican elite routinely dismiss sound systems as pure noise.  They do not calculate the contribution that the multi-layered culture of the sound system makes to the Jamaican economy. Nor do they understand the psychosocial benefits of the sound system as a primal form of communal engagement. Furthermore, the global reach of the sound system enterprise is not fully appreciated in Jamaica.

The clash between uptown and downtown; decency and vulgarity; culture and slackness; noise and music has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Public safety measures to contain the spread of the virus derailed the entertainment sector in theory.  In practice, illegal events tested the capacity of the Jamaican government to effectively police dancehall culture. The livelihood of so many practitioners in the entertainment industry and related businesses was severely compromised, if not entirely destroyed, by lockdown. On July 1, International Reggae Day, the entertainment industry was cautiously reopened, with strict guidelines designed to ensure public safety. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the Jamaican government to pivot and publicly affirm the vital contribution of the entertainment industry to the local economy. Though the value of the sound system sector is not explicitly computed, it is, indeed, a major driver of productivity.  But the informality of the sector has impeded recognition of its actual worth.  In this regenerative post-lockdown moment, at the crossroads of marginality and inclusion, sound systems must wheel an come again to ensure that they are totally integrated into the formal economy and their value is fully acknowledged and accurately calculated.

Professor Emerita Carolyn Cooper is an inventive literary critic who has made an exceptional contribution to the development of Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.  She is the author of two influential books – Noises in the Blood:  Orality, Gender and the ‘Vulgar’ Body of Jamaican Popular Culture; and Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture At Large. She is the editor of the award-winning collection of essays, Global Reggae.  Professor Cooper initiated the establishment of the University’s Reggae Studies Unit which she directed for a decade and a half.  She writes a weekly column for the Sunday Gleaner on a wide range of contentious issues; and blogs at carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com.  For her outstanding work in the field of Education, Professor Cooper was awarded the national honour, the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander in 2013.

6pm UK time:

Sound System Session: Feminine Hi Fi (Brasil)

 Attend on YouTube Channel: Sound System Outernational

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSr0p8yInsGr2DeR_ERU4Ug

 

Feminine Hi-Fi is a creative platform founded in 2016, focused on promoting reggae as an appreciation of the role and presence of women in music. Dani Pimenta and Lovesteady select songs and Laylah Arruda drops into versions and communication. In addition to the musical selections, the FHF activities include online talks and workshops, and also the Feminine Hi-Fi Records label, the first in the country dedicated exclusively to recording, promoting and distributing music with a focus on female reggae voices. Feminine Hi-Fi has toured Europe twice, in 2018 and 2019, with passages in Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Scotland and UK. In 2018, we produced the jamaican singer Jah9’s first concert in São Paulo, as part of her first Brazilian tour. Since May 2021, Feminine Hi-Fi has been a resident of the Brazilian branch of Dublab, an important radio station based in Los Angeles (USA).

TUESDAY 13 JULY

4-6pm UK time:

 

Street Music Cultures: the Struggle for Survival

Chair: Monique Charles

 

Sonjah Stanley Niaah (University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica)

Festivals at the Crossroads: Response and Resilience in the Reggae Transnation

Bruno Barboza Muniz (University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Genocide and Culture in the Media: Structural Racism and Funk Dancing in Rio de Janeiro

Moses Iten (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia)

From dancing on the streets to social media:

Mexican sonidero sound system culture in times of Covid-19

Pax Nindi (Global Carnivalz)

Sounds Virtuality

Jean-Christophe Sevin (Centre Norbert Elias, EHESS, Marseille, France)

Is the Party Essential? Tekno Sound Systems in an Era of Health and Security

 

REGISTER ON EVENTBRITE:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sso7-street-music-cultures-the-struggle-for-survival-tickets-159819393107?aff=erelpanelorg

 

Sonjah Stanley Niaah is a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the UWI, Mona Campus. She is a leading author, teacher and researcher on Black Atlantic performance geographies, popular culture and the sacred, and Caribbean cultural studies more broadly. Stanley Niaah is the author of Reggae Pilgrims: Festivals and the Movement of Jah People (Rowman and Littlefield, forthcoming), Dancehall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto (University of Ottawa Press, 2010), and editor of Dancehall: A Reader on Jamaican Music and Culture (The Press, UWI, 2020).

