Sonic Settlements: Jamaican Music, Dancing, and Black Migrant Communities in Postwar Britain

TitleSonic Settlements: Jamaican Music, Dancing, and Black Migrant Communities in Postwar Britain
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsMcGraw, Jason
JournalJournal of Social History
Pagination353 - 382
Date Published09/2018

Between the 1940s and 1970s, various genres of Jamaican music, from big band jazz and tropical sounds, to ska/blue beat, to reggae, provided a sonic dimension to the mass migration of Caribbean people to Britain. Alongside the quest for housing and work, Caribbean people, as well as native black British and other diasporic black populations, built leisure spaces, community life, and a new consumption-driven domesticity centered around music and dancing. Yet ideologies of race, gender, and sexuality inflected the production and consumption of dance music in deleterious ways. White hostility to black settlement and interracial sex, part of the rampant racial discrimination known as the color bar, constrained the possibilities for Jamaican music. In response, Caribbean people's pursuit of public dancing and music-filled leisure in dance halls, town halls, and semiprivate house parties became an early test for racial integration in the UK. As Caribbean settlers embraced Jamaican music in postwar Britain, they also shaped the music industry back in Jamaica. While noting the importance of musicians and other cultural producers, the focus here is on the audiences who created the music culture, as well as their own experience of migration and settlement through music and dance. [From the Author]

Short TitleJournal of Social History
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