How Dance Hall Music Influences Our Social Culture

I love Dance hall music not so much because of the beats but because I know that it is the music of struggle.
It is also a poetry of triumph. I know how powerful music can be.
I will use myself as an example. When I was a teenager, I hated seeing men in corn rows, wearing their pants sagged below their butts and acting tough. A couple years into my early twenties after attending parties and  feasting my brain on videos of Vybz Kartel, Tommy Lee and Mavado, I realized that my taste in men changed.
I actually started finding men with long hair and the whole bad man image attractive. Not only that but on many weekends, high on alcohol, I would imbibe doses of Tommy Lee Sparta’s songs at parties and Jah Know after me listen two ‘grim rim tune’- ‘me feel like the baddest gyal roun here’. I am not a violent person and last night after seeing the ‘young men them’ “clutch back”  as they would say in one of the many new age idiomatic references that are becoming a part of mainstream dialect in the Ghetto. I could not help but meditate on the potent influence of music on our psyche and overall behaviour. 
 I keep thinking if lewd dancehall music did  this to me. When I reflect on the state of mind it transcends within that moment, I wonder what it does to a young, semi-literate, barely rational, angry, disaffected youth carrying “vengeance”(grudges) against society for his unfortunate status in life. But then again it might not be what is in the music, it might be what is within them and the music then coaxes their fiendish inclinations to life. The music gives credence to debauchery and thus makes it acceptable in the eyes of its purveyors. 

 Image Source:
Image Source:

Last Night I observed the magical transformation Tommy Lee’s “BadMan Dawg”  had on the patrons. Young men with ‘gun fingers’ at their sides,   stepped out in militancy fashion, faces contorted in mime anger and determination: if a bwoy stepped to any of these young men in the height of one of these Tommy Lee “highs”, someone would get ‘dust out’. Now we understand why parties can easily escalate into fracas that leave patrons injured or even dead.  
The women are no different. The way females dress today is scandalous. The females under twenty five are more liberated with their sexuality than our mothers were at that age. The moment Vybz Kartel said “Freaky girls, a them girl them him love”…Men viewed oral sex as a customary part of foreplay and females now accept what was once considered a taboo as norm. Even the most ‘traditional’ women are getting down and the artistes are not letting them forget they love “the freaky girls”. Music has changed our view of sex and sexuality. Viral Videos of school girls performing oral sex brings to the fore the dissolution among our young people. Music is indeed instrumental in the shaping of our culture.
Remember when rude boys would never wear tight pants, pink shirts or bleach their skin. Now every thug, gangsta wanna be and rude bwoy a “rub on”, attending dancehall sessions in pants hugging their skinny legs and showing their underwear. A man bleaching his skin is considered acceptable now since social figures like Alkaline and Gage are alleged bleachers. 
Not all Dance hall Music inspires deleterious behaviour. Reggae has always been the conscious conduit of positivism and upliftment. A lot of young people listen  raunchy music and have not succumbed to the notions purveyed by the lyrics. Many young people are able to understand the difference between philosophy and entertainment. The media is a powerful socialization agent and music is one of its most trusted tools in influencing the way people think. 
Artistes across the spectrum have long insisted that they are not responsible for corrupting society. If people did not want to hear their music they would stop listening. It may mean that the music influences the people in as much as the people are influenced by the music. Artistes should express greater responsibility, I mean, to whom much is given, much is expected and fame comes with a certain level of accountability. 
It would be nice to see the dance hall fraternity spearheading campaigns, peace marchs and forums geared at challenging crime and how our young men deal with everyday conflicts among themselves. Deejays should be getting involved in community development, spending time empowering our young men with books and knowledge. Female artistes assisting the women’s centers with teenage mothers, giving out contraceptives and educating our women on self esteem, sexually responsible behaviour and abstinence.
I believe an entertainer like a writer’s craft is very much influenced by their environment and the events unfolding within their own social space. But one can use their experiences to inspire change than try to validate and promote decadence. 


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Crystal Evans

Crystal Evans was born in Westmoreland Jamaica. She is the author of several books centered on her experiences growing up in rural Jamaica and the Jamaican cultural nucleus. She is a voracious reader.

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