 

Bruno Barboza Muniz completed his PhD in Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2016, holds a degree in Economics from University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and a Master’s degree from University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) through the Postgraduate Program in Sociology and Anthropology – PPGSA. His interests include the relationship between the implementation of security programs and culture production, critical race theory and political sociology.

 

Moses Iten is a PhD candidate in the School of Media & Communication at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia.  Researcher of Digital Cumbia music through fieldwork in Berlin, Buenos Aires, Bogota, several Mexican cities, and online.  Has 15+ years practice as a DJ/music producer, and with his Cumbia Cosmonauts project has toured every continent.  Co-founder of the Cumbia Massive DJ collective.  Award-winning producer of radio documentaries.  Assisted in translation of the oral history book ‘Ojos Suaves/Soft Eyes: Sound System Cumbia from Mexico to the World’ by Mirjam Wirz.  Holds a Master of Community Cultural Development (University of Melbourne), and a BA in Communication (Journalism) & International Studies (Mexico) (University of Technology, Sydney).

 

Pax Nindi was crowned the World’s First Ever Dub Vj in the early 90s by the Jamaican Gleaner Newspaper due to his use of visuals at the Albany Theatre where he ran his club Dubvision and also at the Rocket Jah Shaka sessions where he used to present giant projections of roots and culture visuals and live animations. Pax is credited as the first person to create dub mixes of African music. He has been booked to Dj Dub in various Festivals and presented his Dubvision sessions for a year on Bristol’s Ujima Radio. His band of the 80s Harare Dread was popular in Festivals and venues due to Pax’s original African Reggae and dubplates created from Harare Dread tunes landing him with another title “The Master of Roots African Reggae music”. An Ex Arts Council Senior Officer, Pax is currently CEO of Global Carnivalz and recognised as the international renowned Carnival consultant who has been responsible for running or initiating carnivals such as Hackney (London), Hull International (Hull), Carnivals of The World (Reading), Accra Carnival (Ghana), Isiolo Peace Carnival (Kenya), Cowley Road Carnival (Oxford), St Pauls Carnival (Bristol), Olinda Carnival (Brazil), Deptford Festival (London) and in Notting Hill Carnival he is currently responsible for the Brazilian elements.

 

Jean-Christophe Sevin is a sociologist at the Centre Norbert Elias (EHESS Marseille). His research interests are in the dynamics of cultural forms, notably in connection with the digital media transition, and in the relations between art, culture and territory.

 

6pm UK time:

Sound System Session: Kebra Ethiopia (South Africa)

 

Attend on YouTube Channel: Sound System Outernational

 

Kebra Ethiopia Sound system (Glory to Africa) has been playing Reggae Roots music at township community parks for over ten years. It was established in Kwa-Thema, one of the townships located in the south-west of the East Rand in Gauteng, South Africa. By using Reggae music as a tool: it is a movement that concerns itself with community upliftment, socio-economic issues, ghetto living and spreading Pan African teachings. Throughout this activism it has been able to recruit and inspire the community: by offering a safe socializing space of meditation. The music communicates spiritually, thereby maintaining African pride embedding roots and culture with authentic integrity.

 

 

WEDNESDAY 14 JULY

4-6pm UK time:

 

Writing Histories: Explorations of Sound System Culture

Chair: Yassmin Foster

‘H’ Patten (Goldsmiths University, London)

Dancing a reggae/dancehall identity: sound system culture, dance, movement and visibility

Chris Dewey (University of Huddersfield, UK)

Dub It Up: Field notes from promoting sound system events in Huddersfield from 2018-2020

Mirjam Wirz and Daniel Alvarado Chávez (Mexico City, Mexico)

Sonidos Confirmados: A stroll through our archives and a conversation about the sound system scene in Mexico City

Emilia Cox (University of Sussex, UK)

Sound System Culture in the Rural South West (UK)

Eric Abbey (Oakland Community College, Michigan, US)

Sound System Culture in Detroit, MI (USA) and the affects of location

 

REGISTER ON EVENTBRITE:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sso7-writing-histories-explorations-of-sound-system-culture-tickets-159820123291?aff=erelpanelorg

 

‘H’ Patten, Artistic Director of Koromanti Arts and ‘H’ Patten Dance Theatre Company is an experienced choreographer, performer, filmmaker, storyteller and author. He currently teaches African and Caribbean dance and popular culture at several Universities and arts organisations, including IRIE! Dance Theatre’s BA (Hons) Degree course. His international reputation in African and Caribbean arts spans 35 years, winning him several awards including the Jamaican High Commission 50th Anniversary Award for services in Arts, Culture and Entertainment (2012). Author of multiple articles and books, he is currently an Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) Independent Scholarship Fellow, hosted at Goldsmiths University.

