Jamaican Sound Systems and Knowledge Systems: Practice-Based Research (PBR) in Popular Culture


  • Julian Henriques Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Brian D'Aquino Goldsmiths, University of London


Working with popular street cultures in the Global South offers scope for practice-based research (PBR) to go beyond its application with creative practitioners in the galleries and theatres of the Global North. We start from an account of a “reasoning session” with reggae sound system owners, selectors, and engineers staged as a PBR event in Kingston, Jamaica. Such popular music cultures across the Global South have their own specialist apparatus for playing recorded music and—most important for a PBR investigation—their own embodied, situated, and tacit knowledge systems. These include the sophisticated arts of selecting music, tuning up a sound system, and the value of the culture for the communities from which they originate, as well as strategies for current challenges, such as police harassment and lack of government recognition or support. Accessing such grassroots knowledge systems requires not only a good rapport with local practitioners but also close cooperation with their own organizations and with local university researchers. Such PBR also demands sharing research findings—for example, by screening the documentary film we made of the reasoning session for its participant. It is concluded that practitioners’ ways of knowing as revealed by PBR can help challenge conventional ideas about the nature of knowledge itself.

Author Biographies

Julian Henriques, Goldsmiths, University of London

Julian Henriques is a filmmaker and a professor in the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he convenes the MA in Cultural Studies and is principal investigator for the European Research Council’s Sonic Street Technologies Project. He is the author of Sonic Media: The Street Technology of the Jamaican Sound System (Duke University Press, forthcoming) and Sonic Bodies: Reggae Sound Systems, Performance Techniques and Ways of Knowing (Continuum, 2011).

Brian D'Aquino, Goldsmiths, University of London

Brian D’Aquino a researcher, DJ, and music producer. He is a senior research assistant to the European Research Council-funded Sonic Street Technologies project at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of Black Noise. Tecnologie della Diaspora Sonora (Meltemi, 2021) and runs the Bababoom Hi Fi sound system and record label. 






PBR and Communities of Practice/Process