Template:Jamaicanmusic Dancehall is a type of Jamaican reggae which developed around 1979, with artists such as Barrington Levy and others who went on to become the Roots Radics. The style is characterized by a DJ singing and rapping or toasting over raw and danceable reggae music (riddims). In the early years of dancehall, some found its lyrics as crude and "slack", though it became very popular among the youths of Jamaica and then eventually, like its reggae predecessor, made inroads onto the world music scene. In the late 1990s, many artists converted to the Rastafari movement and changed their lyrical focus to "consciousness", which reflects the spiritual underpinnings of Rastafarianism. Various varieties of dancehall achieved some crossover success outside of Jamaica during the mid- to late-1990s. In 2001, reggae pop star Shaggy, went 6 times platinum with his album Hotshot. The next year, he received various nominations from the American Music Awards and the Grammy Awards, and he has won two World Music Awards. Also some Dancehall-tunes (voiced riddims) become popular during the summer of 2003, especially Sean Paul's Get Busy.

Dancehall owes its name to the fact that a lot of the records were censored and labelled unfit for radio airplay and hence were suitable only for the dancehall.

Dancehall reggae founded itself on the vocals and lyrical toasts of characters such as Yellowman and General Echo and a penchant for slackness (as bawdy lyrics were known). This deejay-led, largely computerised, upstart music seemed to epitomise the 1980s with dub poet Mutabaruka maintaining, "if 1970s reggae was red, green and gold, then in the next decade it was gold chains". So far removed was it from the gentle, almost hippification of roots and culture, that purists furiously debated as to whether it was genuinely reggae or not.(

Today dancehall is perpetuated on the tongues of lyricists such as Bounty Killer, Vybz Kartel, Sizzla Kalonji, Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Buju Banton, Super Cat and many more.

Dancehall developed in Jamaica as a result of varying political and socio-economic factors. Reggae as a style of music was heavily influence by the ideologies of Rastafari and was also spirited by the socialist movements in the island at the time. Dancehall the scion of reggae was birthed in the late seventies and early eighties, when many had become disenchanted with the socialist movement and harsh economic realities came to bear in the island. It is during this time that neo-liberalist ideologies and materialism started to factor into the live of many Jamaicans, such these realities came to the fore in the new music.

Dancehall has been in large part condemned by high Jamaican society, with little or no state endorsement, it has also faced the slaughter of intellectual criticism in the media, particularly by the likes of popular Jamaican journalists, like Ian Boyne. Dancehall has also come to face scathing criticism from the homosexual community, as they claim that it perpetuates violence against homosexuals in Jamaica, most notably through its lyrics in songs by such DJs as Buju Banton and Beenie Man. As of 2004, Amnesty International had confirmed that Buju Banton had taken part in an incident in Kingston, where six men were driven from their home and beaten.

Dancehall is just short of being a movement but does have the characteristics of a cosmology, as it ia a culture and a lens through which people see the world. This cosmology and cultural phenomenon carries with it a languistic component. The Dancehall cosmology however is not easily understood and comes under heavy criticism from cultural and ethical absolutists who judge and evaluate Dancehall from their own cultural realms and sensibilities. Terms such as "bun" in the Dancehall, which translates to burn in standard English does not carry with it a very literal understanding as it may in European cultures. Hence, phrases like "bun sodomites" will not mean, to literally burn sodomites, but function more as a line of descent, it is an exaggeration used to indicate serious disapproval.


  • Stolzoff, Norman C.: Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica. Durham, London: Duke University Press 2000. ISBN 0-8223-2478-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-8232-2514-4 (paperback)
  • Sunday Observer: Vol. 10, No. 49: Sunday November 21, 2004. ( [1] ( )
  • X-news: November
  • Dancehall Documentary ( [2] ( )

See also

Reggae | Reggae genres
Mento - Rocksteady - Ska
Dub - Dub poetry - Dee jaying - Dancehall - Ragga - Raggamuffin - Reggaeton - Rockers reggae - Roots rock reggae - Skinhead reggae - Two Tone
Other topics
Haile Selassie - Jamaica - Marcus Mosiah Garvey - Rastafari movement - Skinheads

de:Dancehall pl:Dancehall


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