 

Christopher Dewey is a Lecturer of Music Technology at the University of Huddersfield and reggae/dub practitioner. Christopher’s academic research primarily focuses on improving the user interfaces we use to create popular music. Christopher’s interest and involvement in sound system culture was a direct consequence of attending the Sam Sharpe Music Project in his hometown of Wolverhampton during the late 1990s and early 2000s. During this time Christopher discovered the potential of music, specifically reggae music, for its ability to transform, uplift and educate. Christopher relocated to Leeds in 2004 to work in education and immerse himself in the blossoming sound system scene.

 

Mirjam Wirz is a photographer and researcher based in Zurich and Mexico City. Studied of photography (BA) and transdisciplinarity (MA) at the Zurich University of the Arts. Organizer of „Flash Institut“ (2004-2009) in Vilnius/Lithuania. Since 2010 author and editor of the publication series „Sonidero City“ on sound systems and cumbia music in Latin America. Freelance photographer and lecturer in photography. She is currently studying translation.

 

Daniel Alvarado Chávez is a DJ, sound system operator and cultural researcher based in Mexico City. He is part of the soundsystem scene and researching in the scene simultaneously. His activities started in 2010 in the Azcapotzalco neighbourhood in Mexico City and include dance events, exhibitions, presentations in Mexico and Colombia and radio programs. He is currently working as a producer and programmer at Aire Libre 105.3 (Cumbiódromo and Radio Barrio).

 

Emilia Cox is a final year Journalism student at the University of Sussex. She is inspired by the creative forms that arise amongst harsh circumstances, and how those forms become tools of communication and expression within different contexts. Having lived and studied in Japan, she has written about the Japanese interpretation of Hip Hop; she was a contributor for the UK Hip Hop website, ukhh.com; and she is currently writing about the prevalence of sound system culture in Devon.

 

Eric Abbey, Ph.D. is professor of English and literature at Oakland Community College in Michigan. He is the Co-editor of Hardcore, Punk, and Other Junk: Aggressive Sounds in Contemporary Music and the author of Garage Rock and Its Roots: Musical Rebels and the Drive for Individuality. He is a professional musician and producer of ska and reggae and owner of the Pocket Sound System and Abbey Productions, LLC. His newest book, Distillation of Sound: Dub in Jamaica and the creation of culture is set for release on Intellect Books in 2021.

 

6pm UK time:

Sound System Session: El Gran Latido (Colombia)

 

Attend on YouTube: Sound System Outernational

 

El Gran Latido Sound System. The project was born in November 2017 with the guidance of Channel One Sound System. We are a roots & culture sound system focused in promoting SS culture in Colombia and South America. One of our strengths is our family/crew. Since day one we decided to be involved in social action, supporting actions and projects in the different neighbourhoods of Bogotá and other cities of Colombia.  In this short period we have been out more than 100 times amplifying the messages of many communities that live very heavy struggles in this country.

 

THURSDAY 15 JULY

4-6 pm UK time:

 

Space, Place and Belonging: Sonic Imagination and Essential Creative Practices

Chair: June Reid

Michael McMillan (University of Arts London, UK)

Sonic Vibrations: Sound System Culture, Lovers Rock and Dub

Thali Lotus (CAYA sound system, London)

Sound Never Dies, It’s Just Renewed

Njelle W. Hamilton (University of Virginia, US)

“Sound Sistrens:” Acoustics and Temporality in Caribbean Women’s Writing

Christine Hannigan (Bartlett School of Planning, US)

Culture as Commodity and Process:

“Regeneration,” Local Music Culture and Lewisham

Melville Cook (Institute of Cultural Studies, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica)

