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Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  303 ratings  ·  36 reviews
In 2001 Jace Clayton was an unknown DJ who recorded a three-turntable, sixty-minute mix and put it online to share with friends. Within weeks, Gold Teeth Thief became an international calling card, whisking Clayton away to play a nightclub in Zagreb, a gallery in Osaka, a former brothel in Sao Paolo, and the American Museum of Natural History. Just as the music world made ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 16th 2016 by FSG Originals (first published July 5th 2016)
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Peter Hollo
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've been an admirer of Jace Clayton's work since he put the first DJ /rupture mix GOLD TEETH THIEF mix up for download. A superior tastemaker, he's also an extremely astute observer of technology, culture and human behaviour, and all that comes out in this focused collection of essays exploring the way digital (and analogue) technologies interact with different strata of different cultures.
He doesn't shy away from the potentially deleterious effects of technological change - especially when dri
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great read for every person interested in this weird thing called 'world music'. There's a lot of traveling, listening, DJing, preaching, criticizing, and commenting here. And yes, a contemporary music business is extremely complicated. ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Number of times this book made me cry: four.

I intend to re-read it to capture the most wonderful quotes.
Tristan Bath
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Jace Clayton talking about music is just a joy to read. Not only is he full of great little nuggets from a career as a DJ, traveller, and musical explorer - he’s a motivational speaker teaching us about how wonderful our era of music making is! Leave out the money, and we live in the most creative and explosive era for a new and truly global musical landscape, where the global South and North can create with equal ease. There’s a lot here to learn about - above all how to be optimistic about the ...more
Michael Sedor
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Open all borders
May 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
although he mentions a lot of fascinating subcultures, and this is a great place to find starting points for hours on youtube or spotify, uproot is ultimately self-indulgent - Clayton seems to be trying to convince us of how cool he is, with a scoreboard of 'scenes' he's infiltrated, rather than make any overarching point. Am i just jealous? Maybe. ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read a lot of music books, but Clayton's take on the present state of music is astute and will no doubt wind its way into my teaching and scholarship. I especially loved the chapters on Red Bull and Tribal. ...more
Chris Marmo
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Full of rich vignettes examining the intersections of music, technology and culture. I really liked the threading and layering of autobiography, travelogue reportage and nearly-academic writing, but found that the moments of self-awareness through the book were occasionally self-serving. The author does call out his positionality to some degree, but I would have liked him to spend more time being explicitly reflective about his own case as a taste-maker and cultural flaneur, now author and self- ...more
Aug 05, 2017 added it
i loved this book. he writes really well and provides music from all over the world on this flat plane (just as his subject, the internet, does). his judgments mostly land on corporate sponsorships and record labels throughout the book. i loved the chapter on world music/world music 2.0 and the excerpt on omar souleyman/exoticism. the souleyman thing is really great because sometimes the press and branding with souleyman seems facile, the pursuit of the exotic, or that sometimes it's some sort o ...more
Jack Duff
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
Long-form music journalism is hard to come by these days, and full volumes of music-focused nonfiction that aren’t historical or biographical are nearly nonexistent. I didn’t expect much of Uproot, and was expecting more of a discussion of Napster and Pitchfork like all the other “21st-century music” books. I was very wrong - this collection is a vibrant, energetic approach to the very concept of music, through the exploration of global dance music, electronic and otherwise.

I can’t think of any
Fabrício Calado
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Better read with headphones on.

Every chapter brought with it a piece of music, old and new, which left me searching for it wherever it was available (see, Spotify and YouTube, totalitarian as they might be, don't have all the answers).

Highly informing without sounding condescending, it breathes optimism. For sure, there are rants about the way things are right now, but there's also hope, fueled by travels and enlightened by sonic visions, that things can be different. Definitely a good thought
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As much as "The Song Machine"(TSM) depressed me about the state of music, Jace Clayton's 'Uproot' restored my hope in music made and listened to for the joy of music (rather than money ala TSM). The intersection of music with digital production and DJing around the world is really cool, and the website that accompanies the book has an excellent listening guide that I listened through as I read the book, and was exposed to a great deal of interesting music from around the world.

