Dancehall is a genre of Jamaican popular music that originated in the late 1970s.[4][5] Initially, dancehall was a more sparse version of reggae than the roots style, which had dominated much of the 1970s.[6][7] In the mid-1980s, digital instrumentation became more prevalent, changing the sound considerably, with digital dancehall (or "ragga") becoming increasingly characterized by faster rhythms. Key elements of dancehall music include its extensive use of Jamaican Patois rather than Jamaican standard English and a focus on the track instrumentals (or "riddims").

Dancehall saw initial mainstream success in Jamaica in the 1980s, and by the 1990s, it became increasingly popular in Jamaican diaspora communities. In the 2000s, dancehall experienced worldwide mainstream success, and by the 2010s, it began to heavily influence the work of established Western artists and producers, which has helped to further bring the genre into the Western music mainstream.[8][9][10]



Dancehall is named after Jamaican dance halls in which popular Jamaican recordings were played by local sound systems.[11] It both refers to the music and dance style.[12] It faced criticism for negatively influencing Jamaican culture and portraying gangster lifestyles in a praiseworthy way.[citation needed]

Early developments - Early 1970s

Dancehall music, also called ragga or dub, is a style of Jamaican popular music that had its genesis in the political turbulence of the late 1970s and became Jamaica's dominant music in the 1980s and ’90s. It was also originally called Bashment music when Jamaican dancehalls began to gain popularity.[12]

They began in the late 1970s among lower and working-class people from the inner city of Kingston, who were not able to participate in dances uptown.[13] Social and political changes in late-1970s Jamaica, including the change from the socialist government of Michael Manley (People's National Party) to Edward Seaga (Jamaica Labour Party),[7] were reflected in the shift away from the more internationally oriented roots reggae towards a style geared more towards local consumption and in tune with the music that Jamaicans had experienced when sound systems performed live.[14]

Themes of social injustice, repatriation and the Rastafari movement were overtaken by lyrics about dancing, violence and sexuality.[7][14][15] Though the revolutionary spirit was present in Jamaica due to this social upheaval, the radio was very conservative and failed to play the people's music. It was this gap that the sound system was able to fill with music that the average Jamaican was more interested in.[16] Alongside this music was the addition of the fashion, art, and dance that came along with it. This made Dancehall both a genre, and a way of life.[17]

In contrast to roots reggae, which aimed for respectability and international recognition, dancehall did not hesitate in dealing with the day-by-day realities and basal interests of the average Jamaican—especially that of lower classes—and observing society in a provocative, gritty, and often vulgar manner. Since this put spreading via radio out of the question, dancehall initially gained popularity only through live performances in sound systems and specialized record dealing.[18]

Dancehall's violent lyrics, which garnered the genre much criticism since its very inception, stem from the political turbulence and gang violence of late 1970s Jamaica.[17]

In the early days of dancehall, the prerecorded rhythm tracks (bass guitar and drums) or "dub" that the deejay would rap or "toast" over came from earlier reggae songs from the 1960s and 1970s. Ragga, specifically, refers to modern dancehall, where a deejay particularly toasts over digital (electrical) rhythms.[17]

Origination from the DJ scene

Sound systems and the development of other musical technology heavily influenced dancehall music. The music needed to "get where the radio didn't reach" because Jamaicans often were outside without radios.[19] Yet they eventually found their way into the streets. However, because the audience of dancehall sessions were lower-class people, it was extremely important that they be able to hear music. Sound systems allowed people to listen to music without having to buy a radio. Therefore, the dancehall culture grew as the use of technology and sound systems got better.

Dizzy Dee & Slicker

The Jamaican dancehall scene was one created out of creativity and a desire for accessibility, and one that is inseparable from sound system culture. The term 'Dancehall', while now typically used in reference to the specific and uniquely Jamaican genre of music, originally referred to a physical location. This location was always an open-air venue from which DJs and later "Toasters", a precursor to MCs, could perform their original mixes and songs for their audience via their sound systems.[20] The openness of the venue paired with the innately mobile nature of the sound system, allowed performers to come to the people. Inner city communities were able to gather for fun and celebration. It was all about experiencing a vibrant and trendsetting movement.[21]

