Is The Jamaican Dialect Suffocating The Market Potential Of Jamaican Artistes?

Jamaica is widely known for its rich cultural heritage. Cultural elements such as 

music, dance, and language are easily identifiably worldwide. One of the more recognised features of Jamaican culture is its music; which largely encapsulates the genres of dancehall and reggae. Reggae is especially popular due to the international fame of the musical legendary icon Bob Marley. Dancehall artistes such as Shaba Ranks, Beenie Man, Vybz kartel, Mavado and Bounty Killer are also well known. While the official Jamaican language is Standard Jamaican English, the primary local language is English patois, or Jamaican Creole. As such, Jamaican music largely features the use of patois. This raises the question: Does the Jamaican dialect limit the market potential of Jamaican artistes?

Patios Is Uniquely Identifiable

Patois represents Brand Jamaica.  Speaking is the most forward form of expression and it is by speech that most Jamaicans are easiest identifiably. This is not due to the grammatical structure of the speech, but the associated accent. The accent of Patois is the ingredient that renders Jamaican music unique. This is one of the reasons why reggae and dancehall are prized worldwide.

Undoubtedly, moving away from the use of patios will result in a less idiosyncratic and distinctive sound. English is the foundation of the Patois speech, but it is the distinctness of the Jamaican accent that has and will draw attention to the Jamaican music forever.                                                          

Local Acceptance of the Music

Most people in Jamaica speak Patois fluently and a little or no English.  Many Patois speakers are not only unable to read or write in English, but are also unable to understand the spoken language. Local acceptance of music is extremely important. Jamaicans do not accept dancehall and reggae music that does not sound locally produced.  If certain songs are not accepted locally, it is highly unlikely that they will make it to the international stage.                                                 

The Beat Is The Most Important Factor

Dancehall and reggae enthusiasts and aficionadas have long argued that the influential power of dancehall is based in the beat. While this is less true for reggae, it is still an important consideration. People crave the beat and the vibe that dancehall and reggae create. They enjoy the energy of Jamaican artistes and the ensuing nature of their performances, singles and albums.

Reception on Worldwide Tours

It is customary for dancehall and reggae artistes to go off on tours around the world. This does not only include North America and Continental Europe, but countries in Africa, Asia, South America, etc. This includes countries such as China, Sweden, Japan, Nigeria and France. It is not uncommon for artistes to be pleasantly surprised by the reception they receive, especially in countries where English is rarely spoken. This demonstrates the fact that there exists an extensively, untapped market for dancehall and reggae, regardless of the use of patois.

The Dancehall/Hip Hop Clash

Dancehall and hip hop are to an extent, very similar genres of music. There have been numerous arguments regarding which elements have been adopted by either genre. Today, there is growing concern that dancehall is sounding more like hip pop. Notwithstanding, one factor that explicitly differentiated the two is language. Once more, patois demonstrates quality of uniqueness that must be cherished.

Musical Synchronisation

In dancehall and reggae, the voice of the singer or DJ must be in sync with the music al accompaniment. This is known as ‘riding the rhythm’, an important vocal quality of Jamaican musical superstars. To this end, the fear that divergence from patios will lessen the ability for voice and instrumental synchronisation is valid. This art, which has been delicately crafted over the years, cannot be endangered.Finally, remaining true to ones roots is extremely important. Dancehall and reggae have been propelled to the worldwide stage, largely with the use of patois. Patois as a spoken language is alive and well and past and present Jamaican artists who perform in Patois are internationally loved and acclaimed. Promoting Jamaican music further will not require the use of English, but respect of Patois, respect of culture.

Tampering with the dialect in any way may result in the loss of a colourful and expressive language that is inimitable. Music is a universal language; we only speak different variations of the same tune. There is a witty statement that sums up the current state of Jamaican music, as they say in Jamaica, ‘new broom sweep clean, but ole broom knows ebery carna.’

 Navito  (The Caribbean Current)

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