The early chapters
Ira Carter
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are a lot of excellent comments about how cool this book is. If I were to write a review per se, I would be repeating a lot of what they said. The book is about current styles of dance music, where digital culture meets that music, with lots of tasty world travel stories thrown in. The pace occasionally bogs down for a page or two, but overall it is a crisp, fascinating read. Another great book to take to the beach on vacation.
Owen Duckworth
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing read, great for music heads and travelers alike

Loved reading a book about music and international travel written by a person of color and a person who clearly nerds out on music as much as I do. Lots of excellent perspectives on navigating different cultures, places, technological realities, and the evolution of the music industry and how people around the world engage with music. Highly recommended!
Daniel Gutman
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoirs
I really liked this book. A fun travelogue and a lot of interesting thoughts on music, taught me a lot about DJ culture and dance music. Sometimes the flow of the writing was a bit hard to follow.

Fav quotes:

"I haven't studied global development. I think abolishing international borders seems like a step in the right direction. Until that happens, I want 320 Kbps MP3 dance-floor heaters, and I'm willing to pay."
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Music is as much about the discovery as it is about the listening. Follow Jace Clayton's Third World voyage through the time of DJ-ing and the space of underground supply channels. This book makes me want to hear everything played in every kind of setting. Never knowing it all is the drive that fuels the quest. ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
best book on contemporary music production that i have read. takes ethnomusicology out of the decidedly murky pool of "world music" and sets it on a course towards understanding global culture as a web or network of influences acting upon one another. who would have known dj /rupture was also a brilliant essayist? ...more
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this journey through modern bass and electronic music. The passages about sound culture in Jamaica in particular were exhilarating. This is the first book about bass music I've read, and it was quite something to have that special feelings when you feel bass put into words. Thank you Jace Clayton for sharing a beautiful story about the bass community! ...more
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Erudite, thoughtful, funny, entertaining. I have read a handful of Clayton's essays over the years and they have always struck me as written by someone who is constantly in motion, extraordinarily thoughtful about music and its role in cultures all over the world. These did not disappoint. He has a catholic taste (obviously leaning toward electronic work) and is deeply invested in the way music lives in the cultures from which it springs. His piece about the Berbers in Morocco was really well-wr ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
On one hand this is wonderful nostalgia, reminding me of the shift from physical to digital. More importantly it's a great look into how the resulting fragmentation could be a great thing, should we embrace it. ...more
Jeff Heuer
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A singular work, that I can imagine no one but Jace Clayton writing. A peripatetic survey of what it means to engage with global music now, still near the dawn of the third millennium. There are musical instruments, genres, languages… entire peoples here, which you are likely encountering for the first time. And, as always, dj rupture tells their stories in a personal and deeply humane way, while carefully acknowledging his own complex relationship to engaging with off-the-grid music from a priv ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
I want everyone to read this book if they like music.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: real-life-story
Seriously important and consistently interesting reflection and insight on world music culture.
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The early twenty-first century will be remembered as a time of great forgetting" ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Terrific explanations of some current music trends.
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Digital culture is complex. I personally owe what little audience my music has to the internet. It’s such an incredible tool for creation and community. But, in the past decade or two, just about every cultural construct has been digitally disrupted, whether it’s the music and publishing industries or journalism or physical media. I tend to agree with Jace Clayton that this upheaval is predominantly good, but the degree to which seemingly everything has been undermined has left us all in a kind ...more
Atte Tuomaala
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Uproot is a beautiful and heartfelt discussion of how modern digital methods of creating and distributing music have affected the entire art form and the culture surrounding it. The topics vary from auto-tune and Fruity Loops to .mp3 files and sampling.

Clayton's travels as a world-touring DJ and a passionate explorer of sounds, places and cultures often considered exotic ground all of the book's themes and allow the reader to get to know the people behind the phenomena the book describes. Cities
Phil Overeem
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I learned so much from this book, and had my mind opened so often. It even has me considering creating digital music, something I've seldom ever imagined doing. Plus, it's turned up the heat further on my desire to travel abroad to LISTEN as well as see. A truly great book. ...more
Ben Bush
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
Best piece of music writing I've read in a long time, but I'd recommend it not just for music fans but also for those interested in new technology, global econ, North Africa, etc. I read this the week of the deaths of Prince and Richard Lyons of Negativland. This book bridges the gap between those two artists. ...more
Vuk Trifkovic
Sep 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent book. I love his music, and his writing is just as strong. It is insightful, honest, fierce. Along with Heffernan's "Magic and Loss" it is by far the best recent book on intersection of technology and culture too. Go read. ...more
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