Dancehall Must Rehabilitate Its Public Image!

Below is a letter which I sent to the local media, here.  Not sure if it will be published, but it has been sent to other commentators, as well.  So, at least the views expressed in the letter may show up somewhere in the Jamaican media. Hopefully, I will be acknowledged. Please read and comment.



Dear Editor:

I write to acknowledge my endorsement of the efforts of the Broadcast Commission to review and address the untenable state of affairs regarding the wholesale promotion of values and attitudes contrary to the upliftment of the nation. Its decision to discontinue further airplay of the popular Dancehall tune ‘Rampin’ Shop’, though belated, is a timely reminder that the uncontrolled state of permissiveness encouraged in many areas of the Jamaican media require very careful monitoring.

This is not the same as suggesting that there is no place for Dancehall or that the heavy hand of moral arbitration is beyond being questioned. Far from it. It is to foreground instead, the singular importance of popular culture in shaping our collective national outlook in Jamaica, currently. Dancehall plays a crucial role in this regard. It is more than just a genre of popular music. Dancehall is also a very developed culture and includes issues related to economics and power, some of which often run counter to the goals of the state.

Indeed, there is no expectation that, Dancehall should fall neatly in line with the requirements of ‘establishment’ and sacrifice, in the process, its artistic integrity in the effort to school and parent Jamaicans. On the contrary, it is to highlight that whether wittingly, or not Dancehall has contributed much to the process of values formation in Jamaica and has become, as a result, a critical institution of socialisation.

This coupled with the increased weakening of some of the traditional systems, previously, responsible for socialising the state has resulted in the creation of a vacuum. New and different forces have risen up to fill these gaps. Dancehall is one such force. Alongside an acknowledged dissonance about what constitutes appropriate values in Jamaica, therefore, it is not hard to see how Dancehall may be regarded as more than just casual ‘adult entertainment’. For better or worse, it may be regarded as holding a preeminent position of socialisation within the society.

Dancehall must seriously consider rehabilitating its public image, as a result; not just in the interests of practicality given its increased powers of importance in the society, but also as a means of demonstrating its inherent versatility/ creativity. The latter, as we are aware, goes beyond a focus on only themes of sex and violence. Excuses regarding a chronic lack of education on the part of many of its producers and artistes are an insult to the diversity of intelligence and depth of talent within the industry/ culture. These must yield to the more urgent demands of true national development, cultural pride and meaningful progress.

The banning of ‘Rampin Shop’ as well as all other songs with words considered more generally offensive must be viewed in context, then, in terms of its attempt to guard against a moral opprobrium, especially in the interests of posterity. It is more than a mere question of ‘freedom of expression’ or even censorship, though these are also crucial considerations.

We are far more than just thugs for hire and sex crazed party-goers. I am confident, as a result, that it is well within our capacity to clean up Dancehall and as well as all other forms of entertainment which often fall outside of the boundaries of acceptability. Self regulation, education and civic responsibility must not be sacrificed, therefore, in the efforts to win popularity, wealth and power.

We can do much better! I am sure of it!

I am, etc.



4 thoughts on “Dancehall Must Rehabilitate Its Public Image!

  1. I share your views wholeheartedly on this matter. Indeed, you are well aware that we are celebrants of the dancehall and Jamaican culture more broadly… but one must appreciate where certain messages/themes are more harmful to a society and do create real damage to the building of up a real civil society based on positive values….

    Where shall we draw the boundary bedcause there must be alimit from which we ought not to go beyond. Murder and mayhem is enough. Allowing sexual explicit messages to breathe through public radio challenges the very foundation of an orderly society, and ‘daggering ‘ itself is no sexually embedded that it may even de-sensitise our men to rape!


    1. Hume,

      You are spot on! I am so heartened to hear that there is someone else who shares this sentiment! The sorts of crass, outrageousness that people seem to think should be the order of the day in terms of what constitutes good, public media is absolutely unacceptable and shocking. I said as much to Hopeton Dunn, this evening when I saw him at the gym. As you are aware, he is the Head of the Broadcasting Commission.

      The refusal to see that there is a connection between the crass messages which we pump the society full of and the contrary and unacceptable values that we espouse is unbelievable. One radio talk show host on a particular radio station here, suggested to me that my point was to be dismissed because there is “need to analyse the problem” before we can decide. Suggesting, in the process, that I was not doing that by responding to him. I pointed out that he was dismissing what I saying and he proceeded to admit that that was what he was doing. So, after that he said: “well, that is the end of that!” I thanked him and hung up!

      Apparently, I was slated to be a guest on his show! That clearly never worked out because he was convinced that there is no basis on which to argue that, as you have said, the desensitisation towards some of these messages can have adverse reactions completely escaped him.

      I pointed out that my goal in agreeing with the Broadcasting Commission was more in the vein of the licentiousness which obtains in media practises here. That, there is need for regulation and control. He felt it was about erotica! How strange! And that, there was no connection between the claims about erotic music and children listening to them, as per the BC’s decision. I was floored by that logic. But, you know how we are in Jamaica. A sad acknowledgement but very true all the same!

      …Some days I despair when I think that people like that have the ears of the nation to say whatever they choose, regardless of whether it makes sense or is even appropriate. But, such is the nature of these things!


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