Music fuelling crime

Music fuelling crime


Friday, February 14, 2020

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I recently watched an interview done by Winford Williams on his television programme On Stage. In this episode he visited Buju Banton's studio and discussed many issues, including the state of the music industry. It was an interesting discussion and, quite frankly, the best interaction with a Jamaican artiste that I have seen. What stood out to me was the admission by Buju Banton that he believes dancehall music is, in fact, impacting crime.

As a person who grew up in Jamaica I have to agree with his sentiment. If it wasn't for the influence of the church and family I could have easily been influenced into a life of crime, prompted by peer pressure and by the music I listened to. I must admit that I am a fan of Rodney Pryce, aka Bounty Killer, who is renowned for his gun lyrics, many of which I listen to and enjoy.

Truth is, music is a powerful tool and can influence social change both negatively and positively. The determining factor which defines whether a society is plunged into an abyss of negativity, manifested by crime and violence, or becomes one of peace and tranquillity, is leadership. Guidance is the key.

What is being disregarded by many artistes is that with power comes responsibility. Musicians or artistes are eager to grab the power, influence, and fame that come with their new-found popularity, but vigorously disown the responsibility which is attached. This is done in the same way some of them abandon the many children they father during their period of stardom. Many misguided artistes only relish the lifestyle with no regard of the many young lives they are impacting. This explains why two of our most talented and influential dancehall artistes are currently behind bars.

One shining example of an artiste who understands the responsibility and in doing what is expected is international superstar Shaggy, who, despite his fortune and fame, still finds the time to give back to the society in a positive way.

Free Vybz Kartel

I quote a couple lines from a popular song done by Anthony B, a song which might be considered not a big deal, but I believe this song has a message: “You don't have to say you are sorry for all the wrongs that you have done.” It then closes with the line, “because the damage is already done”.

The reality is the damage has already been done to this generation by our artistes. The magnitude of this destruction is unquantifiable and immeasurable. Vybz Kartel and others have created a whole new culture among young people. They encourage a culture which embraces lewd, unruly, and aggressive behaviour; cemented with an intolerance of law and order. Vybz Kartel, as the leader of the Gaza Empire, has single-handedly created a movement never seen in this country before. His influence is powerful enough to increase the sale of products and services exponentially, as well as reshape social norms. Freaky girls got an endorsement so valuable money could never pay for such liberation. The brand Clarks benefited also; so undoubtedly the Chinese bootleggers made lots of money. Not sure if the black Jamaicans did. If the Chinese only received a spike in their sales during this era, there is no doubt that the bleaching cream is a consistent seller and a significant contributor to their bottom line. Oats, Supligen, and peanuts are now the recent beneficiaries, being branded now as the “Buck up inna” blend. I hope the Gaza boss is collecting royalties, even though in prison.

There is no doubt that Vybz Kartel's music has had an influence on crime. I could quote many lines from his songs which condone negative social behaviour which logically leads to, and influences crime. What was Vybz Kartel's opinion on scamming? Anyone remembers? What about the reason he is behind bars? Anyone remembers? The most important question which is being ignored. It is like the proverbial elephant in the room. How can a man who has been sentenced for involvement in a murder currently be the most popular dancehall artiste in Jamaica?

At the same time, the Government is being blamed for not fighting crime. On the other hand, how can a Government that says it supports law and order allow a person in prison to operate as if he is still on the streets? Is it because of money and fame? Money should not be able to influence the penal system, especially under a Government founded on equal rights and justice. No wonder we have a serious crime problem.

Since we are on the Government, it makes no sense keeping Vybz Kartel totally behind bars. He should be given the freedom to leave prison to perform. The proceeds of these performances should go to the State in aid of improving the education and training programmes for a cohort of so-called irredeemable youngsters who currently only have the music as their guide with the principal of this misguided school being Addi, the teacher.

Is violence in our DNA?

Were the unruly slaves who couldn't be controlled carried to Jamaica and abandoned by the Spanish, as the story goes? Was it really a Jamaican who started the Haitian rebellion and not a Haitian, as many believe?

Violence seems to be a part of our culture and entrenched in our DNA. The Jamaican society is one in which the strong and most violent succeed and are respected. A study needs to be done to understand the dynamics of what triggers this side of us. A greater understanding is needed or crime will continue to wreak havoc.

The music needs to be censored; music with two versions, a clean and an explicit one, should be banned from our airwaves. Songs glorifying known gangsters like El Chapo and echoing “killy killy” should be taken from our airwaves. What good can such songs contribute to a society? I am sure by now the “Unruly Camp” must be up in arms, but what can you expect from a group called unruly? Let's promote good, clean music, not for my sake, but for the sake of the man or woman who will be killed later today by a misguided youth who believes that the gun is the only way to gain respect or settle a dispute. Don't give them the endorsement needed to justify murder.

It can be argued that artistes are entitled to freedom of expression, but this is not about artistic creativity. It is a lifestyle being demonstrated, a way of life which condones violence and gangsterism, which is being played out day by day on social media and, in instances, real life. This portrayed 'livity' is what the misguided and uneducated youngsters are emulating, and in many cases living. Many of the crimes now being committed are done by boys who should still be on their mothers' breasts. They are not fully developed and should be seeking guidance to take them forward in life. Instead, the skill they have acquired and mastered is the art of taking lives by putting an end to the future of many promising individuals.

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