8th & 9th June 2018 // Baltic Triangle, Liverpool
Sound System Exhibition Launch, March 21st 2018
International Conference and Music Events, April 4 & 5th 2018
Birmingham City University, Birmingham UK
Birmingham City University and The University of West Indies are delighted to announce a forthcoming international conference on reggae culture and sound system innovation, and give notice of a forthcoming call for conference papers. Information on submission processes will be published in December.
The conference will be hosted in The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire at BCU, with its world-leading concert venues and conference facilities. The conference will also allow you entry to a number of planned reggae events and performances.
Running alongside the Arts Council-funded Let’s Play Vinyl sound system touring exhibition, hosted by Birmingham City University, the conference will engage academics with the wider sound system culture. The exhibition features specially commissioned photographs of a new generation of sound system operators. It features a sound system and associated toasting and ‘build your own’ system workshops, and the opportunity for all ages to play records on a traditional reggae sound system designed and built for the exhibition.
The Reggae Innovation and Sound System Culture International Conference builds upon recent meetings of the Reggae Research Network held throughout the UK in 2017, the Bass Culture Research Project and associated events, and the forthcoming Strictly Vinyl Sound System Outernational #4 in January at Goldsmiths, University of London, all establishing new approaches to reggae culture research.
This conference promises to be a landmark event in reggae culture and sound system research, highlighting the music’s subgenres, crossovers, mashups, intersections and innovations, featuring international academic guests and musicians. The conference will discuss and engage with reggae innovation, particularly the theoretical and practical expressions of how innovation plays out through music and popular culture.
Collectively, these BCU events mark the first stage of a series of co-produced research and external engagement activities which will investigate music diversity, cultural innovation and visualisation. Like this conference, forthcoming events will place the spotlight on music heritage and innovation through a series of workshops and plenary sessions on visual culture, technology and new collaborations.
We would particularly welcome proposed papers that address the following conference sub-themes:
· Innovation through heritage, from mento to dancehall.
· Innovation for heritage beyond dancehall.
· Reggae musicians and innovation case studies.
· Reggae, music and gender.
· Reggae and the music industry; new forms, new marketing, new audiences.
· Jamaican and diasporic sonicities.
· Reggae’s new music, new media, and new technologies.
· Exploring reggae’s inner and outer spaces and locations.
· Reggae in and out of popular music studies.
· Creativity: from theory to practice; methods and processes.
· Reggae in transition: reinventing reggae – reconfigurations, collaborations and crossovers.
· Reggae futures.
We would also welcome presentations made through innovative uses of media, music and technology alongside traditional formats. Presentation proposals from musicians, artistes and students are welcome.
Abstracts for individual or panel presentations of no more than 300 words per presentation supported by a short biography no longer than 75 words, should be submitted to the conference organisers for international peer review. Deadline for submissions Feb 23, 2018
Please send submissions or any enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
From Bass Culture Research:
Our first conference, organised by Mykaell Riley of the Black Music Research Unit, University of Westminster and Les Back of Goldsmith’s, University of London will take place at Goldsmith’s, Saturday May 26th 2018.
The University of Westminster’s Bass Culture Research is a 3 year AHRC funded exploration of the impact of Jamaican and Jamaican influenced music on Britain, from the post war period to today, from The Clash to Skepta. We are calling for abstracts of no longer than 300 words that explore this impact in light of but not limited to our research questions below.
Our aim is to produce a clear understanding of the impact and legacy of Jamaican music on the political, social, musical and cultural landscape of Britain. To achieve this we have three core research questions, each framing a set of subsidiary questions:
RQ1: What role did Jamaican migrants and their descendants play in the emergence of a vibrant cultural and creative ecosystem based around Black British music? How did reggae impact on the sound of British pop? What was the ecosystem supporting sound system culture, and how has the legacy of this culture impacted on the British music scene?
RQ2: How did reggae music impact youth culture in Britain: vocabulary, behaviour, dress and dance? What contribution did it make to cultures of political resistance, solidarity, and ethnic identity? What role did Jamaican and British Jamaican music play in the transition from monoculture to multiculture in Britain, particularly during the period 1976–1981?
RQ3: How can primary memories and artefacts of Jamaican music in London be traced, preserved, and handed down to future generations? Who are the key contributors to the legacy of Jamaican music in Britain?
