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Distant Islands, Spectral Cities: A Sound-system Cartography of Survi​​val

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Institute in Paris

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Natalie Hyacinth

​​​In this third event of the ‘Distant Islands, Spectral Cities’ programme, Dr Natalie Hyacinth presents her research into sound-system cultures in South London, emphasising the role of sound systems – as living archives – in the formation of Caribbean social and political consciousness. ​​ 

Time: 17:00 - 19:00 (CEST)

In this third iteration of the 2023/24 Banister Fletcher Global Fellowship programme, we welcome to Paris Dr Natalie Hyacinth, who participated in the first ‘Distant Islands, Spectral Cities’ gathering in London in March. Hyacinth will elaborate upon her research into the history of Black British music, specifically The Sound of Lewisham, a project that maps sound systems in the Lewisham borough of London, developed for the ERC-funded Sonic Street Technologies research grant. This musical survey is also a historical work on migration and the formation of the social and political consciousness of the Caribbean community, emphasizing the role of sound systems as ‘a call for survival, Black pride and communal resilience against a hostile world’. The research, which documents the local music scene, covers several decades and follows the pioneering work of Professors Les Back and William ‘Lez’ Henry, the latter of whom participated in the April programme of ‘Distant Islands, Spectral Cities’, also in Paris. In publishing this work as a freely accessible printed brochure, ‘The sound of Lewisham from the 1950s to now’, Hyacinth testifies to the desire to consider the circulation of knowledge beyond the walls of the university and to engage local communities in the reappropriation and stewardship of a living archive.  

The event will take place in English and will be followed by a reception.  

‘Distant Islands, Spectral Cities’ is a programme conceived of by Olivier Marboeuf for the Banister Fletcher Global Fellowship 2023/24, a University of London Institute in Paris initiative. For more information on the programme, including further reading, please view dedicated programme page.


Natalie Hyacinth is Researcher and Research Manager on the ERC​-​funded Sonic Street Technologies project at Goldsmiths, University of London. Natalie’s research is intersectional and interdisciplinary, incorporating themes from Cultural Geography, Black Studies, Philosophy and Afrofuturism. Natalie has worked on a number of academic projects including as a Senior Research Associate on the Bristol based ESRC project Everyday Integration, as a Doctoral Researcher on the AHRC Making Suburban Faith research project, as well as publishing a report on Black Archives in the UK for the Race in the Geography group for the Royal Geographical Society. Natalie is a founding member of the Black Music and Cultures Research Group London that seeks to centre Black female writings and thought on diaspora Black music and culture and makes and thinks about sonic worlds as part of the Sonic CyberFeminisms Collective. Natalie inherited a large collection of vinyl records from her father including many Dub and roots reggae records. As part of her heritage and cultural and spiritual lineage she believes it is important to share this music and message of love and unity through the music through DJing and radio shows, as well as continuing the sonic explorations of her Caribbean forebearers by experimenting with new sounds and sonic technologies, a creative practice she explores under the name The Black Astral.