Dancehall – Expression of Self or Deterioration of Identity?

Music is a way of life, an expression to many and individuals are able to identify with not only the music, but the lyrics being brought forth to the masses. Music is undeniably important to Jamaica and its citizens and Reggae and Dancehall are instrumental in the formation of their identity, but sometimes the lyrical content of songs being pushed on the radio and seen in music videos send the wrong messages to the audiences.

dancehall musicLyrics such as these are constantly aired on the radio, in clubs, and other mediums to reach the masses:

 ‘Jack it up, Cock it up, Skin it up, Wine up, Wine Up, Wine pan de cocky gyal wine’ 

‘Aah yah soh nice, aah yah soh nice’ – Lyrics by Potential Kid where in this song he advocates that it’s better to be a rapist than to be gay. Tattoos of ‘aah yah soh nice’ are ‘emblazoned’ over the pubic area of females, sometimes with arrows to show the area of ‘niceness’ and boasted via pictures on Facebook & Twitter (Taken from Marcia Forbes’ Blog)

Dancehall and hip hop/rap are Jamaicans two most loved genres and in a survey as a part of the ‘Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica’, results found that 73.4 percent of respondents felt that dancehall videos, and 39 per cent about Reggae, mostly talked about or showed sexual behaviours.

In a review of 30 popular locally produced music videos on local cable TV, Yvette Rowe who lectures at CARIMAC found that:

•   86.6% contained images of ‘scantily clad women’

•   75% ‘contained sexual words or phrases’

•   41% contained visuals suggesting casual sex

Not to mention the inferences of gun violence and violence against homosexuals innuendos which plague the minds of its listeners, creating an ‘army’ of persons who are in support of this – an army of corrupted minds who would take what these artistes say as gospel and ‘roll with it’.

“Most of these songs are talking about aggressive sexual activities and aggressive relationships … this is a subculture. And why is it that we cannot change this subculture?” – Interviewer, Maria Forbes Blog

As easy as lyrics and rhythms are to be memorized, especially by the youth of the Caribbean, one must be mindful of the messages and the images they portray to the world.  As ‘Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica’ in the Marcia Forbes Blog highlighted, almost three-quarters of the teenagers surveyed knew all or most of the words for their favourite videos. Also, statistics show that the teenagers as well as youth watching these videos coveted the lifestyles of these popular artistes and wanted to be like them.

Is this to say that the rise in rape, pregnancy, violence, sexual misconduct and other incidences a fair surprise? What is the root? How are we to sit back and let this become the identity of many in the society? What example is being set if we just allow the minds of persons who praise these artistes to run rampant with thoughts of violence in all possible ways?

Many individuals use the media’s depictions as a guide as to how one is to behave in the society, in the household, at parties, in your relationship, everywhere.  They also succumb to peer pressure, making it easier to be saturated with the influences of the media – since more and more persons choose to follow the crowd; you will feel like you need to do it too in order to fit in. These influences also make us look at ourselves differently. Morals and values aside, they play on appearance – for example males must have a strong stamina and females must always ‘tun up’ if not ‘nuttin nah gwaan fi yuh’.

Why is it that we don’t look at our lives in an objective sense and trail our own path as to what we want and don’t want, while knowing that no matter what we are still amazing individuals. Why must we let artistes and lyrics define us?

We need to educate our youth to become aware of the crimes and incidences occurring in light of media and lyrical content. More persons need to take a stand against these types of violence which cripple the country and the Caribbean. If no one stands up, artistes will continue producing these songs, the radio will continue playing these songs, and listeners will continue believing that this is the norm.

We should also try to create a self-awareness in the youth, building up areas of self-worth, respect, and esteem.  Teach them that they are more than just sexual beings and see beyond just their sexual identity. The lower your self-worth is, the more susceptible you are to believe others about yourself and the more persons take advantage of you and the more you believe when others tell you how to live your life.

While artistes have one thing on their mind – Money – we must make sure that in light of listening to the newest dancehall song, that we hold truth to our values and morals. We should not let the lyrics seep into our worlds and become a part of us that we forget who we are and become too engrossed in who these artistes want us to be. Music is an expression, it relaxes the mind and gives you a sense of belonging when you can identify with lyrics, but it becomes troubling when lyrics promote violence or praise the deterioration of women.

By Alexandra Daley

Photo courtesy of jamaicansmusic.com

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