DANCEHALL IN CONDOM?
In my most recent article called “Questioning Dancehall”, I made it abundantly clear that dancehall had lost its flavour, particularly because the tenets wings were cut and for most part incarcerated. I have however revisited the topic and have found that dancehall is becoming more like Cheese Trix and Bag Juice perpetuated by “The way things are done on the other side of the world".
Dancehall was in its prime when all fruits were ripe and organically grown, when the handful of producers held the culture together and one riddim was like the country bus from St. Elizabeth or another Rural parish , you had to catch that one bus or riddim in order to reach your destination. Artists raped/ “gang bang” the riddims, rode on Saddles to the East to showcase current, versatility and road ready. It was a time when fewer radio stations were on air and marketing one’s talent was more about having as much songs playing than hanging as much poster littering utility polls, shop fronts and bus backs. A part of the marketing of Dancehall was the ever evolving feud between artists bidding for that dominant position on a riddim through a sort of delivery style that resided with the people which was achieved and fueled the dancehall we know by JUGGLING RIDDIMS.
The Craftsmen have now changed, becoming overly caught up in images, graphics and publicity stunts which never helped to culture dancehall from tattooed eyes, climbing on high rise buildings and threatening to jump to a good knock out with padlocks. Dancehall originally was authentic, raw, organic and distanced itself from the societal polish and stain removers, polarizing the lyrics for a set of ears that will never listen to begin with. The lack of unity within the local Industry has infiltrated and diluted dancehall similar to a diabetic on insulin.
Today, dancehall suffers much. For a producer to release a riddim, there is so much that must be done prior such as, properly registering the riddim, the authentic way and by that I mean, NOT the blackman copyright (registered mail), Producers are now faced with an expense to which must be paid out to artists to get on the riddim ranging from as low as $10k-$100k depending on who you request the favour from, then the challenge of Mixing and Mastering each song on the riddim is an inevitable part of the production, lastly, packaging, marketing and distribution of the final product consumes a lump sum of the budget. Given the expenses incurred by the producer, the producers only benefit is called “Royalty" which are nickels and quarters to what was spent on the project. This overhead expense to produce one project adversely affects the local Industry’s ability to compete internationally as seen when Josh Stone won the award for the best Reggae Album.
For dancehall to reignite interest of the world, some aspects such as Juggling Riddims must be revisited and the competitiveness which previously existed, must be recreated and marketed on Juggling Riddims. This can only become a reality when artists realise that they make a chunk of the cash and without riddims, songs will cease to exist and performances will be a thing of the past. In my own opinion, Artists should be reasonable and the cost to voice on a riddim should not be so mandatory or fixed but rather be optional and has the flexibility for negotiations between parties. The idea of Management making these decisions also suffocate the local Industry as most Road Managers are setting prices for the artists which most cannot be born by the producer
These Road Managers most times have a primary job (Other than being Road Manager), creating or earning income while the artists only source of income is his talent and therefore overcharging for an artist can result with that artist having a great deal of talent but no ventilation of it because it is controlled by management who is not willing to quit his/her primary job to fully be at the artist’s disposal.
Road Managers should however play key focus on networking with Entertainment Stakeholders in order to create, discover or evolve new market place for the artist. The manager is the counsellor and in most cases the financial controller of the artist’s career, however, managers who have become money hungry will confest that it is their doings that has placed Dancehall in a questionable and compromising position, exposed to the will and might of R&B, Rap and Soca.
Dancehall as we know it has been raped by society, pimped by hungry and money grabbing Road Managers and diluted by politics and putting adult pampers on it will only catch the spills but not cure the harsh penetration over the years. Entertainment Zones were once the talk of the town, yet to be inked in law, which should see Dancehall having a time and place under this boiling sun to be “DANCEHALL", lewd, raw, raunchy, sexual, violent and explicit. So while some may argue that the music was too much, perhaps a change of venue would had been ideal for them, perhaps Genesis, Jazz and Blues, Rebel Salute or Ring Ding but dancehall is Dancehall and should not be grind, especially from the back to meet critiques own interests.