Upper-Class Jamaicans give Dancehall no respect.

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Vybz Kartel
Vybz Kartel

Jamaica’s “elite” or “upper-class” as they are called have always had a problem with Jamaican cultures. They used to mock and jeer Rasta, even going as far as calling them “dirty dreads”. They used to refer to reggae as “boogey yagga” music, a term used to say that reggae is a music for a lower class of people and created by a lower class of people.

It was only after they saw the huge financial impact that both reggae and Rasta had on certain sectors of the country, mainly tourism, they they began to embrace the subcultures of the island.

Today, the elite has chosen another subculture to hate and that is the child of reggae, dancehall.

From as early as Ninja Man and Shabba Ranks, dancehall music seems to have been thought of as the deviant, shameful little child of reggae music, or maybe just a stepchild. Criticism of “dat nasty music” comes easily to the lips of many a decent and modest Jamaicans and perhaps that is their right.

The elite have shown total disrespect and disregard to parts of Jamaican culture like dancehall reggae, street dances and even patois / patwa.

The glee with which members of government and public service witnessed the downfall of Vybz Kartel seems to mirror a vilification of dancehall music. Vybz Kartel, of course, has been convicted of a grave crime, and that should never be condoned. Permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education earlier this year, though, went so far as to say: “I don’t like Vybz Kartel, and I’ll tell you why, his lyrics are just filthy, awful, degrading.” Her justification: “the minister [Reverend Ronald Thwaites] has said it, so I can follow back a the minister”. Surprisingly, this statement did not draw much criticism in public circles. As deserving of criticism as his criminality is, perhaps Vybz Kartel’s immense contribution to the body of culture that is dancehall should not be ignored.

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However, that is one instance, and standing alone perhaps only shows the rejection of criminal behavior in a public figure. Worthy of mention though, is that the lewd and lascivious carnival merriment is seldom described as ‘filthy and degrading’ by an officer of government. Worthy of note also, is the recognition value of Richard Wagner’s contribution to the body of culture that is classical music, despite his Nazi leanings.

Recall the attempt to curb the ‘violence’ of dancehall with the anti-gang legislation. State minister of entertainment Damion Crawford was heavily critical of this. Respect to him for recognizing the need to put as gentle a limit as necessary on music, for public order, without pandering to the over-developed sensitivities of an influential few.

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Artistes such as Beenie Man and Mavado have been critical of the Government for policies such as cutting off street dances at 2am on a weekend and arrests for indecent language. Meanwhile, politicians have been heard using indecent language, without any arrests to date.

Coming to the end of their current term, this government seems to have followed the trend of dragging their feet on the long-heralded ‘entertainment zones’ so as not to disturb residential areas. To date, we could find only one confirmed entertainment zone, with others ‘earmarked’.

Now, we are not saying that children should hear inappropriate dancehall content simply because it is part of our culture. It nevertheless is our culture, and arguably the most representative of culture of the Jamaican majority.

Perhaps dancehall music should cease to be our dirty little secret, the anthem of a disturbed subculture. Respect is due, even if it offends our personal tastes.

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1 Comment

  1. Your article is infuriating because you’re condemning an entire group of people who you obviously no nothing and don’t care about. Many young people in the upper class do like dancehall. Have you actually been to any parties or concerts? The age-old habit of blaming the upper and middle classes for everything is getting very old.

    I laughed at your tidbit about Vybz Kartel. You don’t actually believe that he’s a paragon of virtue, do you? I noticed you you also ignored the fact that he was charged with murder. Not all of us condone objectification of women and the oversexualization in his lyrics. People like you are one of the reasons why the rest of the Caribbean looks down on us. You’re entitled, indisciplined and stuck in your own little bubble.

    You also spoke about people calling the police on dancehall sessions that ran beyond 2:00 AM on the weekends. You’re joking, right? Think about it from our perspective, and believe me I KNOW what it’s like since I live in one of those communities. We’re human beings like you, and we need sleep. There’s also the elderly who need their rest, babies, children and the ill. How would you like it if someone was blasting ear-splitting music when you’re trying to sleep? We’ve already made the sacrifice and given you leeway until 2:00 AM. What else do you want???

    You have a chip on your shoulder and you need to address it. Much of the dancehall music is nothing but a representation of the indiscipline in our society which needs to be addressed very quickly.

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