Krista Thompson's book Shine further expresses the experience of this trendsetting movement and how particularly women were able to confront gender ideologies to enact change. The use of video light specifically was a way to express oneself and seek visibility in the social sphere in order to be recognized as citizens in a postcolonial Jamaican society.[22]

At the onset of the dancehall scene, sound systems were the only way that some Jamaican audiences might hear the latest songs from a popular artist. Through time, it transformed to where the purveyors of the sound systems were the artists themselves and they became whom the people came to see along with their own original sounds. With the extreme volume and low bass frequencies of the sound systems local people might very well feel the vibrations of the sounds before they could even hear them, though the sound itself did travel for miles.[23] This visceral sensory pleasure acted as an auditory beacon, redefining musical experience.[24]

Jamaica was one of the first cultures to pioneer the concept of remixing. As a result, production level and sound system quality were critical to Jamaica's budding music industry. Since many locals couldn't afford sound systems in their home, listening to one at a dance party or at a festival was their entry into audible bliss. Stage shows were also an entry for exposing artists to bigger audiences.[17]

Writer Brougtton and Brewster's book Last Night a DJ Saved My Life[25] states that sound systems were a product of Jamaican social lifestyle. The success of music wasn't just in the hands of one person anymore, it was a factor of the DJ, speaking poetic words to the audience, the Selector, harmonizing beats in an aesthetically pleasing way, and the Sound Engineer, wiring the sound systems to handle deeper and louder bass tones. Music became a factor of many elements and the physicality of that sound was a strategic puzzle left for musicians to solve.[16]


At this point the Dancehall genre was still growing in global popularity. InnerCity Promotions Led by Mike Tomlinson And Lois Grant played a very significant role in the development of Jamaica's popular "DanceHall" music. Their promotion company through a series of concerts led to the then emerging music from which they labelled, "DanceHall." The team started a series called "Saturday Night Live" at Harbour View Drive-In. US soul group Gladys Knight & the Pips headlined the initial concert and the showcase also featured boxing presentations from Muhammad Ali. InnerCity Promotions was responsible for establishing and promoting numerous events, their first DanceHall concert was staged in 1984. This was significant because it marked the beginnings of the music's recognition as the "DanceHall" genre. Mr. Tomlinson recalls the opposition received from journalist, radio and TV managers at the time, some who refused to run the commercials or play the music to promote the DanceHall series.

The series continued into the early 1990s, the team Mike Tomlinson and Lois Grant played an important role in nurturing and promoting the young talents of the inner city and sound system culture of that era. Through their DanceHall live concerts, many performers found a place to use their voice and make a mark due to the opportunities afforded by InnerCity Promotions.[26] This is from the International Reggae Awards special awarded honors(irawma awards).[26]

Sound systems such as Killimanjaro, Black Scorpio, Silver Hawk, Gemini Disco, Virgo Hi-Fi, Volcano Hi-Power and Aces International soon capitalized on the new sound and introduced a new wave of deejays.[7] The older toasters were overtaken by new stars such as Captain Sinbad, Ranking Joe, Clint Eastwood, Lone Ranger, Josey Wales, Charlie Chaplin, General Echo and Yellowman — a change reflected by the 1981 Junjo Lawes-produced album A Whole New Generation of DJs, although many went back to U-Roy for inspiration.[7][14] He utilized talking over or under a "riddim" which is now known as the deejay's seductive chant, part talking and part singing.[27] Deejay records became, for the first time, more important than records featuring singers.[7] Another trend was sound clash albums, featuring rival deejays /or sound systems competing head-to-head for the appreciation of a live audience, with underground sound clash cassettes often documenting the violence that came with such rivalries.[14]

Yellowman backed by Sagittarius Band, Bersenbrueck 2007

Yellowman, one of the most successful early dancehall artists, became the first Jamaican deejay to be signed to a major American record label, and for a time enjoyed a level of popularity in Jamaica to rival Bob Marley's peak.[7][14] Yellowman often incorporated sexually explicit lyrics into his songs, which became known as "slackness." He did this to address his radical opinions on society through sex and politics due to the failed Jamaican experiment of socialism while under Prime Minister Michael Manley.[27]

The early 1980s also saw the emergence of female deejays in dancehall music, such as Lady G, Lady Saw, and Sister Nancy. Other female dancehall stars include artistes like Diana King and in the late 1990s to the 2000s Ce'cile, Spice, Macka Diamond and more. [14][28] Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Mad Cobra,[29] Ninjaman, Buju Banton, and Super Cat becoming major DJs in Jamaica.

