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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sound Clash : Jamaican Dancehall Culture At Large


Carolyn Cooper is the Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, director of the Reggae Studies Unit and an accomplished author, television presenter and cultural critic. In her second book, Sound Clash : Jamaican Dancehall Culture At Large, Cooper examines some of the themes present in Jamaican dancehall music and culture, highlights how the music and its meaning is often misrepresented/misunderstood outside (and in) its immediate cultural context and provides an alternative analysis of many dominant ideas.

The book is comprised of a series of essays focussing on varying topics. Some of these topics include a comparison of the representation of women in the music of Bob Marley and Shabba Ranks, the part of metaphor and role-play in dancehall culture (especially in relation to gun culture), and the use of fire imagery to show the connections and continuities between reggae and dancehall. Other interesting themes is how Jamaican dancehall culture adapts to new environments and methods of production, using UK artist Apache Indian to illustrate this, and how the dancehall can provide a liberating space for women, paying particular reference to dancehall artist Lady Saw, and how she can be seen as a feminist icon.

The book thoroughly examines gender politics in a Jamaican dancehall context, and is heavily grounded in feminist discourse. After finding it a somewhat difficult read in the initial chapters, once I progressed through the book I found the ideas both stimulating and challenging. This book will be of interest to anyone wanting to examine issues of race, gender and cultural politics, and how the music a society produces can provide deep reflections on these issues.

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