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Hope and humanity flows through Black Atlantic sound and music cultures, new book argues

A story of hope and humanity flows through the music and sounds of the Black Atlantic, says the author of a new book on the topic.
In a polarised world, these sounds provide spaces for alternative cultures and humanities to flourish, argues Dr Malcolm James of the University of Sussex in his new book, Sonic Intimacy.
Through a forensic exploration of reggae sound systems, jungle pirate radio and grime YouTube music videos, the book weaves together the threads of active hope found in Black Atlantic culture.
Dr James, a Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Sussex, asks that, amid rising recrimination and authoritarianism, we listen again to the humanity that flows through these sounds.
He says: “When society is run by politicians who have more invested in hedge funds than high streets and where racism and nationalism are the principle modes of generating electoral consent, nothing feels better than to shout back, but a roar on those terms, however cathartic, is a cry in the night.  
“That is not the approach I have been endorsing in this book. Instead, Sonic Intimacy explores how Black Atlantic sound and music cultures sit askew to racial capitalism – not with or without, but alternative – and how those alternatives provide political resources for anti-racist and post-colonial work.
“Vibes, hypes and grimes teach us the resonance and residue of humanity. They ask where to press our ears and how to listen. In an era attuned to claim and counter claim, the minor keys of human life easily go unnoticed, when they have much to offer.”

Sonic Intimacy was published by Bloomsbury on 12 November.

By: Tom Walters
Last updated: Monday, 23 November 2020

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