In This Review

Sounds of Vacation: Political Economies of Caribbean Tourism
Sounds of Vacation: Political Economies of Caribbean Tourism
Edited by Jocelyne Guilbault and Timothy Rommen
Duke University Press, 2019, 248 pp

In this innovative but uneven collection of essays, anthropologists and ethnomusicologists explore the sounds and music of the all-inclusive resorts (hotels offering prepaid vacation packages that include lodging, meals, and entertainment) that are booming all over the Caribbean. The scholars borrow from critical theory—including a Marxist focus on the alienation of labor and postmodern pessimism—with some going so far as to compare the resorts to slave plantations. None of the contributors brings a business background to the study of what are, after all, commercial enterprises. In their ethnographic interviews of resort managers and musicians, some of the contributors discover that studious deliberations go into choosing the melodies, tempos, sequencing, volume, and placement of songs in public areas, with attention paid to carefully balancing familiar tunes with the discovery of new sounds; such “soundscape curation” furthers the resorts’ commercial goal of pleasing the guests. Many of the musicians are well-traveled cosmopolitans capable of creatively blending global knowledge with pride in their local legacies.