February was declared Reggae month; Reggae music is therefore destined to gain added notoriety locally as well as overseas because of its close association with brand Jamaica . Dancehall music is unquestionably the most popular genre. It is unapologetically raw and rude being a creation of the rabble. It is therefore by nature uncouth and uncontrollable. A firestorm has erupted as to whether dancehall is the source of our decadence or its natural by-product, the jury is still out.
Jamaican Music

Who’s really responsible for DANCEHALL decadence?

February was declared Reggae month; Reggae music is therefore destined to gain added notoriety locally as well as overseas because of its close association with brand Jamaica . Dancehall music is unquestionably the most popular genre. It is unapologetically raw and rude being a creation of the rabble. It is therefore by nature uncouth and uncontrollable. A firestorm has erupted as to whether dancehall is the source of our decadence or its natural by-product, the jury is still out.

As with every controversial topic, people have formed themselves into camps- those who are for and those against its promotion. The UWI should be congratulated for facilitating public debate on this very important subject. It is quite refreshing to see the level of interest/involvement displayed by prominent members of the UWI academia, an important segment of the elite, in an art form spawned by the untouchables of society- ghetto people.

In the ensuing heated debate about dancehall’s effect and culture, the motivation behind dancehall’s creation has been totally lost sight of. It is of utmost importance that the tone and trajectory of the discussion be radically altered (if we intend to generate more light than heat) and more emphasis placed on the “why” of dancehall music. What were the circumstances that brought into being this predominantly degenerate, vulgar, rancorous, rebellious, and pervasively perverted art form?

Dancehall like Reggae is message music. The significantly different message (its materialistic outlook) is because of the era in which it was formed. Jamaica gave birth to Reggae music in a gentler (“cow-towing”) though no less oppressive time, the language was therefore revolutionary but not so violently irreverent. Dancehall on the other hand came into being from the literally ashes of the ‘80s. The privileged sons and daughters of Jamaica in politics, business, academia, religion etc. had done by then irreparable damage to the prospects of rapid upward mobility for the lowest classes.

If the elites were kind and accommodating, there would not be an art form know as Dancehall today. Dancehall is a by-product of our selfish, unsympathetic and unloving society. The lower classes were denied opportunities for proper socialization and culture not to mention education. And being human and therefore naturally creative, they invented their own music to voice their concerns in the only way they knew how- “raw-chaw”. This was not only evidence of creativity but also a rejection of the accepted value systems in society.

The privileged sons and daughters of Jamaica were unwilling to care for and share with their fellow-citizens, they abandoned them- “sink or swim”! And in order to survive, ghetto people utilized their God given resources and creativity. No one can honestly deny the stench of dancehall unless your have been around it long enough that you no longer find it offensive. This is exactly how the olfactory lobes operate, after constant exposure to a particular scent we become unaware of its presence.

Dancehall music is not offensive to those who have been exposed to its contents for so long they no longer hear the offensive lyrics or cringe because of the vulgarity of the sights and scenes of depravity. It is some members of the upper-classes and some Christians and/or so called “decent” folks who are not regularly exposed to such a fare who will instantly recognize its depravity.If successive administrations had adopted a policy of equality for all Jamaicans there would be no broken language spoken and because we would all have been placed in well equipped schools, no discordant art form but because of selfishness we all have to live with the offensive songs, sexually provocative sights and scenes of dancehall music for as long as we live on this rock.

About the author

Carlos King