Sonic diaspora, vibrations, and rhythm: thinking through the sounding of the Jamaican dancehall session
AbstractThe propagation of vibrations may provide a better way of understanding the spread of diasporas than the conventional focus on the circulation of products (Hall 1980, Appadurai 1986, 1996, Gilroy 1993a, Brah 1996). Jamaican sound systems operate as a broadcast medium and a source of CDs, DVDs, and other commercial products (Henriques 2007a). But the dancehall sound system session also propagates a broad spectrum of frequencies diffused through a range of media and activities - described as 'sounding' (following Small's 1998 concept of 'musicking'). These include the material vibrations of the signature low-pitched auditory frequencies of Reggae as a bass culture (Johnson 1980), at the loudness of 'sonic dominance' (Henriques 2003). Secondly a session propagates the corporeal vibrations of rituals, dance routines, and bass-line 'riddims' (Veal 2007). Thirdly it propagates the ethereal vibrations (Henriques 2007b), 'vibes' or atmosphere of the sexually charged popular subculture by which the crowd (audience) appreciate each dancehall session as part of the Dancehall scene (Cooper 2004). The paper concludes that thinking though vibrating frequencies makes it easier to appreciate how audiences with no direct or inherited connection with a particular music genre can be energetically infected and affected - to form a sonic diaspora.