Submissions guidance and deadlines:
Submissions to be emailed to email@example.com with Bass Culture Research Conference in the title by no later than 5th February 2018 and as a single pdf file.
• Informal queries to either M.S.Riley@westminster.ac.uk or L.Back@gold.ac.uk
• Abstracts will go through an internal peer review process and will be selected for 15 minutes oral presentations – a February date for these tbc.
• Notification of acceptance will be emailed to authors by 23rd February. Successful submissions will be presented during the Conference and the abstracts will be published as part of the publicity for the event.
Bookings: To ensure you receive notification when booking opens please join our mailing list here if you are not already on it.
One of our network members has been in touch to let us know about ‘Strictly Vinyl’, a free conference for reggae sound system scene and vinyl culture supporters, professionals and researchers. This conference will also feature a Unit 137 sound system session and an opportunity to view the Let’s Play Vinyl exhibition. The deadline for the call for papers is 30 November. For more information please visit https://soundsystemouternational.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I thought I should add to the network a little of the research on reggae music that I have done. In the 2013 book Shakin’ All Over: Popular Music and Disability, I explored the relation between polio and pop music, which includes the reggae vocal trio Israel Vibration. While in the network we have talked a lot about reggae bass, and felt it through sound systems, this work gave me a chance to think about the other end of the register, as sounded by the offbeat guitar / keys chopped chords that do so much to define the music too.
From Shakin’ All Over:
… In the case of reggae group Israel Vibration, the fact of institutionalisation was formative for the group: separation from the majority effected a stronger minority identity, since the three original members met and began to sing with each other while they were long-term residents at the Mona Rehabilitation Centre, near Kingston, Jamaica. The three young men had several points in common: a passion for the close harmony reggae singing popular at the time, an interest in Rastafarianism, and the experiences of polio and institutionalisation. Their first public performance was at the Theological College next door to the centre in 1974. When they left the centre, some other Rastafarians rejected them, seeing their impairments as a punitive sign from God.
Song titles like ‘Tippy tippy toes’ and ‘Level every angle’ emphasise the visual and sonic narrative of disability. It is not difficult to hear the latter as extending the fairly standard post-civil rights and post-Bob Marley rhetoric of one love reggae into a kind of disability rights context. So ‘Level every angle’ becomes at least in part Israel Vibration’s plea for public spaces and design to consider the access requirements of mobility-restricted people, as they sing:
‘Some people are blessed while others are cursed… / From every angle things should be level / And everything would be all right.’
When performing live onstage the singers are able to stand and move around by use of their crutches, while on the cover photography of their 2002 album Fighting Soldiers, they pose with their walking aids in a rundown street. In one image, they hold the metal crutches like rifles and point them at the viewer—a mix of gangster and ‘fighting’ polio survivor. Occasionally Israel Vibration sing songs that resonate with their experience of impairment, while even the reggae accompaniment, with its characteristic and insistent offbeat rhythm and chords, seems suddenly more fitting for musicians with mobility difficulties, where a lilt is no longer so far removed from a limp.
Indeed Israel Vibration invite us to consider reggae music per se as a music of disability, precisely because of its alla zoppa characteristics. Alla zoppa: a musical term for ‘uneven rhythms in a melody’, meaning ‘“limping” or “halting” in Italian … this rhythmic figure is part of the instrumental tradition of representing physical impairments’ (Lerner). In this context, alla zoppa makes us reconsider reggae’s characteristic offbeat rhythm guitar and keyboard, and even more so reggae’s sometimes out-of-time echo dub practices, as less lilt, more stilt. Here may be the appropriate moment to suggest that there is a potentially related observation to be made about tonal ‘imbalance’ and disability too: Joseph N. Straus argues that ‘[i]mbalance and unrest are desirable aesthetically. They propel the piece forward and provide an essential contrast with the normatively balanced and restful beginning and ending’.
The terrific video below shows Israel Vibration performing their 1995 song ‘Rude boy shufflin’.’ It’s all about the male body, and how it moves in the street, contrasted between the rude boy, all the TAB dancers, the youngster skipping, and the band’s movements. Wonderful polio dancing (pun!) throughout and especially from 3.42. A classic of late reggae. One of the 10m+ viewers left this comment on Youtube: ‘Only a Jamaican can dance with crutches and make it look good’. I don’t know about that, but it made me smile. You know, and discuss.