Equalizing Bassline with Economic Baseline: The Bank of Jamaica’s Inflation Targeting 

Campaign Misusing a Sound System Characteristic

 

REGISTER ON EVENTBRITE:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sso7-space-place-and-belonging-sonic-imagination-creative-practices-tickets-159820923685?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

 

Michael McMillan is a playwright, artist, curator and educator. As an academic, he focuses his research on “the creative process, ethnography, oral histories, material culture and performativity”. He is the author of several plays, and as an artist is best known for his first installation, The West Indian Front Room, which was exhibited with great success in 2005, attracting more than 35,000 visitors in its initial outing at the Geffrye Museum, and going on to inspire a BBC Four documentary called Tales from the Front Room (2007), a website a 2009 book, The Front Room: Migrant Aesthetics in the Home, and various international commissions, such as Van Huis Uit: The Living Room of Migrants in the Netherlands (Imagine IC, Amsterdam, and Netherlands Tour, 2007–08) and A Living Room Surrounded by Salt (IBB, Curaçao, 2008). A more recent installation of the Walter Rodney Bookshop featured as part of the 2015 exhibition No Colour Bar at the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Thali Lotus, BA MSc, is part of the Institute of Spirit Sound & Vibration (ISSV) and the founder of CAYA Come As You Are audio, enterprise and sound system established in 2016.

 

Njelle W. Hamilton is Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Virginia. She specializes in contemporary Caribbean literary and cultural studies. She is the author of Phonographic Memories: Popular Music and the Contemporary Caribbean Novel (Rutgers 2019). Her essays on sound studies, trauma theory and the physics of time have appeared in Anthurium, Journal of West Indian Literature, and sx salon, and her short fiction has been published in Pree: Caribbean Writing. Her current book project, tentatively titled The Physics of Caribbean Time, reads recent time travel novels through the lens of physics and Caribbean theory.

 

Christine Hannigan is a PhD Candidate from the United States (expected completion 2024) at UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning. She is learning how culture is commodified to promote urban “regeneration” schemes, and comparing that with how existing local culture develops. Her overlapping interests include housing and the privatisation and financialisation of urban infrastructure and space. Outside academia, Christine plays tenor sax amongst friends and writes freelance, mostly about music.

 

Melville Cooke lectures in the Bachelor of Arts, Communication Arts and Technology (BACAT) programme, School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS), at UTech, Ja. He is a PhD candidate in the Institute of Cultural Studies (ICS), University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, deepening a research interest in communication utilizing Jamaican Popular Music began with his MPhil, completed in the ICS.

 

 

6pm UK time:

Sound System Session: Conscious Way Outernational (Guadeloupe)

Attend on YouTube: Sound System Outernational

 

Conscious Way Outernational. Unity in Diversity. Selectress Abigene and Tiqur sound operator are the heart of this Roots & Dub Culture Sound System hailing from Guadeloupe, Caribbeans. Talented Caribbean artists like Djahibre, Sistah Jahia, Nattywell, Ras Beni and more are regularly featuring on the Hi Powa sessions.

 and

 6:30pm UK time:

Linett Kamala (Disya Generation sound system, London)

Recipe For A Happy Mind (Workshop – Limited Places)

REGISTER ON EVENTBRITE: Link to be published on Sound System Outernational’s socials.

Linett Kamala is an artist and soundsystem lead born in Harlesden, London, U.K. to Jamaican parents. Linett was one of Notting Hill Carnival’s first girl DJs – performing a groundbreaking set at Disya Jeneration sound system, which over three decades later, she now manages.

Through her creative practice she documented the early dancehall scene in London’s West End in the 1990s. She is Founding Director of Lin Kam Art, which enriches lives through festival art via residencies, events and programmes.  Deeply rooted in community empowerment, her socially engaged practice champions the various artforms associated with festivals, including street art and sound systems. Trained in the therapeutic and educational application of the Arts, Linett’s interdisciplinary artwork has been showcased internationally by Google Arts and Culture and she is a TEDx speaker. Linett is President of the University of the Arts London Alumni of Colour Association, Board Director for the Notting Hill Carnival and manages one of its biggest static sound system’s Disya Jeneration. Her current educator work includes; Associate Lecturer on the MA & BA Performance: Design & Practice at UAL Central Saint Martins, U.K. and Art & Wellbeing Lead at Ashley College, U.K. an alternative provision for young people.  Her outreach work focuses on partnerships with the Success Primary and High School in Hanover, Jamaica. http://linettkamala.com/

