Nicolas Nova – 8-Bit Reggae: Collision and Creolization


Near Future Laboratory, Volumique, ISBN-13: 978-295500709, English, 112 pages, 2014, USA

Plenty of extremely niche digital cultures are still to be recognised, not only by the mainstream, but also by the non-initiated. If there’s one prophecy from the golden beginnings of the internet that has become real, it is the TAZ (temporary autonomous zone) where entities from anywhere develop their own interests and goals, sometimes separated and disconnected from the rest of the world/networks. In music this has happened rarely, but there are likely still extremely niche territories still to be acknowledged by music ethnographers. With the curiosity of an ethnographer Nova is here reconstructing here a digital subculture where a full hybridisation between video-game culture and reggae music is taking place. This hybridisation is thoroughly investigated and contextualised, from the shared dualism of being creative and coping with serious technical constrains, to the kind of algorithmic production processes employed and DIY low-tech skills. Nova goes through five generations of 8-bit music, with clear descriptions and an intriguing intertwining between iconic video-games and the generated reggae tunes that they inspired, composed using the grammar of Commodore 64 and NES sound resources. Digital subcultures sometimes seem to come out of a Gibson novel, but here the study and documentation is revealing and distinctly relevant. In a small hardcover format the book is beautifully designed with plenty of QR codes throughout that allow readers to enjoy the background music and videos cited in the text (mainly relying on YouTube and SoundCloud digital archives).