We are very excited to announce that you will be able to join us at the Reggae Futures evening event on Thursday 2 November via live video stream. Join us at 19:00 to watch Julian Henriques (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Hylu (Unit 137) discuss Creativity in Technology & Performance. The session will feature Rory Pagan aka #MrCoolie on Alto Saxophone.
Please click here to watch the live stream.
We have been asked to draw the network’s attention to the 2nd International Conference of the Interdisciplinary Network for the Study of Subcultures, Popular Music and Social Change being held at The University of Reading on the 6-7 September 2018, organised by one of the delegates to our first meeting in Norwich. Prof Matt Worley hopes it will be of interest to some reggae researchers & writers.
Please see the call for papers for more information, the deadline for submissions is 15 November 2017.
The Bass Culture research project are seeking 2 individuals to support the project by conducting their own research into relevant material held at Black Cultural Archives. Primarily this will be through a review of music periodicals in the archive: Echoes (formerly Black Echoes) magazine, Straight No Chaser, and Black Music and Jazz Review. The research will also look at related material in the ephemera collection, Len Garrison’ papers and his research in to reggae music and UK youth identity, as well as relevant material within the new Carl Kirton archive. This research would include but not be limited to identifying musical, cultural, political and or artistic trends during the period covered by the magazines and archive material.
Placements are for an 8 week period staring 1st Aug 2017, ending 22nd Sept. You will need to commit to a minimum of 4 hours volunteering each week and be able to access the archive at some point during these hours:
- Tuesdays: 10am-1pm and 1pm-3pm. Kennington (Carl Kirton) archive
- Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays: 10am-4pm. BCA, Brixton for other archive collections
- Produce a written piece responding to our core research questions – essay, article, personal response
- Take part in a public sharing / discussion event
- Be interviewed on film about your research and the experience
- Produce a personal response of your choice – for example, conduct and record your own oral history interview, writing a poem, mapping a music history walk etc.
Bass Culture is a three-year AHRC-funded exploration of the impact of Jamaican and Jamaican-influenced music on British culture. Covering the period from the mid-1960s to the present day, with a focus on London and a particular interest in the years 1976 – 1981, Bass Culture explores the profound ways in which this island’s music remade popular music in Britain. We look at how fundamental music was in the emergence of multicultural in the British city and the redefinition of the post-colonial nation. The term ‘Bass Culture’ acknowledges both the Caribbean cultural origins of sound system practices and their ongoing role in framing British urban experience across ethnic, local and regional contexts. This multi-strand research project unites a multi-disciplinary group of scholars, practitioners, researchers and cultural producers who will produce a series of exciting, accessible and innovative outputs including a comprehensive oral history, bespoke website, exhibitions, events and academic publications. Much of this work will be produced in collaboration with community partners and young people. Bass Culture is the first fully-funded academic investigation of the impact of Jamaican music and culture on Britain. The work is led by PI Mykaell Riley of University of Westminster, alongside academic partners at SOAS, Leicester and Goldsmith’s.
These placements are open to people of all ages and backgrounds and do not require an academic or archiving background. Experience of research will be helpful but is not essential. We are looking for a genuine enthusiasm for the subject area and an eye for detail – for ‘knowledgeable amateurs’ excited by the prospect of exploring an under-researched area, able to produce an articulate response to the work and willing to share their findings in written and other ways. You will be supported by the BCA Collections manager and by the academic research team, but will need to be self-motivated and able to work independently.
How to apply
Please send 300 words to email@example.com outlining:
- why you would like to volunteer for this project
- which parts of the Bass Culture research area most interest you
- the skills that you bring
- how you think taking part would benefit you
We will be holding informal interviews on Tuesday 27th of June in the Learning centre at Black Cultural Archives, 1 Windrush Square, Brixton, London, SW2 1EF and you will need to be available on that day to be considered. Travel and subsistence expenses will be covered.
Applications must be received by end Tuesday 20th June
Winner of Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards 2016
- Multi-Venue: Baltic Triangle, Liverpool (Constellations, Hangar 34 and District)
- Date: Friday 9th June – Saturday 10th June 2017
- Tickets: Friday, Saturday and Weekend tickets available from Skiddle.
- Children under 12 go FREE (Applies to Saturday only. Max of 2 x child tickets per parent/guardian ticket).