With a little help from deejay sound, "sweet sing" (falsetto voice) singers such as Pinchers, Cocoa Tea, Sanchez, Admiral Tibet, Frankie Paul, Half Pint, Courtney Melody, and Barrington Levy were popular in Jamaica.

Nearing the end of the '80s Jamaican Dancehall artists gained a lot of appeal through their no-nonsense music. This expanded the genre's reach beyond the Land of Wood and Water's borders. The main appeal of Dancehall was the music, and so it gained a lot of popularity overtime. Back in Jamaica hand-made posters were used not just to pull in would-be attendees to parties and dances.[17] This process of making vibrant and colorful posters soon became an icon of the genre. It had helped in providing visual aesthetic of how Dancehalls had taken up the space and grown in the country.

King Jammy's 1985 hit, "(Under Me) Sleng Teng" by Wayne Smith, with an entirely-digital rhythm hook took the dancehall reggae world by storm. Many credit this song as being the first digital rhythm in reggae, featuring a rhythm from a digital keyboard. However, The "Sleng Teng" rhythm was used in over 200 subsequent recordings. This deejay-led, largely synthesized chanting with musical accompaniment departed from traditional conceptions of Jamaican popular musical entertainment.

Dub poet Mutabaruka said, "if 1970s reggae was red, green and gold, then in the next decade it was gold chains". It was far removed from reggae's gentle roots and culture, and there was much debate among purists as to whether it should be considered an extension of reggae.

This shift in style again saw the emergence of a new generation of artists, such as Sean Paul, Capleton, Beenie Man and Shabba Ranks, who became famous ragga stars. A new set of producers also came to prominence: Philip "Fatis" Burrell, Dave "Rude Boy" Kelly, George Phang, Hugh "Redman" James, Donovan Germain, Bobby Digital, Wycliffe "Steely" Johnson and Cleveland "Clevie" Brown (aka Steely & Clevie) rose to challenge Sly & Robbie's position as Jamaica's leading rhythm section.

The faster tempo and simpler electronic beat of late-1980s and early-1990s dancehall greatly influenced the development of Reggae en Español.


Main article: Dancehall pop

By the early 2000s, Dancehall had gained mainstream popularity in Jamaica, as well as in the United States, Canada, Australasia and Western parts of Europe. There was also a big evolution in sound allowing artists to refine and broaden the genre. This was first seen with artists such as Sean Paul, whose single "Get Busy" (2003) became the first dancehall single to reach number one on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Unlike earlier Dancehall, this new evolution was characterized by structures of music commonly heard in mainstream pop music, such as repeated choruses, melodic tunes, and hooks. Some lyrics were cleaner and featured less sexual content and profanity.

At this point it was a part of the public consciousness. Cross-genre collaborations soon became normalized, with songs such as Beyonce & Sean Paul's 2003 hit "Baby Boy" and Beenie Man & Mya's 2000 single "Girls Dem Sugar." Alongside this growth many crews were formed by men, women or a mixture of both. These crews created their own dances which developed fame in the Dancehall scene.

Some of the artists who popularised this new era of Dancehall were Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Shalkal Carty, Popcaan, Vybz Kartel, Konshens, Mr. Vegas, Mavado, Ward 21, Lady Saw and Spice, some of whom saw international success. This success brought forward mainstream appeal toward Dancehall which lead into the genre's modern era.[12]

Modern era: 2015—present

Dancehall saw a new wave of popularity in Western markets in the mid-late 2010s, with immense commercial success being achieved by a number of dancehall-pop singles, including Rihanna's "Work" (2016) and Drake's "One Dance" and "Controlla" (2016).[9][10][30][31] Dancehall also reached the attention of many R&B artists who continued to change and evolve the genre.

A variety of western artists have spoken of being inspired by Dancehall music, including Major Lazer, whose commercially successful singles Lean On (2015), Light It Up (2015) and Run Up (2017) all heavily rely upon dancehall music. Several hip-hop and R&B artists have also released material inspired by dancehall music, including Drake, who has cited Vybz Kartel as one of his "biggest inspirations."[32][33]

In 2014, Drake took an interest into Popcaan and linked him up with MixPak producer Dre Skull to release his debut album 'Where We Come From'. This saw huge commercial success and went on to receive a UK MOBO award for Best Reggae Album in 2015. The year of 2016 saw Popcaan's rival-artist Alkaline release his debut album 'New Level Unlocked' under DJ Frass Records, which topped the charts in Jamaica, as well as being well received in the US and UK.

