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The Evolution of Dancehall Music

01/11/10

Permalink 06:06:31 pm, by Skillachi
Categories: Entertainment, Culture, Commentary

The Evolution of Dancehall Music

I've always considered myself a lucky fellow, not because I am stinking rich (I'm not), because my life has been a story filled with nothing but success (it has not), or because I have a family that I love and loves me back (ok that I do). No instead I consider myself lucky because I grew up in an era that has seen a whole lot of change and an era where most of the people around me have experienced many of these major changes. Being around these people gives me many different perspectives in life, I've heard about segregated America, 80's bloody Jamaica, and even heard of tales of the slavery period from my grandparents and (by extension from my parents) my great grandparents. In the same way in Jamaica during the period of my life I have seen the evolution of dancehall music to a great extent. Now when I say dancehall I'm speaking not of reggae but of the hardcore dancehall music which has been graced by the likes of Yellowman, Barrington levy, U-Roy and Shabba. Eek-a-mouse.

Early Beginnings

To me dancehall music has had quite a curious history which began somewhere around the 1980's. During this period we saw the rise of the sound system culture which basically is the heart and soul of dancehall music no matter how you look at it.  The soundsystem culture is identified by the fact that essentially all sound systems were eternally at war with each other to be regarded as the top ranking sound in Jamaica (please get images out of your head of people playing music while shooting sporadically at each other). This war was all of course done lyrically and the beginnings of dancehall culture was marked by artists making mostly clash type music and music which consisted of funny stories about people and themselves (ala king yellowman) and making music which dissed other sounds which came about as dub plates. This period of dancehall is what I would call the fun era which was marked by friendly rivalry and was marked by sharp lyrics and clash music which up until now is still being used in current sound systems competitions.

Sound

Dancehall in the 90's (The sketel years)

The 90's is the period of dancehall that is my personal favourite. Its my favourite not because I have fond memories of the music and I have an intense knowledge of the period, but instead because it is what I like to call the Sketel era. In this period of dancehall the music moved away from the sound system style to instead be more artiste focused, this is marked by the rise of artistes such as Papa San, Shabba, Bounty Killer, Buju Banton, Beenie Man, and Spragga Benz (among many others). The early 90's was a time when the music was focused on women and relationships.  I call it the Sketel era because the genre was about woman being the wife, and the position of "matey" (or the mistress) and gave praises to both of them. Women essentially were at the forefront and this was when dancing was a major part of the dancehall, and I dont know if you have seen images of how we dance in the dancehall... but things can get pretty much out of hand.

Dancing girls daggering

But I love this era because it was an era that was really and truly a whole lot of fun. While there existed some level of controversy among the artistes and there were still clashes, the level was so low that it was almost unnoticeable and most people will instead remember the songs such as Batty Rider, Wickidest Slam, Matey, and Champion. This is truly a fun and well loved era of dancehall.

To be continued with the 00's (noughties)

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Three Ministers

Three ministers - a Presbyterian, a Methodist, and a Southern Baptist and their wives were all on a cruise together. A tidal wave came up and swamped the ship, and they all drowned. The next thing you know, they're standing before St.Peter.

As fate would have it, the first in line was the Presbyterian and his wife. St. Peter shook his head sadly and said, "I can't let you in. You were moral and upright, but you loved money too much. You loved it so much, you even married a woman named Penny."

St.Peter waved sadly, and poof! Down the chute to the 'Other Place' they went. Then came the Methodist. "Sorry, can't let you in either," said Saint Peter "You abstained from liquor and dancing and cards, but you loved food too much.

You loved food so much, you even married a woman named Candy!" Sadly, St. Peter waved again, and whang! Down the chute went the Methodists.

The Southern Baptist turned to his wife and whispered nervously, "It ain't looking good, Fanny."

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