 

FRIDAY 16 JULY

4-6 pm UK time:

 

From the Rockers Sound Station to the Kingston Dub club: Gabre Selassie in conversation with David Katz, followed by an exclusive Kingston Dub Club live session

REGISTER ON EVENTBRITE: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sso7-from-the-rockers-sound-station-to-the-kingston-dub-club-tickets-159821046051?aff=ebdsoporgprofile

During the last fifteen years, Gabre Selassie has stimulated the resurgence of roots reggae and dub in Jamaica through the Kingston Dub Club, a sound system session he staged at various venues around town before setting up a permanent weekly residency at his home in Jack’s Hill, an exclusive enclave overlooking Kingston, which slowly rose to become one of the island’s most celebrated venues. Working with Augustus Pablo’s Rockers International sound system in his youth cemented Gabre’s commitment to message music and after visiting the original Dub Club of London in 2000, he began playing Rastafari-oriented roots and culture in Kingston, including dub made overseas, during a time when hardcore dancehall held sway. He soon inspired Jah9 to launch her music career and gave space to Reggae Revivalists such as Chronixx and Micah Shemaiah, as well as veterans like Oku Onuora and Kiddus I, while mentoring next-generation selectors such as Yaadcore. Occupying a unique space in a city starkly divided by social class, ethnic origin, political affiliation and religious faith, the Kingston Dub Club is a haven for locals and visitors alike, and although Selassie has faced repressive police action, ostensibly for noise issues, he kept the Dub Club going in the present era of restrictions, operating Covid-secure socially-distanced Sunday sessions, until further restrictions forced a recent hiatus.

During the interview, Gabre will discuss his origins, heritage and youthful experiences of sound system culture, to give context on the evolution of his art as a sound system

practitioner, culminating in the formation of the Kingston Dub Club and its subsequent growth; he will also speak of the difficulties in getting his sessions and against-the-grain styles of music to gain acceptance, as well as problems with hostile state forces, as well as efforts to keep sound system culture alive during a time of unprecedented challenges. The exclusive sound system session, recorded live at the Kingston Dub Club, will allow audiences to experience his artistry remotely as the culmination of our five-day symposium, taking place on Zoom 12-16 July.

The interview and the session will be streamed live on SSO YouTube channel. You can register for this and all SSO#7 events on Eventbrite.

Send your questions for Gabre no later than Friday 25 June to: soundsystemouternational@gmail.com stating ‘Question for Gabre’ in the subject field.

9-16 July: Sound System Outernational Screenings

What can sound system films do? How can a movie operate by informing and affecting us, by vibrating all listeners, by making our clothes, skin, and hairs tremble? Film sound is an amplification and a modulation of something already amplified and modulated, a resounding of sound in cinema, in this instance, taking the form of sound system films. Since the 1970s, we have been given the opportunity to experience films and videos on reggae sound systems, and more recently on sonideros, picos, and other forms of mobile apparatuses that catalysed and supported a whole culture that surrounds them in their native habitats. From the mobile music boxes to the internal sounds systems of the movie theatres, home theatres, TV sets and cell phones, to those in open air or indoor events, the screenings of these films depicted various sound system cultures, and, at the same time, helped to spread their vibes all over the planet. Ultimately, these peculiar films reverberate our perception of this globalized sociocultural phenomenon, whether involving us externally or sending sound waves into our bodies through headphones.

For Sound System Outernational 7, we have compiled a selection of films that present an informative and creative audio-visual arc of the plural sound system cultures, from Barranquilla and Cartagena to Budapest, from Mexico City to São Paulo and beyond. These are fairly recent portraits of sound system cultures, sometimes produced by the crews themselves, profiling them as they were in the years preceding the pandemic that claimed so many lives and froze all sound systems at large, thus helping us to think about how we can plan to recapture this sonic and collective activity in future.

