The routes of roots reggae in Aotearoa/New Zealand: the musical construction of place and identity

Music Group identity Humanities Arts and Social Science (HASS) New Zealand
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This thesis explores the routes of roots reggae by looking at how New Zealand musicians and consumers have used this globally disseminated and commodified cultural product to locate themselves in various geographical places and cultural spaces. Chapter two examines how New Zealand roots reggae consumers and musicians have used this music and its associated cultural symbolism to construct their sense of place and cultural identity. New Zealanders' reactions to reggae's adoption and localisation demonstrate that place and identity are thought about in rooted (emphasising continuity or non-change) and routed (emphasising change and adaptation) ways. Reggae's roots/routes are explored from a different perspective in chapter three. Despite evidence of reggae's localisation in multiple places challenging prevalent understandings of cultures as being bounded, self-enclosed and distinct place-bound entities, New Zealand consumers of this music index Jamaica as the place of reggae's roots. The discourses of New Zealand reggae consumers are analysed to show how they have used the representations of Jamaica found in roots reggae lyrics (and the music's visual marketing) to construct their own senses of place and cultural identity. The lyrics of several New Zealand roots reggae songs are analysed in chapter four. This chapter demonstrates how some New Zealand reggae musicians have used roots reggae to overcome their sense of cultural dislocation, marginalisation and demoralisation by ideologically relocating themselves to their perceived ancestral homelands (the places to which they trace their roots), and by creating both real and imagined communities at a range of different geographical scales.This thesis aims to shed light on how the recent acceleration in the pace of globalisation has changed the dynamics within the multiple relationships between culture, identity and place, leading people to re-think and ret1ect about place in different ways as they become increasingly aware of human interconnectedness around the globe. The process of globalisation has raised important questions as to where culture is located; how people use music to conceptualise place and to construct social relationships; and how culture and real and imagined communities are defined. This thesis investigates how New Zealand reggae musicians and consumers have used reggae to construct identities that are rooted/routed to one or more places and peoples, and thus refutes postmodernist arguments that globalisation has resulted in an identity crisis, a sense of placelessness, cultural deterritorialisation and homogeneity. While this thesis is located in the field of ethnomusicology, its focus on the ways in which music informs and constructs people's sense of place also contributes to knowledge in the fields of contemporary popular music studies and cultural/human geography.

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