Liverpool’s award-winning celebration of reggae music and Jamaican heritage, Positive Vibration, returns in June for a jam-packed weekend of cultural appreciation and positivity.
Fronted by the iconic, Pauline Black, The Selecter were one of the key bands of the U.K ska revival of the late ’70s and early ‘80s (along with Madness and The Specials), often tackling sexism along with racism and other social ills.
The legendary operator & producer, who has been at the forefront of the UK reggae/dub scene since the mid-1970’s, will be bringing his full sound system for a 5 hour session.
Full Line Up
Friday: Jah Shaka (full sound system, 5 hour session), Aba Shanti-I, Reggae Roast, Earl Gateshead, MC Brother Culture, Saxon Sound System, Vibronics, I-mitri CounterAction, Sir Coxsone Outernational Sound System, DJ Andy Smith, plus more.
Saturday: The Selecter, The Scientist, Channel One Sound System, Don Letts, Prince Fatty, Horseman, Soul Jazz Records Sound System, Trojan Records Official Club Night w/ Pama International, Dubmatix, Charlie P, Ras Kwame, New Town Kings, The Hempolics, Backbeat Soundsystem, Western Promise, Mount Nakara, Golty Farabeau, plus more.
The Art of Reggae Exhibition
This year sees the return of The Art of Reggae Exhibition – a successful collaboration between Positive Vibration and the International Reggae Poster Contest. The exhibition, which supports the Alpha Boys School in Jamaica, will showcase 100 reggae-inspired posters, designed by illustrators & artists from all over the world. You’ll also be able to bid on the posters.
The exhibition will take place at Constellations from 7th June – 9th July 2017, with the launch taking place on the 7th June. Entry to the launch is free, but please confirm your attendance by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Reggae Q&A
There will be a panel discussion taking place on the Saturday of the festival which explores the impact of reggae on British music, culture & society.
This year’s panel includes:
- Pauline Black – iconic frontwoman of 2 Tone band, The Selecter. Actress, broadcaster and author of music bestseller, ‘Black by Design’
- Mykaell Riley – former member of Steel Pulse and founder of the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. Head of Music Production at the University of Westminster and Director for the Black Music Research Unit.
- Dennis Bovell – legendary reggae guitarist, bass player and producer. Founding member of Matumbi and pioneer of Lovers Rock.
- John Robb – award-winning music journalist and punk musician, John will be asking the questions.
On the Saturday of the festival, there will be a number of creative, educational and dance workshops for the children, including:
- Dub Poetry with Levi Tafari.
- Arts & Crafts with Square Pegs.
- The Rastaquarium.
- Capoeira with Capoeira For All.
Apply to Trade
If you’d like to trade at Liverpool’s award-winning reggae festival, please email email@example.com
All suitable goods & services will be considered.
Sponsors and Partners
- Arts Council England
- Trojan Records
- Jamaican High Commission
- Africa Oye
- International Reggae Poster Contest
- Alpha Boys School
- Liverpool International Music Festival
- Liverpool City of Music
Sometimes, the way academic research is presented might suggest research is something complete, tidy, and resolved. In my experience, research is messy, incomplete, and always far from resolved.
Research can be circular, rhizomic and often full of dead ends, silences, and deafening echoes. I love the challenge of sorting out this mess and I always revel in working on research riddled with contradictions and anomalies. This can be exciting and challenging on a good day, however, on a not so good day, I question my sanity.
I presented my sane side, when I applied to do my PhD research which investigates the contemporary history of the re-emergence of cannabis as a medicine. My methodology adopts an interdisciplinary approach which explores the social, cultural, and political factors which have shaped this discourse. My ten-minute presentation, at the Research Reggae Network symposium, Rastafari, Nyabinghi and ‘the herb’ was drawn from the activist strand of enquiry which seeks to historicise the medical marijuana social movement between 1992- 2016. Although Rastafari have been criminalised and incarcerated for their religious use of marijuana, Rastafari have been absent from marijuana reform advocacy in Britain. My initial research question sought to understand this absence, however before I could do that, I needed to gain a better understanding about the cultural and religious meanings which Rastafari ascribe to the sacramental use of marijuana.
