New Sound System films showcased at international reggae conference

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Six new films commissioned by ERC funded Sonic Street Technologies Research group will contribute to the deliberations of an international reggae conference that will convene in Kingston Jamaica next week.

Man and woman singing in microphone

The 8th Global Reggae Conference at the University of the West Indies will give way to a full days discussion of films featuring sound systems located in over six continents with premiers of six films focusing on sound systems in India ,South Africa, Columbia, Australia and the Dominican Republic.  

The films from India and South Africa show the impact of the international diaspora of reggae sound systems while those films from Brazil, Colombia and the Dominican Republic reveal how the setting for sound system culture and technology developed uniquely, independent of Jamaican influence. 

The newly commissioned films include:

Bass Foundation Roots (India) 

Dealing with the trials and tribulations of building a sound system in India.

Spiritual Monkey: The Monkey Sound System Story (India)

Where the crew behind Monkey Sound Systems mediate on the connection between India and Rastafari cultures and documents their inaugural session.

Fear Not (India)

Follows the journey of 10,000 Lions who have built a unique sound system, the first of its kind in India. 

Street, Gender, and Sound: The Feminine HiFi Experience (Brazil) 

Focuses on Feminine HiFi, a creative platform celebrating and promoting the presence of women in reggae music. In this short film, members of the collective share their experiences of the Brazilian sound system space. 

Heavy Congress: A Brief History of Sound Sytems in Melbourne (Australia) 

Tells the story of the Heavy Congress which bought together ten sound systems in a single dance with interviews with each of the participating sound systems revealing how Melbourne became a hotspot for sound system culture. 

Life Together: Sydney’s First Woman-Led Sound System (Australia)

Honey Trap Sound System’s founder, Maya Gold, reveals the challenges and joys of starting and running a sound crew in her city.  

Playing with Purpose (Colombia)

Focuses on the Uraba Sound System Collective’s efforts to overcome pico culture’s stigmatisation.

Survival: A Rasta Sound System Gathering (South Africa)

Documenting how Kebra Ethiopia Sound System orchestrates and provides “Survival” – a reggae street session that emerged from the repression of reggae music during apartheid in South Africa. 

In addition, the conference will also be the venue for other films depicting sound system culture in the UK, USA and Brazil. 

The conference comes on the eve of the release of Bob Marley: One Love a film charting the life of the legendary reggae singer and songwriter and will provide a unique platform for film directors and sound system practitioners to assess the health and challenges posed to sound system cultures globally. 

Sonic Street Technologies (SST) is a €2m European Research Council funded research project charged with exploring the unique social, economic, and cultural conditions responsible for spawning the growth of sound system cultures.  

Professor Julian Henriques, SST’s Principal Investigator, who has researched street cultures music and technologies including reggae sound systems said: 

“It’s fitting to showcase these films on the eve of the new Bob Marley film. The roots of sound system culture are in the reggae music that Bob Marley was the leading creative force behind. Our research on sound system cultures reveals both their pervasiveness and profoundness. They’ve been deployed to reduce conflict, as a rallying point for progressive action, and as a tool to redefine and empower as well as to entertain.” 

It’s a tragic irony that the music and sound system technologies that are both revered and celebrated from Iceland to Reunion Island and from Ukraine to Southall don’t command the same level of respect in the country of its birth. The One Love that Bob gave to the world is well-appreciated everywhere, but not so much in Jamaica.

Professor Julian Henriques, SST’s Principal Investigator

“Despite the intangible heritage status that UNESCO bestowed on Kingston’s music scene, neglect of what is a working-class form of entertainment along with middle class prejudices means that partnerships between researchers and practitioners are one of the few ways that sound system cultures are being documented and celebrated.”