 

 

Please check the SSO Screenings programme on our Facebook page for the reviews and links 

 

Bass Culture

Teddy Nygh (2020)

55 minutes

 

Feature documentary that explores the rich contribution and major impact of Jamaican sound system culture on the British music scene; connecting Reggae roots through Jungle, Garage and Grime. In conversation with many of the pioneers, legends and new generation artists who have been instrumental in shaping and evolving music, we witness first-hand their experiences, stories and contributions. The name Bass Culture, taken from Linton Kwesi Johnson’s 1974 book of poems, serves as an umbrella term for the impact of Jamaican styles and practices over the last six decades, through exclusive footage and testimonies. The film was commissioned by Mykaell Riley, director of the Black Music Research Unit, (https://bmru.co.uk) at The University of Westminster. Developed in partnership with Fully Focused, the Bass Culture Research film is the first-ever major academic examination of this dominant cultural force.

Language English.

Subtitles No subtitles.

 

Picó: un Parlante de Africa en America

Invernomuto and Jim C. Nedd (2017)

60 minutes

 

The documentary features interviews with key figures of the sound system scenes of Colombia’s Caribbean coast and evocative footage of picos in action, exploring how these port cities brought vinyl from West Africa as a component of Black Atlantic culture, a kind of inverse re-tracing of the slave routes of the middle passage. Through the subsequent emergence of sonic technology and uncommon musical exchange enabled by the picos, new styles such as Champeta and Guarapo emerged. The predominant culture of the picos, with its music and attendant lifestyle, came to represent a loosening of boundaries and an assertion of personal freedom in a region starkly divided by race, class, and gender.

Language Spanish

Subtitles English.

 

Yo no soy Guapo

Joyce Garcia (2018)

80 minutes

 Yo no soy Guapo (80 minutes), directed by Joyce Garcia (2018) is about Mexico City’s sonideros, who stimulated a vibrant cumbia and salsa scene in the streets of the ancient Aztec capital, attracting passionate fans who grew up listening and dancing to the sound of their huge speaker boxes. The neighbourhood of Tepito and the day of Nossa Senhora das Mercês, when several sonideros would meet in a large square to demonstrate their sound power to the population (and potential contractors) are the place and the date where charismatic figures like Lupita “La Cigarrita” and Ricardo Mendoza from Sonido Duende are entirely in their element.

Language Spanish

Subtitles English.

 

Sound System: the Voice of the Ghetto

Fernando Augusto (2019)

50 minutes

Sound System: the Voice of the Ghetto (50 minutes), directed by Fernando Augusto (2019), reveals a broad portrait of the sound system culture in São Paulo, the megalopolis that concentrates the largest number of reggae sound crews in Brazil. With testimony from key practitioners and evocative footage taken in several São Paulo communities, this documentary explores a scene that never wanted to reach the mainstream, its loyal audience instead committed to the values of the culture they have propagated.

Language PortugueseSubtitles English.

Short Films

FYA, a Remix Film about Brazilian Dancehall

Guilherme Nasser (2018)

10 minutes

 

FYA, a Remix Film about Brazilian Dancehall (10 minutes), directed and edited by Guilherme Nasser (2018), also deals with the São Paulo scene, but is more focused on dancehall sound systems. The film show how the movement is nurturing a new generation of sound system practitioners, such as Emcee Le and selectress Vitoria Janes from the female collective BonsuSound, and also explores the massive fight to legalize ganja while employing an Afrofuturistic approach to editing, and the soundtrack mixes tunes from Emcee Le with other pioneers of the Brazilian dancehall scene like Knomoh, Michael Irie, Jah Walla, Miss Ivy and Jimmy Luv.

Language Portuguese

Subtitles English.

 

Dubapest Hi Fi

Botond Istvandi (2020)

20 minutes

Dubapest Hi Fi (20 minutes), a documentary directed and edited by Botond Istvandi (2020) about the first reggae sound system in Hungary, established by the selector and operator Jahfar and Captain Midnite, accompanied by MC Haroon Ayyaz. The film was produced by the Dubapest Hi Fi crew to present a portrait of themselves through interviews with the entire team and invited international guests such as the OBF crew, Ashanti Selah and Junior Roy, and also makes use of images from their sessions, with the soundtrack provided by their favourite tunes; later footage shows British sound stalwarts Channel One at a session in Budapest organised by Dubapest Hi Fi, linking three generations of sound practitioners in Europe.