These meanings have their roots in Jamaica, where Rastafari emerged in the 1930’s. Marijuana, popularly known as ganja, was introduced to Jamaica by indentured labourers from East India in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Marijuana cultivation and consumption became embedded within Jamaican society and ganja consumption has historically encompassed the recreational, folklore medicine and the spiritual. Rastafari venerate the qualities of ganja and refer to it as ‘the herb’. The sacramental use of ‘the herb’ is acknowledged and understood within Rastafari as an aid to mystical experience.
The popular perception about the recreational use of marijuana has been constructed mainly through unproblematised stereotypes, media representations and moral panics. For example, the ubiquitous image of Bob Marley smoking marijuana does very little to elucidate the difference between the secular and religious use of marijuana. We are none the wiser about Rastafari religious and spiritual ideologies, which inform the significance of ‘the herb’ as a sacrament within Rastafari religious practise. The sacramental use of ‘the herb’, has come under the scholarly gaze and the topic is not entirely obscured from view. For example, cultural anthropologist Leonard Barrett Snr, conducted interviews with Jamaican Rastafari about the sacramental use of ‘the herb’ as far back as 1963.
Contrary to popular belief, not all Rastafari consume ‘the herb’ as part of a spiritual practice and focusing on just this aspect imposed a prohibitionist lens on my research. What would happen if I (re)framed my focus and looked at other important aspects of Rastafari religious practice. Say, for instance, the collective practice of prayer, chanting, dancing and nyabinghi drumming. This insight added a different turn to my research and my research split into two pathways. The history pathway investigates the absence of Rastafari from the marijuana reform debate. Here, oral history interviews were conducted to explore the lived experiences of Rastafari with a view to reconstruct a narrative about Rastafari silence and invisibility in drug reform discourse.
A closer examination of nyabinghi drumming opened an ethnographic research pathway. My research included watching You Tube videos, which highlighted the international dimension of nyabinghi drumming. I found Rastafari scholar, Michael Barnett’s field research description of Rastafari religious services in America particularly useful to think about the importance of religious setting. Further insights shared by Ras gold during an interview about the healing power of music, expanded the framework to think about the holistic effect of music and dance within Rastafari spirituality, as he explained that:
‘you can sit and you can meditate and wait to have a connection with the universe or you can dance and you can drum, you can sing and you can chant and you can bring that connection to you, by just releasing them endorphins and all of the natural energies that we have inside us.’
Notwithstanding this research, I was unprepared for my reaction to a nyabinghi drumming session performance at an exhibition opening in London in June 2016. Listen here. The concept of African retention is new to me and I intend to write an autoethnographic account which traces the links between nyabinghi, reggae and African traditional music. I am also rather intrigued to find out if there are other explanations for my acoustic experience.
I had only ten-minutes to convey the twists and turns intrinsic to my research and map out the future research pathways to develop my thinking. Irrespective of whatever anxieties I might have had on the day about communicating a coherent narrative, I found the symposium provided a safe space to feel my way through my material and be part of an academic community for a day. Getting away from the academy also enhances opportunities to introduce my research to a different audience with unexpected outcomes. This included being invited to Fairfield House, Bath, the former resident of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie I. This kind invitation offered by Dr Shawn Sobers creates an opportunity for me to expand my London-centric research. My discussion with another academic resulted in an offer to read my draft chapter on drug reform. I was pleasantly surprised to bump into Professor Paul Gilroy at the train station. We had a brief chat about my research and he recommended that I should read the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.
I look forward to weaving a narrative about ‘the herb’, the invisibility of Rastafari and African retention with a sprinkling of the spectral for good measure. Research can be fun.
Instagram @ yewandeslondon
 Barrett Leonard Snr, The Rastafarian: Sounds of Cultural Dissonance, Revised. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988), 128-136.
 Michael Barnett, “The Globalization of Rastafari Movement from a Jamaican Diasporic Perspective,” in The Globalization of Rastafari, ed. Ian Boxhill (Kingston: Arawak Publications, 2008), 110–114.
 Interview with Ras gold, by Yewande Okuleye March 7th 2016.
 Rastafari believe in the divinity of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I. See Clinton Chisholm, “The Rasta-Selassie-Ethiopian Connections,” in Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader, ed. Murrell Samuel Nathaniel, Spencer David Wiliam, and Mcfarlane Anthony Adrian (Philaldephia: Temple University Press, 1998), 166–177.