Everything in life grows up, everything matures, it is a natural process. Whatever doesn’t mature ends up stunted, or retarded and will find it impossible to function as time goes by. Without the ability to adopt and function amongst constant change then a thing becomes old, antiquated, and ultimately irrelevant. Dancehall to me has been stuck in a loop since the 90s. Which forces me to wonder if the artform is becoming old, antiquated, irrelevant. The sound of the music has changed; which is a good thing however the music is not as magnetic as it once was. The dancehall was the place you go to escape the harsh realities of your life and really enjoy soul massaging music that inspires you to push on and keep striving for better. Ever since the 90s the dancehall has become a source of insecurity; A place filled with people trying to make other people believe they are what they are not; a place filled with beggars and a place where opposing fractions compete to be kings of the heap. The dancehall is also attracting less people than it use to. Is the dancehall becoming antiquated and irrelevant?
A few years ago I did a documentary called The Gate Keepers which explained the damages cause by the blurring of the lines between The Dancehall and radio. If you can it would serve you well to check out that documentary as it serves to strengthen this argument. Back in the day one could only hear certain music in the dancehall, and because the music was so magnetic and the dancehall was so filled with a compassionate humble social feeling it was as if you were compelled to go to the dances to hear your songs. Then suddenly you could hear dancehall songs that are clearly not for radio on the radio; and as the financial pressures of keeping up with the dances grew for some people they no longer had to go to the dance to hear the songs they loved. Radio has single handedly delivered one of the fatal blows to the dancehall. Dancehall music could have and should exist on radio without compromising the dancehall but over indulgence is endemic within the Jamaican society; I want to, so I will. Arrogance is literally killing us! In defense of the over indulgence in this case it is again the result of the magnetism of the music.
The dancehall has also priced poor people out of the space. Once again something invented by poor people no longer has space for poor people. The only people who get respect in the dancehall is the people perceived or known to have lots of money; so since Jamaican is a country of mostly poor people they mainly make up the staff but can’t afford to enjoy the space. The dancehall can be very offensive and is often very insensitive. It is a space based around celebrating the best of us (based on the dancehalls ideals of best) and embarrassing those deemed as less than, as a result the culture causes alarming levels of anxiety and insecurity. The environment is clearly dominated by a desire to dominate and be accepted. Question for the listener; Would you want to be seen as less then because you are poor, or because you were raped, or because you have a psychical difference? I hate to say it; but in the spirit of honesty it has to be said; in as much as the dancehall clearly has bright witty intellects, the culture clearly panders to ignorance. Which is disappointing to see the injustice the culture dishes out to itself.
The government for the most part does not treat the Dancehall culture as a national treasure; with the exception of a handful of politicians. For the most part the government does little to nothing to support the dancehall and is also very quick to suppress and abuse the culture. Tie all of those together with the payola culture which only plays what they are paid to play with total disregard to quality and you have the perfect recipe to destroy this cultural expression. It is time for the dancehall to grow up; time to become responsible; time to be aware and make the necessary adjustments. The dancehall is too valuable to loose; Jamaica stand up and reclaim your cultural expression, clean it up, repackage it and export an improved Dancehall.