Popcaan and Alkaline have always been rival music artists in Jamaica and it is much debated who is the new Dancehall King, since Vybz Kartel was incarcerated in 2011. It has been said that Popcaan's success is largely due to early support from Vybz Kartel(KOTD) and more recent support from Drake.

By 2016, Dancehall had re-emerged into global popularity, artists such as Alkaline, Popcaan, Spice, Aidonia and Rygin King are known as some of the most profound and active artists of this period to date. There have also been prominent global collaborations with dancehall artist such as Beyonce & Shatta Wale's 'Already', Davido & Popcaan on 'Story', and Stefflon Don & French Montana on 'Hurtin' me'.

Since 2017, Dancehall artists from Jamaica have been frequently collaborating with UK acts such as Chip, Stefflon Don and J Hus. This is well in-tune with the boost of urban acts in the UK rising up, and the rebirth of Grime in 2014.[34]

In the late 2010s, a new wave of artists rose to popularity in Jamaica. These artists come from rural parishes, especially Montego Bay, outside of the commercial center of the Jamaican music industry. They are influenced by American trap music, and sometimes refer to lottery scamming in their lyrics. Some of the most popular artists in this style are Chronic Law, Rygin King, and Squash.[35][36][37]

Musical characteristics

Three major elements of Jamaican dancehall music are the use of digital instruments, particularly the Casio Casiotone MT-40 electronic keyboard, the Oberheim DX drum machine, and the use of riddims, instrumentals to which lyrics are added, resulting in an unusual process of creating songs from separate components. More specifically, many riddims are created using digital instruments like the MT-40, a practice that first became popular in 1985 with the release of 'Under Mi Sleng Teng,' whose success made the accessibility of digitally-composed riddims apparent (Manuel-Marshall, p. 453).[38]


A single riddim can be used in multiple songs, paired with different sets of lyrics, and the inverse is also possible with a single set of lyrics being attached to different riddims.  Riddims and lyric sets are not exclusive to any one artist, and these can be and are spread around with one particular riddim, 'Real Rock,' first recorded in 1967 for a song of the same name, being used in at least 269 songs by 2006 over the course of 39 years.[38] Peter Manuel and Wayne Marshall noted in 2006 that most songs were set to one of about a dozen riddims that were in vogue, with the exceptions being the work of individual, often high-ranked, artists.[38] Recording over riddims forms the basis of dancehall, with modern dancehall layering vocals over ostinatos; the DJs providing the vocals thus, in the words of Manuel and Marshall, carry the song, unlike older dancehall where vocals were interwoven with full songs.[38]

These practices' roots can be described with the concept of families of resemblance as coined by George Lipsitz in 1986 – similarities between other groups' experiences and cultures (Lipsitz, p. 160).[39] Here, the term might describe the links between different artists via shared riddims and lyric sets and through common experiences incorporated into the music.


This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (August 2008) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Donna P. Hope defines dancehall culture as a "space for the cultural creation and dissemination of symbols and ideologies that reflect the lived realities of its adherents, particularly those from the inner cities of Jamaica."[40] Dancehall culture actively creates a space for its "affectors" (creators of dancehall culture) and its "affectees" (consumers of dancehall culture) to take control of their own representation, contest conventional relationships of power, and exercise some level of cultural, social and even political autonomy.

Kingsley Stewart outlines ten of the major cultural imperatives or principles that constitute the dancehall worldview. They are:

  1. It involves the dynamic interweaving of God and Haile Selassie
  2. It acts as a form of stress release or psycho-physiological relief
  3. It acts as a medium for economic advancement
  4. The quickest way to an object is the preferred way (i.e., the speed imperative)
  5. The end justifies the means
  6. It strives to make the unseen visible
  7. Objects and events that are external to the body are more important than internal processes; what is seen is more important than what is thought (i.e., the pre-eminence of the external)
  8. The importance of the external self; the self is consciously publicly constructed and validated
  9. The ideal self is shifting, fluid, adaptive, and malleable, and
  10. It involves the socioexistential imperative to transcend the normal (i.e., there is an emphasis on not being normal).[41]

Such a drastic change in the popular music of the region generated an equally radical transformation in fashion trends, specifically those of its female faction. In lieu of traditional, modest "rootsy" styles, as dictated by Rastafari-inspired gender roles; women began donning flashy, revealing – sometimes X-rated outfits. This transformation is said to coincide with the influx of slack lyrics within dancehall, which objectified women as apparatuses of pleasure. These women would team up with others to form "modeling posses", or "dancehall model" groups, and informally compete with their rivals.

