Give dancehall the respect it deserves, part II


Brian Pitter

Monday, October 24, 2016

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On September 15 of last year,teenAGE ran an editorial calling for an end to dancehall being ‘thought of as the deviant, shameful little brother of reggae music’. That call must be made again. 

When Spice took the stage at the National Indoor Sports Centre on October 14, during a ceremony held for the recognition of our Rio athletes, it was obvious from the initial reaction of a majority of the crowd that her night was not going to end well. 
The issue of our treatment of dancehall music has once again being brought to the forefront of our minds. Putting aside the obvious errors in the booking and placement of Spice during that event, extremely troubling are the attitudes which have come to the fore in the post-event criticism. 

Dancehall music has always been associated with those of lower class people, standards which are contrary to the characteristics of the upper-class. Elite settings in Jamaica tend to treat dancehall music as something inappropriate, to be hidden due to its coarse sound and salacious topics. Much more appropriate tends to be soul music, and perhaps R&B, both of which contain the same salacious topics with ‘softer’ sounds. 

This alone, without even mentioning soca and carnival merriment, suggests that the reluctance to accept the genre by the upper-class is primarily hypocritical and shaded by derogatory views of our language. 

Many have said that dancehall, like soca, is simply inappropriate for formal events. However, without more, this should not be true. Yes, dancehall music often contains lewd commentary and expletive colouring. However, the variety in the industry that is often overlooked and leaves it unjustly criticised by those who simply turn their minds from it.

There is no reason why clean songs and dancehall songs are inappropriate for formal events.

We must begin to value our culture. Dancehall is just another product of this island that we have tended to allow to be exploited by persons in other countries. Dancehall as an art form is unique and though many of its songs can be criticised for the violent and sexual nature of the lyrics, it is inequitable to disregard the genre on this basis.  Indeed, many other genres which are adored by Jamaican people can be scrutinised for the same issues.

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