Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs
in Jamaican Reggae
A Book by Michael Veal
(Wesleyan University Press)
First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2008, Volume 15, #4
Written by Douglas Heselgrave
Tue April 1, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae, the new book by ethno-musicologist Michael Veal, has been a long time coming. While jazz, blues, hip-hop, and many other forms of music with roots in the African diaspora have received generous attention and scholarly treatment, there has been a serious lack of intelligent writing about reggae until very recently. Fans can count on one hand the number of books about the genre that go beyond exploring its attendant dope-smoking and dreadlock-waving stereotypes. Therefore, the importance of Vealís work simply cannot be overestimated.
For the uninitiated, dub is an offshoot of reggae that evolved out of the competitive environment of the Jamaican sound system scene. In the early days, producers would create specially tailored renditions of songs for prominent DJs so that they could claim to play material that couldnít be heard anywhere else. Dub essentially involves stripping down an existing track by cutting the lead vocals and melodic passages out of the mix. Then, the drum and bass sounds are turned up to create a unique version that is suited specifically for the dance floor. Dub originally was a regional phenomenon that had little influence and received nearly no exposure outside the borders of Jamaica. It since has become one of the most influential forms of music in todayís worldwide dance scene.
Michael Veal, the author of Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Sounds in Jamaican Reggae, is an associate professor of at Yale University, where he specializes in the music of Africa and the African diaspora. Academic credentials aside, there is nothing dry about his writing style. In fact, I found myself whipping through the bookís 250-plus pages in no time at all. Interviews with many of dubís originators from Errol Thompson to Lee "Scratch" Perry are entertaining and informative, and thankfully, Veal treats his subject matter with the respect it deserves.
Throughout the book, the connections that Veal makes between the evolution of dub and Jamaican culture, politics, and society not only are insightful, but they also are of tremendous value to interested novices as well as veteran listeners. The extensive discussions of influential recordings and the suggested reading list are equally invaluable. On more than one occasion, they sent me scurrying to my basement to rustle through long neglected boxes of Jamaican 45s. Itís going to be a long time before anyone writes a more compelling and informative volume about this neglected musical form. Damn, I wish Iíd written this book. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Sounds in Jamaican Reggae is
available from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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