Dancehall diss!

Speakers say music not getting recognised

Observer senior reporter

Monday, April 23, 2018

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THE disregard meted out to dancehall music formed the nucleus of the discussion at last Friday's launch of the Dancehall Archives and Research Initiative at the University of the West Indies Mona campus in St Andrew.

The archives is the initiative of UWI lecturer Professor Donna Hope. It will be a repository for all things dancehall, including photographs and an extensive bibliography.

Two of the event's main speakers, promoter/artiste manager Junior “Heavy D” Fraser and Dancehall Queen Carlene Smith, related how this genre of Jamaican music was often denigrated and frowned upon by those in authority, in general, unless it could be used to their advantage for political and commercial gains.

For Fraser, there is an overall disregard for dancehall and it only serves to stifle the music.

“I see dem going to England to celebrate 50 years of independence and our music, and they don't carry any dancehall act and I asked why. I was told that the dancehall artistes are going to be an embarrassment on stage. So I have to ask if the music that we create and give to the world is now an embarrassment. But you know when it is not an embarrassment? When election a run and dem need a song fi get out the people dem; it is not an embarrassment dem time deh. You hear politician a ask a which song a play hot both side, none a dem nuh different. None of them fighting for dancehall.”

“Dem not giving sponsorship to dancehall. Everybody a sponsor carnival. Every conference dem have dem seh reggae. which dancehall conference dem ever have. I ask why dem keep saying reggae all the time [when] we have reggae and dancehall and even though ah the dancehall man dem still a run the music,” he continued.

Smith, who was popular during dancehall music's heyday of the late '80s and 1990s, recalled her struggles.

“I was turned away from places, I was looked down on. I got in problems with persons in dancehall when they learned that I was not from the inner city; how dare me pick up dancehall?! The uptowners who know my family, especially my dad, wondered: 'Is she on drugs?, Why is she going that way?' and so I wasn't wanted anywhere. Even 26 years later, there are certain thing some people don't want once it represents dancehall.”

“Dancehall fights dancehall the most, which is unfortunate. Carnival has come together with a number of promoters... You can't get two promoters in dancehall to keep an event. So, if we keep fighting what we want to present, why do you think the others who don't understand it will want to accept it?”

While she blamed dancehall for the situation in which it finds itself, she too called on the authorities to play their role.

“We need somewhere where dancehall can be free. I'm not talking about cost but in expression. We are not disrupting traffic; the Noise Abatement Act does not come into effect and I see the music being turned off. Get an enclosed venue. It's everywhere else except Jamaica. Others are coming to Jamaica, stealing our identity and taking it away and cutting us out of it because Jamaicans are not fighting for what is ours, and the first thing is that we need a home for dancehall,” Smith added.

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