Language English

Subtitles English.

 

House Sounds

18 minutes

Bruno Ramos and  Coleta Filmes (2017)

 House Sounds (18 minutes), directed by Bruno Ramos (2017) from the collective Coleta Filmes, is a self-produced documentary portrait of House Sounds, established by residents of the communities of Vila das Belezas and Capão Redondo, located in the disenfranchised southside of São Paulo. The film reveals that, in 2016, the skateboard enthusiast and sound system aficionado Daniel “Pulga” Andrade applied for funding from São Paulo City Council to build a humble but passionate sound system in his neighbourhood, after years of struggle. With a lot of help from his friends, such as the veteran selector and operator Yellow P from the pioneering Dubversão Sistema de Som, MC José Roberto, the video crew and many others, Andrade could finally make his dream come true and bring the sound system vibes to his neighbourhood.

Language Portuguese

Subtitles English.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SSO #7 Team:

UK: Julian Henriques; Oana Pârvan; David Katz; Vincent Moystad.

Italy: Brian D’Aquino.

Brazil: Leo Vidigal.

 

Official Media Partners:  Astarbene Reggae Reporters, Rome, Italy

Graphic Design: XXXXX

 

Goldsmiths Sound System Outernational (SSO) Website:

https://www.gold.ac.uk/sound-system-outernational/

SSO email: soundsystemouternational@gmail.com

Blog: https://soundsystemouternational.wordpress.com/

FB Page: Sound System Outernational

Instagram: soundsystemouternational

 

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Goldsmiths

ERC Sonic Street Technologies

Sound System Outernational

 

 

 

 

 

Sound System Outernational #7 online in association with Sonic Street Technologies ERC research project: Sound systems at the crossroads 9th and 12-16th July 2021, 4pm to 6pm UK.

SSO#7 Call for Participation

Extended deadline: send a proposal of no more than 300 words by 17th May to:
soundsystemouternational@gmail.com accompanied by a short bio (100 words).

* Confirmed keynote speakers Professor Emerita Carolyn Cooper (University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica) & Gabre Selassie (Kingston Dub Club)

Sound systems are currently at a crossroads despite the unprecedented explosion of the form during the last decades. Sound system culture has gained increasing attention from cultural organisations, the music industry and researchers. But the pandemic has been accelerating trends in both positive and negative directions.

In a positive direction online formats have been encouraging a new inventiveness and creativity in formats and content. A whole new range of opportunities are in the process of opening up for both practitioners and audiences and SSO #7 is part of this process.

In a less positive direction we have all certainly been missing the in-body experience of the sessions that are at the beating heart of sound system culture. The lockdown has silenced the streets worldwide, freezing sound system activities and depriving practitioners and the wider community of their primary source of income.

Even before the pandemic, the increasingly restrictive legislation, the gentrification of cities, the closing down of venues and public spaces, the threat and promise of commercial success, and the further policing of public life have posed a threat to the wellbeing of the culture.

SSO#7, ‘Sound Systems at the Crossroads’ aims to open a space for sound system practitioners, performers and scholars to come together to reflect on the challenges facing the culture today and to discuss which resources the movement can muster to pull through and ensure our continued flourishing.

In SSO#7, we ask, what are the obstacles facing sound systems today, and what kind of solutions can be found for them? In what ways can sound systems build a collective challenge to structures of power in present conditions? How do sound systems respond to the restrictions brought by hostile legislation, a lack of venues, and tightening noise regulations? What strategies have practitioners deployed to sustain themselves and the community when they are not allowed to play out? How has the role played by social media platforms to keep music alive under lockdown conditions affected this auditory, physically shared, street-based culture? How do we imagine the streets after the lockdown? And how do we envision our shared future in its aftermath?

We invite artists, engineers, musicians, selectors, academics, activists, researchers and anyone else who participates directly or indirectly in sound system culture to contribute to this online event.

  • Presentations can take the form of a talk, workshop, film screening, roundtable discussion, online sound system session and so on.
  • Approaches can include practice-as-research methodologies, drawing from Cultural and Postcolonial Studies, Sound Studies, Reggae Studies, Popular Music Studies, Critical Black Studies and Caribbean Critical Theory.
  • We welcome all engaging with sound system music, culture, technology, dance, oral history, business, marketing, etc, including from a gender and intergenerational perspective.

