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The Duppy in the Machine: Voice and Technology in Jamaican Popular Music

The Duppy in the Machine: Voice and Technology in Jamaican Popular Music

Chapter:
(p.295) 14 The Duppy in the Machine: Voice and Technology in Jamaican Popular Music
Source:
The Voice as Something More
Author(s):
Andrew F. Jones
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226656427.003.0015

This chapter examines the electronic mediation of the human voice in Jamaican popular music. The manipulation of vocal timbre and pitch in studio production since the 1970s, and through the software plug-in Auto-tune in more recent years, has enabled Jamaican musicians to channel the voices of the dead, the vulnerable, and the voiceless, and in doing so, represent the sufferings of the historical past, as well as the depredations of the contemporary forms of exclusion and poverty. This chapter surveys the history of the sound-system and dub music, and shows how these innovations form the basis for the technological development and social valence of vocal production in Jamaican popular music. The chapter closely analyzes the innovative recording practices of the celebrated roots reggae performer, Burning Spear, as well as the more recent controversial work of dancehall performer Vybz Kartel, and proposes that they are linked by a shared interest in vocal timbre, and how it can be sculpted electronically so as to invoke historically resonant personae, and reflect on questions of dispossession, deprivation, and political representation in the present.

Keywords:   Jamaican music, reggae, sound-system, dub, vocal timbre, Vybz Kartel, Auto-tune, Burning Spear, vocal mediation

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