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Sound Systems at the Crossroads

Posted: April 19th, 2021 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

Sound System Outernational #7 online, in association with Sonic Street Technologies ERC research project.
12-16 July 2021, 4pm to 6pm UK time (BST)

SSO #7 Call for Participation:

Send a proposal of not more than 300 words by 3 May to [email protected], accompanied by a short bio (100 words).

Sound systems are currently at a crossroads despite the unprecedented explosion of the form during the last decades. Sound system culture has gained increasing attention from cultural organisations, the music industry and researchers. But the pandemic has been accelerating trends in both positive and negative directions.

In a positive direction online formats have been encouraging a new inventiveness and creativity in formats and content. A whole new range of opportunities are in the process of opening up for both practitioners and audiences and SSO #7 is part of this process.

In a less positive direction we have all certainly been missing the in-body experience of the sessions that are at the beating heart of sound system culture. The lockdown has silenced the streets worldwide, freezing sound system activities and depriving practitioners and the wider community of their primary source of income.

Even before the pandemic, the increasingly restrictive legislation, the gentrification of cities, the closing down of venues and public spaces, the threat and promise of commercial success, and the further policing of public life have posed a threat to the wellbeing of the culture.

SSO #7, ‘Sound Systems at the Crossroads’ aims to open a space for sound system practitioners, performers and scholars to come together to reflect on the challenges facing the culture today and to discuss which resources the movement can muster to pull through and ensure our continued flourishing.

In SSO #7, we ask, what are the obstacles facing sound systems today, and what kind of solutions can be found for them? In what ways can sound systems build a collective challenge to structures of power in present conditions? How do sound systems respond to the restrictions brought by hostile legislation, a lack of venues, and tightening noise regulations? What strategies have practitioners deployed to sustain themselves and the community when they are not allowed to play out? How has the role played by social media platforms to keep music alive under lockdown conditions affected this auditory, physically shared, street-based culture? How do we imagine the streets after the lockdown? And how do we envision our shared future in its aftermath?

We invite artists, engineers, musicians, selectors, academics, activists, researchers and anyone else who participates directly or indirectly in sound system culture to contribute to this online event.

  • Presentations can take the form of a talk, workshop, film screening, roundtable discussion, online sound system session and so on.
  • Approaches can include practice-as-research methodologies, drawing from Cultural and Postcolonial Studies, Sound Studies, Reggae Studies, Popular Music Studies, Critical Black Studies and Caribbean Critical Theory.
  • We welcome all engaging with sound system music, culture, technology, dance, oral history, business, marketing, etc, including from a gender and intergenerational perspective.

We welcome contributions in a range of formats, including:

  • Talks and presentations
  • Demonstrations
  • Hybrid talks and demonstrations
  • Performances live and/ or recorded
  • Live sound system sessions
  • Online exhibitions
  • Novel formats
  • Film screenings

Contributions welcomed on (but not limited to):

  • The global spread of sound system culture
  • History and futures of sound system in Jamaica and abroad
  • Urban gentrification, lack of venues, noise limitations
  • Sonic resistance and public space
  • Sound systems under lockdown
  • Creative responses to the lockdown
  • Imagining new possibilities
  • Sound systems and digital media: challenges and opportunities
  • Sound, technology and gender
  • Music, technology and black diaspora
  • Sound, music and migration
  • Auditory epistemologies
  • Vernacular knowledge and street technology

SSO #7 follows in the wake of previous events at Goldsmiths, Naples and Brazil (online) since 2017. Events and Collaborations: https://www.gold.ac.uk/sound-system-outernational/events-and-collaborations

Sound System Outernational is an ongoing initiative of practitioners and researchers, in association with Goldsmiths, University of London, dedicated to recognizing, stimulating and supporting sound system culture worldwide. SSO creates spaces for dance and discussion. We organize events to bring together:

  • Practitioners and researchers: we believe the ways of knowing of a popular culture and the knowledge systems of the academy have a lot
    to learn from each other.
  • Past, present and future sound system culture: intergenerational conversations strengthen our culture and ensure its future.
  • Technologies, aesthetics and politics: to understand the culture’s numerous forms, styles and media of creative expression.

SSO #7 Keynote Speakers:

Professor Emerita Carolyn Cooperis an inventive literary critic who has made an exceptional contribution to the development of Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.  She is the author of two influential books – Noises in the Blood:  Orality, Gender and the ‘Vulgar’ Body of Jamaican Popular Culture; and Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture At Large. She is the editor of the award-winning collection of essays, Global Reggae.  Professor Cooper initiated the establishment of the University’s Reggae Studies Unit which she directed for a decade and a half.  She writes a weekly column for the Sunday Gleaneron a wide range of contentious issues; and blogs at carolynjoycooper.wordpress.com.  For her outstanding work in the field of Education, Professor Cooper was awarded the national honour, the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander in 2013.

During the last fifteen years, Gabre Selassiehas stimulated the resurgence of roots reggae and dub in Jamaica through the Kingston Dub Club, a sound system session he staged at various venues before setting up a permanent weekly residency at his home in Jack’s Hill, overlooking Kingston, which gradually became one of the island’s most celebrated venues. Born Karlyle Lee in 1969 to Chinese-Jamaican parents, the former dancehall selector became Gabre Selassie after joining the Ethiopian Orthodox Church; working with Augustus Pablo’s Rockers International sound system cemented his commitment to message music and after visiting the Dub Club of London in 2000, he began playing Rastafari-oriented roots and culture in Kingston, including dub made overseas, during a time when hardcore dancehall held sway. He soon inspired Jah9 to launch her music career and gave space to Reggae Revivalists such as Chronixx and Micah Shemaiah, and veterans like Oku Onuora and Kiddus I, while mentoring next-generation selectors such as Yaadcore. Occupying a unique space in a city starkly divided by class, ethnic origin, political affiliation and religious faith, the Kingston Dub Club is a haven for locals and visitors alike, and although Selassie has faced repressive police action, ostensibly for noise issues, he has kept the Dub Club going in the present era of restrictions, operating Covid-secure socially-distanced Sunday sessions.

SSO #7 is a collaboration between Sound System Outernationaland Sonic Street Technologies (SST). SST(SST) is an ERC funded research project (2021 – 2025) examining the culture, diaspora and knowledges of subaltern and Global South uses of sound technologies. Jamaican sound systems, Brazilian aparelhagem, Mexican soniderosand Colombian los picos provide good examples. The project aims to map the distribution and history of these SST worldwide; to investigate the social, economic and cultural conditions from which they are born; and to achieve a deeper understanding of the nature of technology itself and its uses for social and economic progress. SST adopts a practice-as-research methodology as a respect for the knowledge embodied in current sound system and similar street cultures and to help build capacities for their autonomous development.

SSO #7 Call for Participation:

Send a  proposal of not more than 300 words by 3 May to [email protected] accompanied by a short bio (100 words).

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