Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica by Norman Stolzoff

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

This is a fascinating and often academic look at Dancehall music in Jamaica. Dancehall music is too often easily dismissed by the media as lacking depth, but this book serves as a study of dancehall music in all its forms and gives it the intelligient attention that it often deserves. Essential book.

Publishers 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. [He] 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.”

Review
“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. [He] 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.”–Publishers Weekly “Wake the Town and Tell the People 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 “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 “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 (forthcoming)_ “Wake The Town And Tell The People is an admirable attempt to change the terms of the debate engaged in by foreign journalists and tastemakers who have dominated the discourse on Jamaican music… Stolzoff’s historical analyses of the rise of dancehall culture, patricularly 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, January 2001

Vibe
“Wake the Town and Tell the People 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.”

Andrew Ross, author of The Celebration Chronicles
“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.”

Roger Steffens
“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.”

Book Description
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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