This newfound materialism and conspicuity was not, however, exclusive to women or manner of dress. Appearance at dance halls was exceedingly important to acceptance by peers and encompassed everything from clothing and jewelry, to the types of vehicles driven, to the sizes of each respective gang or "crew", and was equally important to both sexes.

One major theme behind dancehall is that of space. Sonjah Stanley Niaah, in her article "Mapping Black Atlantic Performance Geographies", says

Dancehall occupies multiple spatial dimensions (urban, street, police, marginal, gendered, performance, liminal, memorializing, communal), which are revealed through the nature and type of events and venues, and their use and function. Most notable is the way in which dancehall occupies a liminal space between what is celebrated and at the same time denigrated in Jamaica and how it moves from private community to public and commercial enterprise.[42][43]

In Kingston's Dancehall: A Story of Space and Celebration, she writes:

Dancehall is ultimately a celebration of the disenfranchised selves in postcolonial Jamaica that occupy and creatively sustain that space. Structured by the urban, a space that is limited, limiting, and marginal yet central to communal, even national, identity, dancehall's identity is as contradictory and competitive as it is sacred. Some of Jamaica's significant memories of itself are inscribed in the dancehall space, and therefore dancehall can be seen as a site of collective memory that functions as ritualized memorializing, a memory bank of the old, new, and dynamic bodily movements, spaces, performers, and performance aesthetics of the New World and Jamaica in particular.[44]

Dancehall-inspired dancing to music

These same notions of dancehall as a cultural space are echoed in Norman Stolzoff's Wake the Town and Tell the People. He notes that dancehall is not merely a sphere of passive consumerism, but rather is an alternative sphere of active cultural production that acts as a means through which black lower-class youth articulate and project a distinct identity in local, national, and global contexts. Through dancehall, ghetto youths attempt to deal with the endemic problems of poverty, racism, and violence, and in this sense the dancehall acts as a communication center, a relay station, a site where black lower-class culture attains its deepest expression.[45] Thus, dancehall in Jamaica is yet another example of the way that the music and dance cultures of the African diaspora have challenged the passive consumerism of mass cultural forms, such as recorded music, by creating a sphere of active cultural production that potentially may transform the prevailing hegemony of society.[46]

In Out and Bad: Toward a Queer Performance Hermeneutic in Jamaican Dancehall Nadia Ellis explicates the culture of combined homophobia and unabashed queerness within Jamaican dancehall culture. She details the particular importance of the phrase "out and bad" to Jamaica when she writes, "This phrase is of queer hermeneutical possibility in Jamaican dancehall because it registers a dialectic between queer and gay that is never resolved, that relays back and forth, producing an uncertainty about sexual identity and behavior that is usefully maintained in the Jamaican popular cultural context."[47] In discussion of the possibility of a self identifying homosexual dancer performing to homophobic music she writes, "In appropriating the culture and working from within its very center, he produces a bodily performance that gains him power. It is the power or mastery, of parody, and of getting away with it."[47]

Ellis not only examines the intersection of queerness and masculinity within the Jamaican dancehall scene, but suggests that the overt homophobia of certain dancehall music actually creates a space for queer expression. In general, homosexuality and queerness are still stigmatized in dancehalls. In fact, some of the songs used during dancehall sessions contain blatant homophobic lyrics. Ellis argues, however, this explicit, violent rhetoric is what creates a space for queer expression in Jamaica. She describes the phenomenon of all male dance groups that have sprung up within the dancehall scene. These crews dress in matching, tight clothing, often paired with makeup and dyed hair, traditional hallmarks of queerness within Jamaican culture. When they perform together, it is the bodily performance that give the homosexual dancers power.[48]


