Never thought I would ever have occasion to disagree with reggae legend Bob Marley. However, some dancehall music hits are a severe pain. ‘One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain’ Bob, its either some dancehall music isn’t actually music or you were wrong…any which way, I am sure you are turning in your grave and no amount of high grade can soothe the pain being caused by young babylon Uncle Demons.
Jamaican music has morphed over the years, starting off with ‘mento’ music from the first recording studio opened in 1951. When the ‘bluebeat’ Jazz sound was introduced with actual instruments, like the saxophone and trumpets, pianos, drums and base, the music morphed from Mento to Ska, the late and great Bob Marley (now turning in grave, he says) slowed the beats down and out came Reggae Music around the 1960’s. Funny enough it was Jimmy Cliff who associated reggae music with the peace and one love of the hippie era with his hit ‘Wonderful World Beautiful People’ in 1969. Like all things Jamaican, Jamaican music has created and maintained dominance over many music forms, giving rise to Hip Hop and other forms of music. In sports, art, music etc etc etc our little island is a powerful leader.
Yellow man was one of our first dancehall artist, doing what was called ‘Toasting’ at the time now we call it DJ’ing which is the skill of ‘riding a rhythm’ or talking while the music is playing in the background. Now, dancehall reggae music with its hypnotic beats is the most prominent Jamaican music art form and synonymous with Jamaica. Is it just me or does dancehall music seem to be the most violent, aggressive and unhappy music of all other Caribbean and perhaps international music. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to travel and most times the music sees people laughing, dancing and having fun, it is only dancehall music that requires everyone to be a bad man ‘wid bare badniss backa dat’ seemingly lauding illegal and disrespectful attitudes toward everyone, ideology and dem mumma. We sat back and watched as the lyrics became even more aggressive and sexualised over the years, till we are at a point where for an artist to make it or become popular he would almost have to spew some divisive or deeply misogynistic lyrics to be heard.
I often times ask, which came first the chicken or the egg. Is dancehall the way it is, or is it the way we want it to be…which comes first who has the influence, the audience or the artists?
In comes Tommy Lee hailing from the Gaza Empire whose mastermind and sadistic leader Vybz Kartel is currently incarcerated on what some would like to call trumped up murder charges. Many people despite the evidence and the fact that the acts he has been accused with are gruesome, have been calling for the release of Kartel, perhaps a further indication of the extreme lawlessness of the Jamaican culture, or a self-fulfilling prophecy of our tourism branding efforts ‘JAMAICA NO PROBLEM’, where even if we have problems, as long as the sun is shining and a few people are satisfied…we really have no problems. We have real problems when artists, who in my estimation are social leaders and mobilizers of the Jamaican youth and masses can say stuff like ‘buss boy head ah dem gate daily, in front pastor, school pickney’, expressing a very clear disrespect for life, religion and our future (children’s mind’s).
Our dancehall artists clearly do not have a clue in the world about the effect of music or its impact in creating and influencing popular culture. Sadly, the emphasis on producing the most sensational and envelope pushing lyric possible is as short sighted as the vision of our political leaders. What of next 10 years when our youth, fed fat on an unhealthy diet of cyanide, gun powder, murders and rapes anywhere, seeing women as mere bodies and pussy for thumping, with side orders of unemployment, broken families, negative role models of men trying hardest to be the man that is espoused by the dancehall culture or women who feed into the roles ascribed them, downing all that with a lack of political will both with our government leaders and so called activists.
Jamaica could easily become the lost jewel of the Caribbean sea, once a great nation, beautiful English speaking people from the amazing land of wood and water. What is the answer…FAMILIES AND PARENTING. Ordinary people standing against the things that are not right and leaving the group/gang/bandwaggon mentality and standing alone if needs be…the middle passage is over and we are no longer stuck in the big ship heading to the mainland. We can get off the dirty stinking ship and make it known that we are in control of our brains and our society. People are acting, the church with their hate march…dubbed love moment is actively marching against the right of consenting adults to do as they please to make each other happy in the privacy of their own homes and lives…yet ignoring the dancehall lyrics, Uncle and Auntie Demons…perhaps those demons are too big for them or they are cousin demons heaven bent on destroying the moral fabric of humanity, by authorizing and supporting further victimization of personal choice.