Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica

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Jamaican dancehall has long been one of the most vital and influential cultural and artistic forces within contemporary global music. Wake the Town and Tell the People presents, for the first time, a lively, nuanced, and comprehensive view of this musical and cultural phenomenon: its growth and historical role within Jamaican society, its economy of star making, its technology of production, its performative practices, and its capacity to channel political beliefs through ...

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Overview

Jamaican dancehall has long been one of the most vital and influential cultural and artistic forces within contemporary global music. Wake the Town and Tell the People presents, for the first time, a lively, nuanced, and comprehensive view of this musical and cultural phenomenon: its growth and historical role within Jamaican society, its economy of star making, its technology of production, its performative practices, and its capacity to channel political beliefs through popular culture in ways that are urgent, tangible, and lasting.
Norman C. Stolzoff brings a fan’s enthusiasm to his broad perspective on dancehall, providing extensive interviews, original photographs, and anthropological analysis from eighteen months of fieldwork in Kingston. Stolzoff argues that this enormously popular musical genre expresses deep conflicts within Jamaican society, not only along lines of class, race, gender, sexuality, and religion but also between different factions struggling to gain control of the island nation’s political culture. Dancehall culture thus remains a key arena where the future of this volatile nation is shaped. As his argument unfolds, Stolzoff traces the history of Jamaican music from its roots in the late eighteenth century to 1945, from the addition of sound systems and technology during the mid-forties to early sixties, and finally through the post-independence years from the early sixties to the present.
Wake the Town and Tell the People offers a general introduction for those interested in dancehall music and culture. For the fan or musicologist, it will serve as a comprehensive reference book.

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Editorial Reviews

Peace Magazine
For the Reggae enthusiast, Wake the Town is simply the most detailed, informative, and immersive account of how, why, and where Reggae music is really happening.
Alan Waters
Stolzoff has produced an admirable and thorough piece of scholarship here, and anyone interested in Caribbean culture or the history of Jamaican music should definitely take a look at it.
Signal to Noise
About.com
This is a thought-provoking read for serious students of Jamaican musical history, who wish not just to know facts so they can sling them in trivia contests, but also to understand the development of Jamaican music and culture in proper context. It is a decidedly necessary book, if only to provoke deeper analysis, discussions or arguments. Still, this is a decidedly colorful and fun book to read as well, with many first-hand accounts and lively stories from various paticipants in reggae history.
Peter Shapiro
[A]n admirable attempt to change the terms of the debate engaged in by the foreign journalists and tastemakers who have dominated the discourse on Jamaican music. . . . Stolzoff’s historical analysis of dancehall culture, particularly how it grew out of the gang rivalry sponsored by Jamaica’s two main political parties, effectively maps the socio-political onto the music.

. . His fieldwork and reportage of numerous yard dances is a crucial contribution to the literature.
The Wire

Michael Turner
Norman Stolzoff seems to be the ideal chronicler. . . . Calling Wake the Town one of the best books written about Jamaican music is of course faint praise. . . . Armchair travelers will be rewarded with a visit to a place armchair travelers almost never go. Not the least of this book’s virtues is its title, which is taken from a tune by U Roy. In like fashion my summary paraphrases King Stitt: ‘No matter what the people say—this book leads the way.’
The Beat
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Arguing that dancehall music is steeped in the Jamaican slave culture of 200 years ago and is not just a recent form of expression by volatile ghetto youth, Norman C. Stolzoff, an anthropologist at the University of California-Irvine, puts forth the first comprehensive study of a largely misunderstood and underestimated phenomenon. In Wake the Town & Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica, Stolzoff reveals that the lingo, dress code, power structure (including sexism and violence), sound and expression of dancehall not only reflect the struggle between Jamaica's haves and have-nots but also represent an intra-class (though not insular) battleground among the nation's poor.
Rob Kenner
[T]his is the best kind of scholarly writing-careful research driven by a fan's consuming passion. . . .Wake the Town offers valuable insights into dancehall's enduring power-and into the reasons so many international critics have missed the point entirely. Stolzoff deserves our thanks, for, as any DJ knows, the record must be set straight.
Vibe
Simon Reynolds
The book's real strength is in the vivid and precise details Stolzoff gleaned during months of field research.
Voice Literary Supplement
Caribvibe.com
Wake the Town serves as a comprehensive written documentary of Jamaican music as a whole and the dancehall culture in particular. Its culture, its people and its impact are embraced with a reverence that is refreshing.
Zinc Fence
Probably the best book yet written about reggae, this will be the benchmark against which future books on Jamaican music must measure themselves.
From the Publisher

“Dancehall is not just about music, it is about a way of life. Norman Stolzoff clearly understands this. I would tell anyone who wants to get a picture of reggae and the Jamaican people to take a read of Wake the Town and Tell the People-it's worth it. ‘Blessed.’ ”—Beenie Man, reigning king of the dancehall and two-time reggae Grammy nominee for Many Moods of Moses and The Doctor

“Norman Stolzoff has gone where many fear to tread - to the very heart of the dancehall milieu in the depths of the Kingston ghetto, emerging with the first full, objective look at this fertile birthing ground of Jamaican music. Wake the Town introduces us to many of the prime figures in DJ culture—producers, promoters, selectors and artists—and traces their history back hundreds of years. It is a remarkable work.”—Roger Steffens, co-author of Bob Marley: Spirit Dancer and Old Fire Sticks: The Autobiography of Bunny Wailer

“Stolzoff's comprehensive analysis will unquestionably be an important contribution to the growing field of Latin American/Caribbean popular music studies. But beyond its importance as the ‘first’ study of dancehall, this book is outstanding because of its theoretical sophistication, its comprehensive scope, and its firm grounding in extensive fieldwork among dancehall participants.”—Deborah Pacini-Hernandez, author of Bachata: A Social History of Dominican Popular Music

“This is the first sustained study of Jamaican dancehall music and culture in all of its aspects. Everyone interested in the island music, and in popular music in general, will find something useful in this book.”—Andrew Ross, author of The Celebration Chronicles

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822324782
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 6/1/2000
  • Pages: 328

Meet the Author

Norman C. Stolzoff, Ph.D. is president of Ethnographic Insight, Inc., a consumer anthropology and marketing research firm in Bellingham, Washington.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
1 Dancehall Culture in Jamaica: An Introduction 1
2 "From Way Back When": The Dancehall from Slavery to World War II 20
3 "Talking Blues": The Rise of the Sound System 41
4 "Get Up, Stand Up": The Dancehall in Post-Independence Jamaica 65
5 The Dub Market: The Recording Studio and the Production of Dancehall Culture 115
6 "I'm Like a Gunshot Heading Toward a Target": The Career Trajectory of the Dancehall Entertainer 151
7 "Run Come Inna the Dance": The Dancehall Performance 193
8 The Politics of Dancehall Culture: A Conclusion 227
Notes 249
Bibliography 273
Index 285
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2000

    Rasta man!

    This book was great! I never knew how important dancehall was to Jamaican culture. It is actually vital to Jamaican culture; everything seems to revolve around it. The book is filled with the history of dancehall, backrounds on Jamaican culture, and the anthropology of the culture. The best part is that the history in the book gets all the way up to the present day. This book was a real page-turner.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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