The popularity of dancehall has spawned dance moves that help to make parties and stage performances more energetic. Dancing is an integral part of bass culture genres. As people felt the music in the crowded dancehall venues, they would do a variety of dances. Eventually, dancehall artists started to create songs that either invented new dances or formalized some moves done by dancehall goers. Many dance moves seen in hip hop videos are actually variations of dancehall dances. Examples of such dances are: "Like Glue", "Bogle", "Whine & Dip", "Tek Weh Yuhself", "Whine Up", "Shake It With Shaun" (a mix of various genres), "Boosie Bounce", "Drive By", "Shovel It", "To Di World", "Dutty Wine", "Sweep", "Nuh Behavior", "Nuh Linga", "Skip to My Lou", "Gully Creepa", "Breakdancing" ,"Bad Man Forward Bad Man Pull Up", "Keeping it Jiggy", "Pon Di River", "One Drop", "Whine & Kotch", "Bubbling", "Tic Toc", "Willie Bounce", "Wacky Dip", "Screetchie", "One Vice" and "Daggering".[49][50][51][52][53]


Cultural elements

Dancehall combines elements of materialism and stories of hardships of Jamaica.[54] This is seen in the use of gun talk by artists like Buju Banton and Capleton, or the sporting of bling-bling by "Gangsta Ras" artists like Mavado and Munga.[55] The term Gangsta Ras, which combines thuggish imagery with Rastafari is according to Rasta critics, an example of how in dancehall, "the misuse of Rastafari culture has diluted and marginalised the central tenets and creed of the Rastafari philosophy and way of life".[56]

Kingsley Stewart points out that artists sometimes feel an "imperative to transcend the normal", exemplified by artists like Elephant Man and Bounty Killer doing things to stand out, such as putting on a synthetic cartoonish voice or donning pink highlights while constantly re-asserting hypermasculine attributes. Donna P. Hope argues that this trend is related to the rise of market capitalism as a dominant feature of life in Jamaica, coupled with the role of new media and a liberalized media landscape, where images become of increasing importance in the lives of ordinary Jamaicans who strive for celebrity and superstar status on the stages of dancehall and Jamaican popular culture.[57]

Another point of dissension of dancehall from reggae, and from its non-western roots in Jamaica, is on the focus on materialism. Dancehall has also become popular in regions such as Ghana and Panama. Prominent males in the dancehall scene are expected to dress in very expensive casual wear, indicative of European urban styling and high fashion that suggest wealth and status.[58] Since the late 1990s, males in the dancehall culture have rivalled their female counterparts to look fashioned and styled.[59] The female dancehall divas are all scantily clad, or dressed in spandex outfits that accentuate more than cover the shape of the body. In the documentary It's All About Dancing, prominent dancehall artist Beenie Man argues that one could be the best DJ or the smoothest dancer, but if one wears clothing that reflects the economic realities of the majority of the partygoers, one will be ignored, and later Beenie Man returned to perform as Ras Moses.[60]

Guns and violent imagery

According to Carolyn Cooper in Sound Clash, written in 2004, dancehall music and its following were frequently attacked for frequent references to guns and violence in lyrics, with Cooper responding by arguing that the emergence of firearms was less a sign of genuinely violent undercurrents in dancehall and more a theatrical adoption of the role of guns as tools of power. That ties into the concepts of the badman, a defiant, rebellious figure who often use a gun to maintain a level of respect and fear.  Said concepts, Cooper argues, originate in historical resistance to slavery and emulation of imported films, specifically North American action films with gun-wielding protagonists.[61]

Adding to the concept of gunfire as theatrical element is the use of gunfire as a way to show support for a performing DJ or singer, which eventually gave way to flashing cigarette lighters, displaying glowing cellphone monitors, and igniting aerosol sprays.[61] Gunfire as a form of cheering has extended beyond dancehall culture with the phrase "pram, pram!" becoming a general expression of approval or support.[61]

However, Cooper's assessment of the presence of guns in Jamaican dancehall is not wholly uncritical, with a discussion of Buju Banton's 'Mr. Nine' interpreting the song as a denouncement of what Cooper describes as gun culture gone out of control.[61]

