The musical landscape in Jamaica has changed radically over the years. Coming from the days of Mento and Ska, through to Rocksteady, the music has evolved in terms of composition and sound. Reggae, which was developed in the 1960s, saw the music growing and changing again.
Today, Dancehall has surpassed Roots Rock Reggae and the romantic sound of Lovers Rock to emerge as a popular part of the Jamaican culture. This genre of music captures the energy of the artistes and the people who follow the music. Here are some of the unique features that surround Dancehall Reggae.
- The lyrics are catchy and repetitive, and sometimes don’t make much sense, but are extremely popular with the younger set. Many one-hit wonders come and go based on the wealth of local talent.
- These days Dancehall music is composed in such a way that it runs the gamut from a smooth, jazzy vibe to a frenetic pace, a case in point being Jump by RDX and Syvah by Ding Dong.
- Dancehall deejays tend to be prolific. It’s not uncommon for a popular entertainer to have at three to four recordings (all at once) in the top ten on the local chart.
- The music attracts entertainers from different cultures. Collaborations with high-profile artistes are now a regular feature. Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, Drake, Eminem, Lil’ Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Young Thug and WizKid are some entertainers who’ve added their flavour to Dancehall music.
- A producer will create a “riddim” (rhythm) and several top deejays may record on that same piece of music. Of course others follow the trend, saturating that one rhythm. Dub plates are also created by top deejays for various radio station disc jockeys.
- Remixes are popular, and one rhythm can spawn alternatives that go from slow and sensuous to high-energy beats. This works well for spin-offs and collaborations.
- Dancehall fanatics take their music seriously. Their preference for one artist over another has resulted in unhealthy rivalries in in the past. Friendly rivalries do take the form of clashes at stage shows.
- Some artists seem to suffer from an identity crisis and as such, sprinkle their names liberally over their tunes. One wonders if this is in case they and the public forget who they are.
- A host of one-of-a-kind personalities surround Dancehall music, including selectors. One of the most colourful is the deejay who had a pair of goat horns implanted in his head.
- It is doubtful whether any other genre of music has sprouted the number of dances attached to Dancehall. A sampling of the dances includes Breadfruit, Kreech, LOL, Shampoo, Wheelchair and Yeng Yeng.
- Interesting names have always been a feature of dance hall music. This makes it hard to keep up with who is who. In years gone by, the monikers were tame: Daddy Lizard, General Trees, Lady Mackerel, Major Mackerel. Today, we have the likes of Ding Dong, Dr. Psycho, Foota Hype and Popcaan.