I really fell in love with dancehall in the mid 90’s. Bounty Killer, Spragga Benz, Merciless, Beenie Man and many more were among my favorites. Dancehall has a dominant sound that stands out. It is this ability to stand out that made reggae such a global phenomenon.
Dancehall music is used globally but rarely does it seem that people are investing in dancehall. It seems more evident that other genres are using the sound and imagery of dancehall as a means of diversifying the sound of THEIR music. Dancehall tends to do a lot of work for other musical genres and rather than an investment into our culture the artists are given a small wage and sent on their way.
Diversifying other genres:
Adding dancehall to another genre is like adding spices to food giving Caribbean flavor to the look and sound of the musical piece. No Doubt recorded their album Rock Steady in Jamaica and included features from Lady Saw and Bounty killer. More recently artistes like Drake and Torey Lanez have collaborated with and included blatant samples of dancehall in their music. There is also the use of the Jamaican image as we see Tyga and Drake shooting videos in Jamaica in an effort to let our culture diversify their image. Justin Bieber’s video for ‘Sorry” could easily be muted and a dancehall dub over included. The look and style is so obviously rooted in dancehall’s persona. The list of references is massive. The question to ask is; how can we turn these dancehall collaborations into cultural investments?
Investing in Dancehall:
Dancehall management needs to be improved and the musicians need to collaborate with people who have an interest in the CULTURE of dancehall and not just the SOUND of dancehall. Dancehall is more than putting patois accent on a chorus it includes the dancing, the narrative of struggle, flow, and rhythm. If the musician isn’t interested in incorporating these traits then I believe managers should find people who are.
The next step is to use collaborations as a platform for opportunity. A perfect example of this is Major Lazer and their involvement in performing in Jamaica and collaborating with legends, up and coming artistes, dancers and designers in Jamaica. This allows more people to be seen on a global level and can also bring more revenue to Jamaica through added tourism. If you are unwilling to perform in Jamaica, don’t make songs with Jamaicans, simple.
The last step is a call to fans to also support artistes who are trying to pave the way. Sometimes we are our own roadblocks to progression. Appreciate the artistes who and put more emphasis on the hard work of an artiste with less focus on ’keeping it real.’ If we don’t fully support our own music then Dancehall will continue to be nothing but a feature on a song and our artistes will do massive work for little or nothing, continuing this trend of musical indentured servitude.