Dancehall: The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture


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ISBN: 9781916359833 Category:


New printing – with new introduction by Duro Olowu – of this definitive study and essential guide to Jamaican Dancehall in the 1980s featuring hundreds of exclusive photographs with accompanying text, interviews and biographies.


‘Lesser’s book is a vibrant anthology of all that mattered; the soundsystems, singers, producers, singers and deejays’ The Guardian

‘This superb book of Beth Lesser’s photographs, supplemented by her emphatic text and wonderful candid interviews with many of the main players gives us a unique view straight to the heart of dancehall reggae.’ – Steve Barrow, author of The Rough Trade Guide to Reggae

‘This book features Dancehall and all its luminaries, with a back-drop of bass bins, heat-hazed colour and excellent knitwear, plus interviews, biographies and diversions into the music’s development.’MOJO


This book captures a previously unseen era of musical culture fashion and lifestyle. With unprecedented access to the incredibly vibrant music scene during this period, Beth Lesser’s photographs are a unique way into a previously hidden part of Jamaican culture. Dancehall is at the centre of Jamaican musical and cultural life. From its roots in Kingston in the 1950s to its heyday in the 1980s, Dancehall has conquered the globe also spreading to the USA, UK, Canada, Japan, Europe and beyond.

Dancehall is a culture that encompasses music, fashion, drugs, guns, art, community, technology, and more. Many of today’s music and fashion styles can be traced back to Dancehall culture and continue to be influenced by it today.

Born in the 1950s out of the neighbourhood soundsystems of Kingston, Dancehall grew to its height in the 1980s before a massive influx of drugs and guns made the scene too dangerous for many.

Dancehall is an essential reference book for anyone interested in Reggae, as well as a unique photographic and textual source book of the musical, cultural and political life of Jamaica.

In the early 1980s as Jamaica was in the throws of political and gang violence Beth Lesser ventured where few other dared and this book is never before seen record of the exciting, dangerous and vibrant world of Dancehall. Beth Lesser’s book tells this story from its roots to its heights. Living in Jamaica in the late 70s and early 80s she photographed and documented a cultural explosion as producers, singers, DJs and soundsystems who all made a living out of the slums of Kingston.

Additional information

Weight 1782 g
Dimensions 30.3 x 30.2 cm
Publisher name Soul Jazz Records
Publication date 18 November 2023
Number of pages 204
Format Paperback / softback
Contributors Edited by Stuart Baker, Introduction by Duro Olowu, Photographs by Beth Lesser
Dimensions 30.3 x 30.2 cm
Weight 1782 g


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Beth Lesser is a noted music writer. In the early 1980s, as Jamaica was in the throes of political and gang violence, she ventured where few others dared, and produced this book - a unique record of the exciting, dangerous, and vibrant world of Dancehall.

Stuart Baker is the editor of Yo! The Early Days of Hip-Hop 1982-84; Cuba: Original Cover Art of Cuban Music; Dancehall: The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture; Bossa Nova and the Rise of Brazilian Music in the 1960s; Reggae Soundsystem; Cover Art of Studio One Records; Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York 1989-92; Kanaval: Vodou, Politics and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti; and Freedom Rhythm & Sound: Revolutionary Jazz Original Cover Art 1965-83. He is also the founder of Soul Jazz Records.