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Sarah Daynes, Time and Memory in Reggae Music. The Politics of Hope

David Aarons
p. 218-220
Référence(s) :

Sarah Daynes, Time and Memory in Reggae Music. The Politics of Hope, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2016

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1In Time and Memory in Reggae Music: The Politics of Hope, sociologist Sarah Daynes offers thoughtful reflections on the dynamic relationship between time and memory as articulated in reggae music and Rastafari ideology. She uses music as a case study in collective memory, demonstrating how reggae artists draw on biblical and more recent events (e.g. the Trans-Atlantic slave trade) to construct and transmit memories that impact and are impacted by present and future events. This book also highlights the agency of reggae artists who choose how to narrate their own stories of glory, “sufferation,” and healing while chanting justice, redemption, and hope into being through their songs. Combining statistical analysis of reggae charts, social analysis of reggae lyrics, and critical theory, Daynes’s work is highly relevant to scholars in a variety of disciplines such as sociology, musicology, philosophy, and cultural studies.

2The book is divided into five sections. In the first, Daynes provides a thorough and much-needed discussion on the relationship between reggae and Rastafari suggesting that, following Goethe and Weber, there is an “elective affinity” between the two (22). She then details her methods of compiling a significant number of reggae songs from 1968 to 1999 that were popular according to local record sales. A noteworthy aspect of her song choices is that she includes “reggae dancehall” in the data pool whereas many studies related to reggae stick to one distinct genre.

3The most in-depth analysis of lyrics takes place in parts two through four. In part two, Daynes demonstrates how reggae artists have, through their lyrics, constructed and re-constructed memories of Africa, slavery, as well as older memories related to the Israelites’ exile in the Hebrew bible. Part three then features a similar lyrical analysis but deals with how reggae artists imagine possible futures based on the present and past. In part four, focusing on themes of liberation and redemption in reggae music, she highlights the effects of memory construction on the present and the future. For her song analyses, Daynes mentions and discusses the lyrics of over three hundred songs from the reggae corpus and includes their full list in the appendices.

4The book’s most significant theorizing occurs in the conclusion. Her discussion here is mainly situated in Halbwachs’s framework of memory and Durkheim’s framework of the sacred and profane. In this chapter, incorporating helpful charts and diagrams, she argues that the interplay found between the different levels of the past, present, future, sacred, and profane allows for their “simultaneous co-existence” (204). By leaving most of the heavy theorizing to the last chapter, the preceding chapters remain more accessible to readers who may be interested in connections between reggae, Rastafari, time and memory but who do not necessarily want to delve into the mechanics of time and memory.

5The author’s use of reggae to discuss collective memory works well because of the collaborative process of reggae composition and the number of reggae artists who sing about similar themes in similar ways. The challenge here is that reggae is most closely associated with one group of Rastafari (the Twelve Tribes of Israel) and so the collective memory described in the book may not necessarily apply to the entire Rastafari movement. To her credit, Daynes includes numerous songs of Bobo Shanti Rastafari singers Anthony B, Capleton, and Sizzla, keeping the analysis as balanced as possible.

6Although Daynes’s analysis is mostly based on reggae lyrics, she does hint at the sonic aspects of the music in several places throughout the book. In chapter four where she examines the construction of musical memories, she briefly discusses how the re-using of reggae riddims causes the memory of the original song to be retained and kept alive (71-73). Later on in the book she also briefly states that the sound of the music plays a role in the educative function of reggae—although she does not demonstrate how this is actualized (167). While lyrics, and not sound, are her main concern, points such as these highlight the multidimensional nature of reggae in this study. Indeed Daynes’s focus on reggae lyrics beautifully compliments Michael Veal’s work (2007) that touches on the sonic manifestations of time and Afro-futurism in reggae music and is thus a fitting addition to scholarship on reggae, time and memory.

7With solid arguments and clear, accessible writing, this book will appeal to a variety of readers within and outside of academia. Sarah Daynes’s work is a shining example that there is still much to gain from reggae and Rastafari studies and that research in this field is far from exhausted.

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Veal Michael (2007), Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae, Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press.

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Référence papier

David Aarons, « Sarah Daynes, Time and Memory in Reggae Music. The Politics of Hope », Volume !, 13 : 2 | 2017, 218-220.

Référence électronique

David Aarons, « Sarah Daynes, Time and Memory in Reggae Music. The Politics of Hope », Volume ! [En ligne], 13 : 2 | 2017, mis en ligne le 21 avril 2017, consulté le 19 août 2019. URL :

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David Aarons

David Aarons poursuit une thèse en ethnomusicologie à l’université de Washington à Seattle. Sa recherche porte sur les rapports entre reggae, rastafarisme et les mouvements de retour à l’Afrique.

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Droits d'auteur

L'auteur & les Éd. Mélanie Seteun

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