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

Wake the Town and Tell the People Dancehall Culture in Jamaica


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

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.


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 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 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 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

About 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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Book Info

Publication date

23rd June 2000


Norman C. Stolzoff

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Duke University Press


328 pages


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