Black Culture, White Youth: The Reggae Tradition from JA to by Simon Jones

By Simon Jones

Northfield, Birmingham- October 1986
The time is approximately 2 a.m., throughout the indefinable
zone among Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The
Birmingham suburb of Northfield has close down, its pubs
closed many hours in the past, and so much of its population lengthy since
retired to their beds- so much, yet no longer all. For in a dilapidated
block of apartments in the back of the large Longbridge motor vehicle plant,
something is occurring. existence is stirring and other people relocating to a
particular type of rhythm, with a unique experience of time to
that embodied through the adjoining monolith to British 'motoring'.
Tonight, Scientist Hi-Powa, champion sound process of south
Birmingham, are taking part in a 'musical meltdown', because it says on
the price tag, to which 'all posses are welcome'.
Approaching the residences walking, the faint reverberations of a
bass line should be felt a number of blocks away, wearing through
the constructions and alongside the pavement. As we input via a
broken-down doorway, the DJ's voice turns into audible above
the now rumbling bass styles. relocating quickly up the
stairs, we knock at the door, greet the gateman and input ...

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Additional resources for Black Culture, White Youth: The Reggae Tradition from JA to UK

Sample text

Greater prominence was also given to percussion and Rasta drumming styles, and the off-beat quality ofJamaican music was further accentuated by the drummer playing together on both snare and bass drums on the third beat of the bar in a style known as 'one drop'. 4 Word, sound and power The emergence of rocksteady marked the beginnings of a period of heightened political awareness within Jamaican music, an awareness that reflected the growing political solidarity and militancy of black people internationally.

The repetitiveness and simplicity of its drum and bass patterns, through their ability to add depth and meaning to the music, defy evaluation according to standard European musical criteria. In one sense dub is an extension of the subversion inherent in the musical structure of all reggae, since it protects itselffrom simplistic and fixed interpretations (Hebdige, 1974). It emerged, in part, as a response to some of the contradictions posed to reggae artists by the increasing commodification of their product by the international recording industry in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The close relationship between DJ and audience signifies the communalism of the sound-system experience, an experience which is a test of a DJ's popularity and relevance, and one through which they must continually pass in order to remain successful and respected. The DJs' art is dependent on spontaneity, wit, good timing and an ability to narrate issues of a local and topical nature, while simultaneously rhyming and linking words together in key to the music's rhythms and syncopations. Through the sound system, the practice of DJing itself also remains a democratic form of personal and class-identified expression both in the sense that the DJ is a spokesperson for the audience and that anyone can step up and 'hold the mike'.

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