'Patois nah cut it'

By Aaliyah Cunningham
Observer writer

Thursday, July 04, 2019

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THERE are some Jamaican academics like professor Carolyn Cooper who believe patois (Jamaican dialect) should be taught in schools. Dancehall heavyweight Sean Paul has added his voice to that debate, in a way.

He says it is difficult for Jamaican artistes to make it in overseas markets because of the 'language barrier'. He was speaking to BBC Radio1 Newsbeat on Wednesday.

Sean Paul believes patois is difficult for people in the United Kingdom and United States to understand and as such, music entirely in the dialect does not sell.

"People speaking in hardcore patois, it's kind of hard for people to understand so that's a big factor. I'm able to speak in a little tongue where someone can understand me," he said.

The Grammy winner had remarkable success in those countries with songs such as Temperature, Gimme the Light, Deport Dem and Get Busy. The 47-year-old has also enjoyed a strong presence internationally through collaborations on songs like Cheap Thrills with Sia; Rockabye with Clean Bandit; Hair with Little Mix and Boasty featuring Idris Elba, Wiley and Stefflon Don.

But before Sean Paul hit it big, dancehall artistes like Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Mad Cobra, Beenie Man and Bounty Killer made their mark in the US and UK with unfiltered songs.

During the 1990s, those acts were signed to major American and British labels.

Sean Paul also said that despite his success, he had his fair share of misses.

"It's been a long journey for me, I keep my ears to the ground and listen. There's been a lot of times that I never really won with the song and failed," he told Newsbeat.

"People remember those but I think the story of the glory is pretty cool and a lot of the songs reached the glory stage, so big up to everyone who helped me to be that."

Dancehall music has increased in popularity in recent years among performers such as Rihanna, Drake, Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and even Ed Sheeran. With that recognition, Sean Paul is optimistic about its future.

"What we do comes from Africa but also the vibe that we set, it's been followed right now," he said. One day we are going to get people logging on back to what we do.. We just feel proud of that fact and We humbly wait for our turn to make the city burn again,"Sean Paul continued.

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