Guest Post | Dancehall, Jamaica, and Me
Not long after I became an active tweeter a young lady using the handle @spyasamy started following me. She immediately started interacting and soon I followed her. It was clear that Yasmine loved Jamaica and Jamaican music and she really loved Jamaican superstar Sean Paul (@duttypaul). It was heartwarming to see, and to honest, it made me proud. It always, always, makes me proud to see the love and respect that comes Jamaica’s way because of our music. The reach and power of Jamaican culture isn’t something I think we’ll ever understand but I pray and hope that we at least understand that it’s immense and work to preserve, build, and continue to spread it. Yasmine’s enthusiasm about Jamaica and Jamaican music has not waned since we “met” on Twitter. Below is a beautiful guest post from Yasmine that explains how she came to love my country and my country’s music and her thoughts on contemporary Dancehall…and she has some thought provoking questions that I hope you’ll attempt to answer in the comments. I have made few edits to Yasmine’s words, mostly to embed some links about the songs, videos, and artists she mentions.
My name is Yasmine, I am 23 and am from Cameroon – Central Africa! Well as time went by I came to be a big fan of Reggae and Dancehall, Dancehall more than Reggae though and Jamaica of course. Oh! I need to clarify a point right away Sean Paul is my favorite artist!!!
In fact, I think I have always loved Dancehall! Always liked the sound! I remember when I was little and did not quite speak English and there was that song I didn’t know, didn’t know where it came from and was big in my country and all the kids weren’t getting the lyrics and were singing “mercy mercy mercy” and “follow me follow me follow me”: A classic Diana King – Shy Guy. I think it all started there. When I grew older I listened [to] many types of music and among them, I got attracted to French Dancehall (my country is bilingual but we mainly speak French), especially artists like Lord Kossity and Neg Marrons (Jacky Brown and Ben-J).
The first Dancehall artist I knew was “Dancehall” and listened to was Shaggy and then in 2002 came Sean Paul! I was captivated at the very second I watched the “Gimme the light” video! Actually I didn’t even see his face or paid attention to the video! It was that voice and that riddim!!!
So from then, I tried to follow his career, and I really liked what I discovered. I think he is a humble person, I’ve noticed he mostly was very respectful of people he was talking to, he is very wise in the choice of his lyrics, of where he wants to go, I like all the signification and logic he puts out in each of his albums and last but not least, he is the one artist I know that really travels the world! I think he has gone to more than 100 countries. As an African girl, back then, I was absolutely sure we would never have the chance to go to shows of “International” artists (SP came to Senegal to where I was then twice and to sooo many other African countries and remote parts of the world) because I guess it is very expensive and I think most of them are kinda scared of our continent!
Now let’s get straight to the point and stress on why I like Dancehall that much. Like I previously said first the sound, some riddims are truly great, I’m just attracted to it and mostly to the lyrics. Wow! Most of the time they are very funny, tackling various subjects (for some artists lol, other artists are just singing about the same thing over and over! No bueno), most of the time the lyrics are very explicit and me being a Muslim, it is kinda weird I’m not shocked and listening to those raw versions all day :p! I do have much respect for the artists that can twist the lyrics in a way it is provocative but still clean and can be played on radio. I know I said I prefer Dancehall to Reggae but I do like Reggae very much too, it helps me meditate and ease my soul, a really help-me-to-feel-better type of music.
Now there is this big fight I hear about Reggae and Dancehall not being authentic anymore because producers are adding, hip hop, R&B, Dance music to it etc. My take on this issue is that I don’t think it is that bad, it will depend on how the song will be at the end! It is true that if I had to chose, I will go for the pure Dancehall and Reggae sound but I do understand those who come to mix up all these sounds.
To give more arguments on that question, I’ll tackle the Sean Paul case as he is doing a lot of music blending lately (his last album “Tomahawk Technique” which has mostly been produced by foreign producers making Dancehall from their perspective)! He explains the blending as just wanting to do music and not wanting to do the same thing over and over and that this time will pass and there will be another era when singers, djs, producers will go back to the pure Reggae and Dancehall sounds. I think it is a fair explanation. Oh and SP said that the other types of music are taking from Reggae and Dancehall so Jamaicans can take from the other types of music too. Again it is fair! To conclude on that point, I really am not bothered and do not want to worry too much about that issue because like I said I will just judge at how the song sounds, I won’t be there stopping myself liking it because the music has been diluted. I will just enjoy the song in terms of do I like the lyrics, the sound, etc.
I have been saying it over and over Sean Paul is my artist but I hate it when people get me wrong and think it’s all about him! Actually he is just the one who truly introduced me to Dancehall and JA but I do support so many other artists (Reggae and Dancehall): Wayne Marshall is my second favorite artist (the voice, the vision, the lyrics) and I do like Konshens, Charly Black, Protoje, Kymani Marley, Jr Gong, Keida, Tami Chynn, Tessane, Cecile etc. etc. This ain’t even about people it is just about the Music I love.
I have been thinking for a long time of doing a thesis on Reggae and Dancehall because I have many questions or specific point of views on this topic, good and bad: The questions/points are the following:
- Why are there periods where so many artists will sing on only ONE topic, which is kinda boring and hearing the same thing all the time. I can understand when it is the main topic on a riddim but in the cases where everybody will jump on “the topic”, it doesn’t sound good to me (I must specify I like SP too because he doesn’t follow that type of trends).
- Why Jamaican artists put out soooooooooo many songs in a so short period of time! This is so confusing to me! They just put out songs every day, it’s hard to keep up and the worse thing is very few get think that they can get organized and make an album! That’s sad!
- Why Dancehall is that much about sex btw lol? And it’s sad but I do think the songs are too much homophobic! In 90% of the songs you will hear “Mi doan love man, etc., batty bwoy.” Is it like there are no homosexuals in JA? Or it must be very hard for them there.
- Ok there is that other thing I do not like in Dancehall, the beefs and fights and it seem people do like those songs about this artist dissing that other artist. From what I’ve noticed the Sting event is mostly about that and that those type of things sells!
- Last point, it is not that bad because some came up with great riddims *thinking hard Sean Paul ^__^*, but why lately it is like every artist, Dj are producing? I mean why all of a sudden and why in this time? I repeat I don’t think it’s bad but I just want to know the cause.
Ok I will stop now, I think I have said mostly what I wanted to and made my point. I will conclude by saying nuff blessings to Jamaica, Land that is not mine but that I do love so much, and May Reggae and Dancehall expand even more and reach every part of this planet.