'Dance a yard before you dance abroad': reggae as a music production culture in Jamaica and in Britain 1968 - 1981

Lead Research Organisation: Birmingham City University
Department Name: ADM Birmingham Sch of Media


This project explores reggae's emergence as a music and a culture in Jamaica and Britain from 1968 to 1981: the period between the release of the first recognised reggae record - "Do the Reggay" by Toots & The Maytals - and the death of the music's international ambassador, Bob Marley. Such a project raises significant issues about:

- the internationalisation of popular music forms beyond the influence of US music on Europe;
- the profound role of recorded music in national popular culture and the way that relates to cultural changes that result from migration;
- and the insights that can be gained into the production of culture from a study of the cultures of music production.

While cultural studies of popular music have been attentive to reggae as a consumption culture (Hebdige 1979, 1988; Jones 1988), and there have been a slew of journalistic histories and star biographies (Barrow and Dalton 1997; Bradley 2001), we lack historically and culturally-located studies of this influential music. Accordingly, I avoid simple chronology, detailed study of fandom, and developments beyond 1981. Instead, I account for the way the different musical cultures of Jamaica and Britain produced diverse meanings for the music and how the one incorporated (and sometimes was appropriated by) the other. This is a timely response to questions raised by the Windrush Scandal and Black Lives Matter movement, and the success of Steve McQueen's Small Axe television series.


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