Part of the criticism of Jamaican dancehall appears to be the product of cultural clash stemming from a lack of insider knowledge on the nuances of the music's content and the culture surrounding said music.  This struggle is something ethnomusicologists struggle with, even within an academic setting, with Bruno Nettl describing in The Study of Ethnomusicology how "insider" and "outsider" viewpoints would reveal different understandings on the same music.[62] Indeed, Nettl later mentions growing questions of who ethnomusicological studies benefited, especially from the groups being studied.  And even then, in May It Fill Your Soul, Timothy Rice mentioned that even insider scholars required a level of distanciation to scrutinize their own cultures as needed.[63]

Anti-gay lyrics

Further information: Stop Murder Music

After the popularizing of Buju Banton's dancehall song "Boom Bye Bye" in the early 1990s, dancehall music came under criticism from international organizations and individuals over anti-gay lyrics.[64][65][66] In some cases, dancehall artists whose music featured anti-gay lyrics have had their concerts cancelled.[67][68] Various singers were investigated by international law enforcement agencies such as Scotland Yard, on the grounds that the lyrics incited the audience to assault gay people. For example, Buju Banton's 1993 hit "Boom Bye Bye" advocates the violent assaults and murders of gay people. Another example, T.O.K.'s song "Chi Chi Man" which advocates the killing of gay men and women.

Some of the affected singers believed that legal or commercial sanctions were an attack against freedom of speech and were affected by anti-Black attitudes in the music industry internationally.[69] Many artists have over time apologized for their mistreatment of LGBTQ+ communities, particularly in Jamaica, and agreed to not use anti-gay lyrics nor continue to perform or profit off their previously anti-gay music.[70] "Stop Murder Music" is/was a movement against homophobia in dancehall music. This movement actively targeted homophobia in dancehall music and was partially initiated by a controversial UK based group OutRage! and supported by the Black Gay Men's Advisory Group (UK based) and J-Flag (Jamaica based). It led to some dancehall artists signing the Reggae Compassionate Act.[70] Dancehall artist Mista Majah P has created dancehall music more recently that celebrates and advocates for LGBTQ+ people.[71][72]

Some artists agreed not to use anti-gay lyrics during their concerts in certain countries internationally because their concerts kept being protested and cancelled.[73][74] However, this fails to address the most serious effects of the anti-gay lyrics in dancehall music which are on the LGBTQ+ people of Jamaica, where this music is most present.

The global treatment of dancehall can often represent the continued anti-Black association of homophobia with Blackness.[75] For example, dancehall artists that have not used anti-gay lyrics and even write music advocating for gay rights have been excluded internationally from certain spaces because it is assumed they are homophobic.[72] Additionally, groups internationally have acted as though the gay-rights criticism of homophobic dancehall songs or artists is not important to Black communities.[75] This represents the anti-Black and anti-gay attitude that work to erase intersectional Black LGBTQ+ identities.[75] In fact, many LGBTQ+ Black people, particularly with connections to Jamaica, continue to experience the complexities of dancehall music, both culturally important and at times deeply violent. This is demonstrated in the film "Out and Bad: London's LGBT Dancehall Scene" which discusses the experience of a group of LGBTQ+ Black, and mostly Jamaican, people in London.[76] Dancehall is important to their culture, both in connection with Jamaican heritage and in how social interactions are constructed around dance and music. However, it is discussed how many dancehall songs contain homophobic and transphobic lyrics.[76] One interviewee comments "We still enjoy ourselves to these kinds of music because [what matters to us is] the rhythm of the music, the beat, the way the music makes us feel."[76]

Scholars have theorized around the significance and meaning around the use of anti-gay lyrics in dancehall music. Donna P. Hope argues that dancehall culture's anti-gay lyrics formed part of a macho discussion that advanced the interest of the heterosexual male in Jamaica, which is a Christian society with strong Rastafari movement influence as well. Dancehall culture in Jamaica often included imagery of men dressing and dancing in a way stereotypically associated with gay-male style.[77] However, the cultural, religious, and social gender-norms continued to advance the ideal man as macho and heterosexual, any divergence from this would be identified as inadequate and impure portraits of true masculinity.[78][77]

Some authors have suggested that this duality, the presentation of "queerness," in dance style and dress, and the violent homophobia, in dancehall spaces can be explained by the ritualistic "doing away with 'homosexuality'."[79] Scholar Nadia Ellis suggests that when songs with homophobic lyrics are played, the environment of dancehall spaces can become serious and individuals can use the opportunity to reinstate their allegiance to heteronormativity.[79] These songs thus act to "consecrate" the spaces as straight and masculine. In the safety this ritualized hetero-normativity creates, the space may be opened to more free expression and participants can then more openly engage with styles and dancing that might have been seen as queer.[79] Ellis writes: "The songs are played; no one is 'gay'; everyone can turn a blind eye."[79]

