One Love, £19.99

Sound System Culture by Paul Huxtable, Al Fingers and Mandeep Samra, book review

Huddersfield's loud and proud reggae history is revealed

It's strange to think of Huddersfield – so evocative of Yorkshire that you could call it onomatopoeic – as an outpost of Caribbean culture. Yet this industrial town in West Riding was a destination for post-war West Indian migrants in the same way as the biggest British conurbations.

And in reggae music circles, Huddersfield always punched above its weight. So it's appropriate that it is the setting for this elegantly-produced study of the sound system, the elaborate and towering edifices through which Jamaicans have for decades chosen to play their music in public. While British parties of the Seventies and Eighties shuffled to the discreet mobile disco, the West Indian sound system crews operated on another scale entirely. Their constructions of piles of speaker boxes stretched from floor to ceiling.

The ambition for thunderous noise is reflected in some of the names in the roll call of Huddersfield sounds: Armagideon, Assassin, Earth Rocker, Mr Tremble. But as Paul Huxtable makes clear, there's more to this than maximising decibel levels. It is about the arrangement of the hand-crafted boxes, with their distinct audio frequencies of bass, middle and "tops", into a formation that will produce the optimum sound.

It's a fiercely competitive world. "Who sounded the heaviest? Who sounded the sweetest?... Who had the best music? Who was the most innovative?" Huxtable observes.

The culture permeated West Indian life in Britain for decades. "Most Caribbean families had a member who was a sound man, or knew a sound man," we are told. "Sound system dances, be it in the dance halls or blues parties, were present in many minds all the time. During the week you would be looking forward to one, at the end of the week you would be preparing for one, at the weekend you would be at one, and you would start the working week with the memories to savour…"

It brought back my own memories of all-night shebeens and "Blues" house parties, where a sound would string up in the darkness of the back room and splashes of rum in plastic cups were sold through the kitchen hatch. The king of the Blues party in Huddersfield was Bernard Clark. "When I [held a Blues] up Sheepridge, most of the time I have to make breakfast because they won't leave. That's how good it was."

Another of the heroes of this book is the German Jewish refugee Mat Mathias, an electronics wizard who settled in Huddersfield and supplied the local sound systems with his "Matamp" amplifiers.

The town's Venn Street nightclub (variously known as Cleopatra's and Silver Sands) became a favourite for touring reggae stars such as Burning Spear and Gregory Isaacs. There's something elegiac about this story. Sound system culture – although it has inspired modern adherents around the world – has been relentlessly undermined by changes in technology and noise abatement officers.

Venn Street was bulldozed to build a car park.But Huddersfield's West Indian story applies to many manufacturing towns, such as Reading, Northampton and Bedford, places rarely included in descriptions of multicultural Britain. With so much British Caribbean history told through the prism of Notting Hill Carnival this is a valuable document.

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

booksReview: Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments