Dancehall is a genre of Jamaican popular music that originated in the late 1970’s. Let’s see some amazing facts and trivia about it!
1.Initially dancehall was a more sparse version of reggae than the roots style, which had dominated much of the 1970s.
2. Two of the biggest stars of the early dancehall era were Yellowman and Eek-a-Mouse. Dancehall brought a new generation of producers, including Linval Thompson, Gussie Clarke and Jah Thomas.
3. In the mid-1980s, digital instrumentation became more prevalent, changing the sound considerably, with digital dancehall (or “ragga”) becoming increasingly characterized by faster rhythms. (The word “bashment”, a term originating in the 1990s, was used to describe a particularly good dance; for example “to go to a bashment dance”.
4. Dancehall is named after Jamaican dance halls in which popular Jamaican recordings were played by local sound systems.
5. They began in the late 1940s among people from the inner city of Kingston such as Trench Town, Rose Town and Denham Town, Jamaicans who were not able to participate in dances uptown.
6. Social and political changes in late-1970s Jamaica, including the change from the socialist government of Michael Manley (People’s National Party) to Edward Seaga (Jamaica Labour Party), were reflected in the shift away from the more internationally oriented roots reggae towards a style geared more towards local consumption and in tune with the music that Jamaicans had experienced when sound systems performed live.
7. Themes of social injustice, repatriation and the Rastafari movement were overtaken by lyrics about dancing, violence and sexuality
8. Musically, older rhythms from the late 1960s were recycled, with Sugar Minott credited as the originator of this trend when he voiced new lyrics over old Studio One rhythms between sessions at the studio, where he was working as a session musician.
9. Around the same time, producer Don Mais was reworking old rhythms at Channel One Studios, using the Roots Radics band.
10. The Roots Radics would go on to work with Henry “Junjo” Lawes on some of the key early dancehall recordings, including those that established Barrington Levy, Frankie Paul, and Junior Reid as major reggae stars.
11. Other singers to emerge in the early dancehall era as major stars included Don Carlos, Al Campbell, and Triston Palma, while more established names such as Gregory Isaacs and Bunny Wailer successfully adapted
12. In the mid-1980s, French Caribbean group Kassav, the first in the Caribbean to use MIDI technology, took Caribbean music to another level by recording in a digital format. King Jammy’s 1985 hit, “(Under Me) Sleng Teng” by Wayne Smith, with an entirely-digital rhythm hook took the dancehall reggae world by storm. Many credit this song as being the first digital rhythm in reggae, featuring a rhythm from a Casio MT-40 keyboard.
13. However, this is not entirely correct since there are earlier examples of digital productions, such as Horace Ferguson’s single “Sensi Addict” (Ujama) produced by Prince Jazzbo in 1984. The “Sleng Teng” rhythm was used in over 200 subsequent recordings. This deejay-led, largely synthesized chanting with musical accompaniment departed from traditional conceptions of Jamaican popular musical entertainment.
14. Dub poet Mutabaruka said, “if 1970s reggae was red, green and gold, then in the next decade it was gold chains”. It was far removed from reggae’s gentle roots and culture, and there was much debate among purists as to whether it should be considered an extension of reggae.
15. This shift in style again saw the emergence of a new generation of artists, such as Buccaneer, Capleton and Shabba Ranks, who became the biggest ragga star in the world. A new set of producers also came to prominence: Philip “Fatis” Burrell, Dave “Rude Boy” Kelly, George Phang, Hugh “Redman” James, Donovan Germain, Bobby Digital, Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson and Cleveland “Clevie” Brown (aka Steely & Clevie) rose to challenge Sly & Robbie’s position as Jamaica’s leading rhythm section. The deejays became more focused on violence, with Bounty Killer, Mad Cobra, Ninjaman and Buju Banton becoming major figures in the genre.
16. To complement the harsher deejay sound, a “sweet sing” vocal style evolved out of roots reggae and R&B, marked by its falsetto and almost feminine intonation, with proponents like Pinchers, Cocoa Tea, Sanchez, Admiral Tibet, Frankie Paul, Half Pint, Conroy Smith, Courtney Melody, Carl Meeks and Barrington Levy.
17. In the early 1990s songs like Dawn Penn’s “No, No, No”, Shabba Ranks’s “Mr. Loverman”, Patra’s “Worker Man” and Chaka Demus and Pliers’ “Murder She Wrote” became some of the first dancehall megahits in the US and abroad. Other varieties of dancehall achieved crossover success outside of Jamaica during the mid-to-late 1990s. Tanya Stephens gave a unique female voice to the genre during the 1990s.
18. The early 2000s saw the success of newer charting acts such as Rihanna, Elephant Man and Sean Paul, who has achieved mainstream success in the US and has produced several top 10 Billboard hits, including “Gimme the Light”, “We Be Burnin'”, “Give It Up to Me”, “Pon De Replay” and “Break It Off”.
19. Dancehall seems to be making a resurgence within the pop market in the late 2000s with such artists as Konshens, Mr. Vegas, Popcaan, Mavado, Vybz Kartel, Beenie Man among others. VP Records dominates the dancehall music market with Sean Paul, Elephant Man, and Buju Banton. VP often has partnered with major record labels like Atlantic and Island in an attempt to further expand their distribution potential particularly in the US market.
20.Despite dancehall culture’s ability to challenge social inequality, it is a hybridization of American aesthetics and the hardships of Kingston, Jamaica. Kingsley Stewart writes that the “Jamaican cultural model or worldview” has been very influenced by that which it was arguably created to oppose, namely Babylon or the Western influence.
21. This is seen, in the more obvious sense, in the use of gun talk by artists like Buju Banton and Capleton, or the sporting of bling-bling by “Gangsta Ras” artists like Mavado and Munga.
22. The term Gangsta Ras, which seeks to reconcile thuggish imagery with Rastafari is an example of how in dancehall, “the misuse of Rastafari culture has diluted and marginalised the central tenets and creed of the Rastafari philosophy and way of life”.
23. What Kingsley regards as the “socioexistential imperative to transcend the normal” is exemplified by artists like Elephant Man and Bounty Killer doing things to stand out, such as putting on a synthetic cartoonish voice or donning pink highlights while constantly re-asserting one’s hypermasculine attributes. Donna P. Hope argues that this trend is related to the rise of market capitalism as a dominant feature of life in Jamaica, coupled with the role of new media and a liberalized media landscape, where images become of increasing importance in the lives of ordinary Jamaicans who strive for celebrity and superstar status on the stages of dancehall and Jamaican popular culture.
24. Another point of dissension of dancehall from reggae, and from its non-western roots in Jamaica, is on the focus on materialism. Dancehall has also became popular in regions such as Ghana and Panama. Prominent males in the dancehall scene are expected to dress in very expensive casual wear, indicative of European urban styling and high fashion that suggest wealth and status.
25. Since the late 1990s, males in the dancehall culture have rivalled their female counterparts to look fashioned and styled.
26. The female dancehall divas are all scantily clad, or dressed in spandex outfits that accentuate more than cover one’s nakedness.
27. In the documentary It’s All About Dancing, prominent dancehall artist Beenie Man argues that one could be the best DJ or the smoothest dancer, but if one wears clothing that reflects the economic realities of the majority of the partygoers, one will be ignored