Is violent dancehall music okay?Sunday, May 02, 2021
ACCORDING to Aristotle, “Music has the power of producing a certain effect on the moral character of the soul…” and so is the nature of dancehall music. Said differently, music can encourage and prohibit certain behaviour. As such, the type of music is liable to bear some responsibility for appropriating and or influencing some actions — whether negative or otherwise.
However, it is the extent to which we attribute blame that ought to be assessed. In this case, we are tackling the notion that consumers who listen to violent dancehall music are far more likely to commit acts of crime and violence in our society.
The argument has been raised as many times as it has been debunked using controlled studies, surveys and statistical data. However, let us rehash the issue and argue it from a point of shared experiences and common sense.
We have all in some way been exposed to violent content of some sort. Some of us can recall times of old when cinemas like Carib featured what we call “karate shows” and how excited we all were to view the said content.
We might also be able to recall times when Jamaica Information Service (JIS) used mobile units to project movies of similar nature in different communities across Jamaica. These movies had the usual intermission period in the middle where the JIS would broadcast important messages, on screen, to the viewers. This proved very effective as it was both an approved source of entertainment and a means by which the JIS could communicate messages to the communities.
If you are among the lot who can recall these times, then you'll most likely agree that these movies were in fact very violent, yet we were not made more so by viewing them. Violent movies are featured on our local channels even today. It matters not if it is the time of Rambo or the time of John Wick, violent content is generally entertaining. If this is true, then why chastise dancehall music and not these other forms of content that showcase and sensationalise violence to an even greater extent?
Soca music can be defined as a language of love and celebration. It is also indigenous to Trinidad & Tobago and overwhelmingly the most prominent genre of music on those islands. Why then is Trinidad & Tobago's crime rate three per cent more than that of Jamaica? The contrast is drawn not to defame Trinidad but to show how marginal of an impact musical content has on the criminally deviant.
If we desire to attribute blame for crime and violence outside of ourselves, we need not look further than the common denominator — poverty. It is Aristotle again who said, “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
Dancehall music is a reflection of, or reaction to scenarios and circumstances in society as the artiste perceives it.
It is very much engraved in our culture as it mirrors our society. If the music is too violent then maybe the society is too violent, and if the society is too violent then perhaps there is too much poverty.
Maybe we ought to use the mirror that is dancehall music to self-examine our society and identify ways in which we can eliminate the true culprit — poverty.
— Hugh Graham is Member of Parliament for St Catherine North Western and CEO of Paramount Trading Ltd
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login