SST in the world of podcasts

Here at SST, we are always searching for the ways that sound system cultures and their impact becomes more noticed throughout the wider culture and other media platforms. For many of us, the SST project has been a portal into a whole world of musical expressions that were previously unfamiliar to us. As someone whose musical tastes and knowledge historically lay elsewhere, I looked to the world of podcasts to fill the gaps in my knowledge. One of the best ways to learn about the different worlds of SST, their history, and sociopolitical conditions is through podcasts and the storytelling they provide us. Today, I bring to your attention some of these podcasts.

By Aadita Chaudhury

Loud is a bilingual (English/Spanish) Spotify podcast hosted by Ivy Queen, singer, songwriter, and rapper, and one of the pioneers of reggaeton music that takes listeners through “Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico and beyond who beat the odds, refused to be quiet and created an irresistible musical culture that has kept the world dancing.” This podcast is a great way to dive into how one of the genres that animate SST, reggaeton, is born out of political struggle and continues to be a site of resistance.

Presented by a friend of the SST project, David Katz, this episode of Afropop Worldwide explores Brazillian Reggae:

São Luís do Maranhão is one of the poorest and most ethnically diverse cities in Brazil. In this old slave port, located in the far northeast of the country, a thriving reggae scene has wielded disproportionate influence since the 1970s, based on an overarching taste for obscure roots reggae from the Jamaican countryside and vintage lover’s rock from the urban spaces of black Britain. The music spread through the local sound systems, known as radiolas, fueling a bolero-like dance style which has contributed to the construction of a unique local identity in a city now dubbed the “Brazilian Jamaica.” Produced in São Luís by David Katz, this program explores how reggae became embedded in São Luís’ consciousness, cutting across boundaries of race, class, age, gender and language.

This podcast episode is yet another episode of the multiplicity of SST – and their persistent presence as a tool of sociopolitical resistance, while adapting to local cultures and conditions.

The Strangeness of Dub is a podcast series for Morley Radio hosted by writer and researcher Edward George. It takes listeners “on a journey into reggae, dub, versions and versioning that draws on critical theory, social history, a deep and wide cross-genre musical selection, and live dub mixing.”

Edward George is a noted writer and researcher who contextualizes the role of reggae and SST in the context of larger sociopolitical movements and struggles. Founder of Black Audio Film Collective, George wrote and presented the ground-breaking science fiction documentary Last Angel of History (1996). George is part of the multimedia duo Flow Motion, and the electronic music group Hallucinator. He and hosts Sound of Music (Threads Radio), Kuduro – Electronic Music of Angola (Counterflows).

The Reggae Podclash‘s mission is to share the stories of foundational reggae artists, creating a historical record told by the artists themselves, while building bridges to new artists who have followed in their footsteps. Hosted by Devin Morrison and Roger Rivas, two longtime players in the Los Angeles reggae scene who have performed and recorded with Jamaican legends including Alton Ellis, Prince Buster, Leonard “The Ethiopian” Dillon, Wailing Souls, Roy Shirley, Pat Kelly, Prince Jazzbo, Willie Williams, The Cables, Derrick Morgan, Stranger Cole, The Maytones, Soul Syndicate, Ranking Joe, Half Pint and more.

This podcast is important in noting some of the key actors who formed the foundations of reggae and birthed SST cultures as we know it today. For basics and a quick recap of history, The Reggae Podclash is hard to beat.

Created by The Black Curriculum, Sounds of Black Britain uses music to draw listeners into the history of the Black British experience. Since sound system culture in the UK has strong links to Black British history, this podcast takes us through significant events in the history of the communities that create this culture. This is essential listening for anyone interested in the context that SST emerged in the UK.

Bass Culture UK is the Black Music Research Unit at the University of Westminster, an academic research project exploring the impact of Jamaican and Jamaican-influenced music on British culture. Covering the period from the 1960s to the present day, with an initial focus on London and a particular interest in the years 1976 – 1981. [This podcast explores] the impact of Bass Culture through the explosion of Jamaican genres like ska, reggae and dub in the UK to the development of distinct British variants like dub poetry, two-tone and lovers rock. [The podcast examines] how and why this music’s influence has and continues to transform British pop from Susan Cadogan or The Clash to Stormzy. [It also explores] Bass Culture as a creative practice, an independent economy and a source of alternative philosophical and political ideas. This podcast is a collection of interviews with the people both behind the scenes and in the limelight of British Black Music.”

The aims and interests of the Bass Culture UK project at University of Westminster is closely related to that of the Sonic Street Technologies project. Similar in approach to The Sounds of Black Britain, How Bass Music Shaped British Culture is a treasure trove of ideas and conversations about the deeper significance of sound system cultures and related genres at a sociopolitical, cultural, artistic, and economic level.

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