Listening Guide

A chapter-by-chapter selection of audio/video clips featuring the music referenced in Uproot, with endnotes and links to explore further!

Chapter Three How Music Travels


I didn't reference this audio in the book itself, but it's a good point to begin for this chapter.
The Ghost in the MP3 is an interesting sound-art project (with a good MP3 bibliography at the end). Composer Ryan Maguire creatively "salvages" the audio information removed in the foundational "Tom's Diner" MP3, using trace audio to re-imagine what gets lost via MP3 compression. The first clip is his piece, and the second is a radio spot where Maguire describes the process.

A 2000 article called “Perceptual Coding: How MP3 Compression Works” published in British magazine Sound on Sound was a great resource although sadly no longer available online. Their 2012 article “What Data Compression Does To Your Music” is a decent substitute.


ghost in the mp3 radio spot

The Craziest Riddim

A quick listen through Team Shadetek’s “Brooklyn Anthem”: the original version, my mixtape blend of it, then some of the street dance videos that accompanied its transformation into the Craziest Riddim.


"The Sunday-morning quiet was broken only by the tinny notes of 'Fisherman,' the Congos' most famous song, squeezed into a ringtone." (p.68)

I was first in Jamaica covering a collaboration between The Congos and Sun Araw for the Fader. These two songs define that time for me: a selection from the collaborative album ICON GIVE THANKS, and a dancehall tune that was big when I was there, Demarco's "True Friends."

Street Dances

You'll have to imagine the George Michael with lasers and yelling. Better yet, yell as you listen. I've included a David Rodigan soundclash clip for inspiration.

Rae Town

"Rae Town is Kingston's longest-running dance, and it is famously, specifically cool -- cool like the Heptones sang "Cool Rasta" in '76, cool like the Wailers in the British TV debut on Old Grey Whistle Test back in '73." (p.73)

Terrible audio on this one, yet it captures the Rae Town vibe: Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come"

Konono no. 1

The first commercial recording from Konono no.1 (back when they were Orchestre Tout Puissant Likembe Konono no.1), followed by a recording from one of their first European concerts, sixteen years later, availble on the Terp label.


Delightful flute dabke purchased in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn artist unknown (the first Soundcloud comment I received: "is this Omar Souleyman?"):

African Travels

My African drummer friend has long since left Spain for points north; this song by Nakany Kante is completely unrelated to him – but it provides a lovely taste of what’s cooking right now in Barcelona’s African music scene.

Here's the Deep Forest song & Fantômas album that my dear African neighbor had on repeat:

Keep Going!

Suzanna Vega’s widely-cited article on her experience at ‘the birth of the MP3’: “Tom’s Essay

"For a while, when someone asked what my favorite type of music was, I'd say 128 Kbps MP3s. And it was true!" (p.61)

Jonathan Sterne’s book-length study MP3: Meaning of a Format traces the compression format back to its roots in telephone technology. Last but by no means least, Mike Judge’s spot-on satire Silicon Valley is a TV series built around a scraggly company trying to bring their compression algorithm to market.

I'd written this chapter and was explaining my take on mp3 compression in it to friend friend who told me to check out the writings of Hito Steyrl. I did; her video and lecture-performance blew my mind. For further thoughts on media compression and data circulation, her essay collection Wretched of the Screen is germane, particularly the wonderful essay “In Defense of the Poor Image.”

For many years my knowledge of Jamaica music came from frequenting the stores on Blue Hill Ave. in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and later on from the shops in Brooklyn. Jamaican records contain and create so many interlaced histories!

Readingwise, some books to spend time with are Lloyd Bradley's Bass Culture: When Reggae Was King and Michael Veal's Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. The Rastafarians by Leonard Barrett helped me to wrap my head around Rastafariasm.

Welcome to the Listening Guide, a chapter-by-chapter selection of audio/video clips featuring the music referenced in the book, with endnotes and links to explore further!

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Available August 16, 2016 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux