by Nadine White
There is no debating the fact that dancehall music – and the scene – has been going through some troubling times recently. Some brilliant, super talented pioneers are currently serving lengthy prison sentences such as Buju Banton and Vybz Kartel with the likes of ZJ Wa Wah, Flippa Moggela, Ninjaman and Gaza Slim also looking at long stretches. Working visas are becoming harder for the ones who aren’t locked up to obtain and there’s a lack of consistent hits coming from the genre. Yes, I said it. Meanwhile, there are some who also argue that both dancehall and music are “getting a fight”, in terms of its representation on mainstream platforms. Certainly, this seems to be the case in the UK. Leading dancehall DJ Robbo Ranx is set to be ditched from BBC 1Xtra (see the ‘Music Buzz’ section in the paper for details), and, as you will all know – Daddy Ernie and Natty B were axed from Choice FM (now ‘Capital Xtra’) a few months ago.
Our new contributor Errol Williams speaks on the demise of the dancehall culture in Jamaica on page 10, making mention of the changes in the nature of clashes between artists. It has to be said that divisions are currently rife such as Busy Signal and Bounty Killer’s war with Mavado…plus I-Octane and Mr. Vegas are also at loggerheads. I don’t see any of these conflicts playing out on a stage via a clash. The clash which took place at last year’s ‘Sting’ concert between Kiprich and Blak Ryno (although applaudably amicable) was lackluster, random and over before you could “quint”…perhaps its producers could seek out one of the aforementioned pairs to settle their scores on the stage. After all, isn’t that how it used to go?
With all of this said, I am aware that dancehall’s positive factors are often lost in the sea of negative things happening. As mentioned in our ‘Music Buzz’, dancehall/pop/ artist Samantha J has signed a record deal with Columbia Records; Reggae/Dancehall artist Omi has also inked a deal with Ultra Music via powerhouse label Sony Music Entertainment. Grammy award-winning producer Will.i.am sampled ‘Fi Di Jockey’ by Aidonia and Bounty Killer ad libs for his track ‘It’s Your Birthday’, Dancehall princess Tifa has recently signed a deal with North-American based independent label Island King records, ‘Nobody has to know’ by Kranium recently entered into the British Virgin Islander I-Tunes Top 100 chart and Mavado continues to make good of his record deal with US based label Cash Money Records. These are all major moves for dancehall music and should not be overlooked.
Dancehall and reggae’s informal economy means that regular individuals like event promoters, dancers and talented artists who need that creative platform for betterment, continually gain. Not to mention the disc jockeys. Although the scene is in a bit of a state, yes, the music still has its following which is positive. I daresay that those of us who sometimes criticize dancehall as it stands tend to only do so because of our love for it and knowledge of its potential. But rest assured – the reality is that every genre goes through a bit of a drought at some point…I’m sure that better days are ahead for this one.