We welcome contributions in a range of formats, including:

  • Talks and presentations
  • Demonstrations
  • Hybrid talks and demonstrations
  • Performances live and/ or recorded
  • Live sound system sessions
  • Online exhibitions
  • Novel formats
  • Film screenings

Contributions welcomed on (but not limited to):

  • The global spread of sound system culture
  • History and futures of sound system in Jamaica and abroad
  • Urban gentrification, lack of venues, noise limitations
  • Sonic resistance and public space
  • Sound systems under lockdown
  • Creative responses to the lockdown
  • Imagining new possibilities
  • Sound systems and digital media: challenges and opportunities
  • Sound, technology and gender
  • Music, technology and black diaspora
  • Sound, music and migration
  • Auditory epistemologies
  • Vernacular knowledge and street technology

SSO#7 follows in the wake of previous events at Goldsmiths, Naples and Brazil (online) since 2017. Events and Collaborations

Sound System Outernational is an ongoing initiative of practitioners and researchers, in association with Goldsmiths, University of London, dedicated to recognizing, stimulating and supporting sound system culture worldwide. SSO creates spaces for dance and discussion. We organize events to bring together:

  • Practitioners and researchers: we believe the ways of knowing of a popular culture and the knowledge systems of the academy have a lot to learn from each other.
  • Past, present and future sound system culture: intergenerational conversations strengthen our culture and ensure its future.
  • Technologies, aesthetics and politics: to understand the culture’s numerous forms, styles and media of creative expression.

SSO#7 Keynote Speakers

Professor Emerita Carolyn Cooper is an inventive literary critic who has made an exceptional contribution to the development of Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.  She is the author of two influential books – Noises in the Blood:  Orality, Gender and the ‘Vulgar’ Body of Jamaican Popular Culture; and Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture At Large. She is the editor of the award-winning collection of essays, Global Reggae.  Professor Cooper initiated the establishment of the University’s Reggae Studies Unit which she directed for a decade and a half.  She writes a weekly column for the Sunday Gleaner on a wide range of contentious issues; and blogs at carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com.  For her outstanding work in the field of Education, Professor Cooper was awarded the national honour, the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander in 2013.

Gabre Selassie, over the last fifteen years, has stimulated the resurgence of roots reggae and dub in Jamaica through the Kingston Dub Club, a sound system session he staged at various venues before setting up a permanent weekly residency at his home in Jack’s Hill, overlooking Kingston, which gradually became one of the island’s most celebrated venues. Born Karlyle Lee in 1969 to Chinese-Jamaican parents, the former dancehall selector became Gabre Selassie after joining the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; working with Augustus Pablo’s Rockers International sound system cemented his commitment to message music and after visiting the Dub Club of London in 2000, he began playing Rastafari-oriented roots and culture in Kingston, including dub made overseas, during a time when hardcore dancehall held sway. He soon inspired Jah9 to launch her music career and gave space to Reggae Revivalists such as Chronixx and Micah Shemaiah, and veterans like Oku Onuora and Kiddus I, while mentoring next-generation selectors such as Yaadcore. Occupying a unique space in a city starkly divided by class, ethnic origin, political affiliation and religious faith, the Kingston Dub Club is a haven for locals and visitors alike, and although Selassie has faced repressive police action, ostensibly for noise issues, he has kept the Dub Club going in the present era of restrictions, operating Covid-secure socially-distanced Sunday sessions.

SSO #7 is a collaboration between Sound System Outernational and Sonic Street Technologies (SST). SST is an ERC funded research project (2021 – 2025) examining the culture, diaspora and knowledges of subaltern and Global South uses of sound technologies. Jamaican sound systems, Brazilian aparelhagem, Mexican sonideros and Colombian los picos provide good examples. The project aims to map the distribution and history of these SST worldwide; to investigate the social, economic and cultural conditions from which they are born; and to achieve a deeper understanding of the nature of technology itself and its uses for social and economic progress. SST adopts a practice-as-research methodology as a respect for the knowledge embodied in current sound system and similar street cultures and to help build capacities for their autonomous development.