back to jamaica, back to blog
yes blogosphere massive!
i've been meaning to get back on the blogwagon for a while. as i'm heading back to jamaica this saturday, it seems like an appropriate time to start anew. i'll be spending my days teaching digital music-making techniques to young people in kingston. (click here for more details. i'm really looking forward to this program as it is an ambitious one: my aim is to help motivated students become soup-to-nuts [or sampling-to-beatmaking-to-multitracking] producers over the course of one 30-hour week.) i'll be spending my nights recording new tracks with old friends, and hopefully some new ones too, and checking out some of kingston's finest dancehalls. i'm looking forward in particular to checking out TG's own passa passa, which is gaining international recognition (which is itself eliciting local criticism) as one helluva weekly party. (it hadn't really gotten going when i was there last year.) i definitely look to hit up the weekly dance and stageshow at cassia park on monday nights. nuff vibes, you see me?
as with last year's experiment in blogging, i'm hoping to share my thoughts--my dissertation as a work in progress--as i go. i plan to finish the thing by the end of the next academic year, and it is really starting to take shape. as i continue to work out my ideas on the relationship between the music of the US and Jamaica and what their intense interplay can tell us about the US and Jamaica, Americans and Jamaicans, and international relationships in a post-colonial, increasingly trans-national, and capital-dominated (and obsessed) world. (check here for papers i've already written and talks i've given.) i'm still "wrestling with words and ideas" (a la mos def), trying to tell a complicated story and to engage some complex ideas through plain language and compelling style. i appreciate having this blog as a way to simply get ideas out there in order to work through them, so i apologize in advance for a lack of order or economy here.
one of the big questions i'm trying to figure out right now is the relationship between domination and freedom, complicity and resistance. these are tricky, slippery, and loaded concepts, and i'm attempting to tell a story about hip-hop and reggae that sheds light on the way we think about domination, and enact it or comply with it, along the lines of various social categories. i guess, at bottom, music seems to occupy such a special, direct, widely-shared realm of experience that it often gives the lie to myths that seek to separate or dehumanize people, or justify injustice. which is to say: you can hear a different story if you listen more closely. in the intertwined musical histories of reggae and hip-hop, you can hear a story that goes beyond the hip-hop narrative's acknowledgment of kool herc as founder and reggae's recognition of its r&b roots. you can hear a story of people transcending national borders, class constraints, racism, and other forces of repression. of course, you can also hear people expressing some questionable opinions, reinforcing the same ol' ideologies that have kept people down for a long time, and advocating some bullshit.
today in jamaica, nearly all of r&b is categorized under the "soul" rubric (or, sometimes, "souls"). the story of my dissertation is turning into the story of how the US got JA, but reggae got soul (as the song goes). of course, it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that the US "got" Jamaica, but i think it's evocative and not at all an implausible argument, especially if we add the additional meaning that the US indeed "got" Jamaica in the sense of a significant diasporic population that maintains close-ties (and often citizenship, at least in the imaginary) to their homeland. (and, yes, jamaica and africa can co-exist in one's mind as homelands. some rastafarians believe that jamaica is zion; it's just in babylon's hands--still colonized, in real and mental terms.) of course, i'm also being playful when i say that "reggae got soul," recognizing the multiple meanings of that phrase as well. i do think there is something worth recuperating and celebrating about jamaican music's ability to celebrate life under rather adverse conditions. if i can do this while avoiding the romanticization that plagues much reggae-writing, and can put it in the context of US dominance, and can urge a reconsideration of hip-hop's well-rehearsed narrative in the process, and propose a new new-world musical aesthetics, and a bunch of other things, i'll consider my dissertation a success.
but i digress, which will probably be common in my entries. at any rate, i hope to have plenty of sights and sounds to share. meantime, there's plenty of stuff to nosh on here.