Sound System – The Political Power of Music

By Dave Randall.

Published by Pluto Press.

Musicians have often wanted to change the world, and many—from underground grime artists to mainstream pop icons—channel that desire through the political power of music. Music has a unique ability to unsettle the most fundamental political and social conventions—or, alternatively, to stabilize the status-quo.

Sound System is the story of one musician’s journey to discover what exactly makes music so powerful. Years of touring, protesting, and performing have given Dave Randall an insider’s view of the music industry, enabling him to shed light on the most tightly held secrets of celebrity, commodification, and culture. He finds remarkable examples of music as a force of social change as well as something that has been used to keep people in their place throughout history. From the Glastonbury Festival to the Arab Spring, Pop Idol to Trinidadian Carnival, Randall finds political inspiration across the musical spectrum.

A blistering, intelligent polemic about the political power of music, Sound System investigates the raves, riots, and revolution of contemporary culture to answer the question—how can we make music serve the interest of the many, rather than the few?

“Randall delves deeply and engagingly, citing and expanding upon many historical precedents as support for his overarching thesis that yes, music can and should elicit worldwide progress. His in-depth accounts, in conjunction with his amicable voice and spread-out focus, make it a fascinating and crucial read for music fans, historians, and cultural activists alike. Sound System is ceaselessly fascinating and incredibly well researched, with a narrative voice that’s simultaneously highly educated and humbly inviting. In a way, Randall writes like the hip history professor everyone wishes they had, and while his anecdotes regarding his own participations, as well as those of popular artists like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell, are intriguing, it’s the level of depth he goes into about much older and lesser known activists that truly makes the book a must-read for anyone interested in music, culture, and/or politics.”

Morning Star
“Randall retains a sharply critical eye in this readable and thought-provoking work….In his concluding ‘Rebel Music Manifesto’, he offers some solutions to creating a culture that can serve us all through collectivism, community and activism. It is an optimistic ending and one that will hopefully be realised if music is to maintain its radical power.”

Tom Robinson, BBC 6 Music
“This engaging, hugely readable book…should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in the state of the world—and in the essential, life-affirming role music can play in changing it for the better.”

Maxi Jazz, lead vocalist for Faithless
“A thrilling trip through the dark corners and secret gardens of the music world! Randall leaves no stone unturned and has produced a work of rare insight.”