The backlash to Banton's violently anti-gay "Boom Bye-Bye", and the reality of Kingston's violence which saw the deaths of deejays Pan Head and Dirtsman saw another shift, this time back towards Rastafari and cultural themes, with several of the hardcore slack ragga artists finding religion, and the "conscious ragga" scene becoming an increasingly popular movement. A new generation of singers and deejays emerged that harked back to the roots reggae era, notably Garnett Silk, Tony Rebel, Sanchez, Luciano, Anthony B and Sizzla. Some popular deejays, most prominently Buju Banton and Capleton, began to cite Rastafari and turn their lyrics and music in a more conscious, rootsy direction. Many modern dancehall Rasta artists identify with Bobo Ashanti.

Women's message of power and control

Dancehalls are used to communicate messages of women's power and control in a protest against their gendered experience embedded in Jamaican culture. Danger, a dancehall queen and the winner of the International Dancehall Queen Competition in 2014, expresses her power through dancehalls as she explains: "We are queens, we are not afraid to go out there to do what we want to, demand what we want, and to live how we want, and represent women all over the world and to let them know it is okay to be yourself and that it is ok to not hold back" [80] Raquel, also known as Dancing Princess, describes her ability to communicate through the dancehall: "What you've lived, what you feel, put it in the dance. That's what dance is, expressing with your body what you feel and who you are. (...) dancehall is the way of the woman to say no, I am a woman respect me."[81] As evidenced by these women, dancehall is a space that allows for women to be empowered and to communicate their liberation from the boundaries imposed on them. Rather by negotiating their own boundaries in the dancehall, by taking control of their bodies, and by communicating their power, they are demanding respect when confronted by those who do not believe they deserve it.

See also


  1. ^ "Rihanna Was Making 'Tropical House' Before Justin Bieber — It's Called". 27 January 2016. Archived from the original on 18 June 2018. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  2. ^ Hunter-Tilney, Ludovic (July 13, 2018). "Miss Red: K.O. — 'enticing lightness of touch'". Financial Times. Archived from the original on July 1, 2019. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  3. ^ Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (September 5, 2016). "Sean Paul: 'Drake and Bieber do dancehall but don't credit where it came from'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on December 28, 2016. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  4. ^ Niaah, Sonjah Stanley (July 10, 2010). DanceHall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press. ISBN 9780776607368.
  5. ^ Roy Black (February 3, 2019). "The Music Diaries | The evolution of dancehall". Jamaica: Jamaican Gleaner.
  6. ^ Stolzoff, Norman C. (8 July 2018). Wake the Town & Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0822325147. Archived from the original on 6 May 2016. Retrieved 8 July 2018 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Barrow, Steve & Dalton, Peter (2004) "The Rough Guide to Reggae, 3rd edn.", Rough Guides, ISBN 1-84353-329-4
  8. ^ "Meet the Producers Who Brought Dancehall Back to the Charts In 2016". Billboard. Archived from the original on 2017-01-18. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
  9. ^ a b "The Folk Power of Jamaican Dancehall Signs". The New Yorker. 2017-01-10. Archived from the original on 2017-01-12. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
  10. ^ a b "Is Drake's Dancehall Obsession Homage Or Exploitation?". Archived from the original on 2017-01-13. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
  11. ^ "Top5 Jamaica – Jamaican Sound System Websites". Archived from the original on 25 January 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  12. ^ a b c studios, shey (2021-09-02). "Everything You Need to Know About Dancehall". Shey Studios. Retrieved 2023-12-09.
  13. ^ Sound clash: Jamaican dancehall culture at large By Carolyn Cooper, ISBN 978-1-4039-6424-3
  14. ^ a b c d e f Thompson, Dave (2002) "Reggae & Caribbean Music", Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-655-6
  15. ^ Donna P. Hope. Inna di Dancehall: Popular Culture and the Politics of Identity in Jamaica. UWI Press, 2006.
  16. ^ a b Brewster, Bill, and Frank Broughton. Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: the History of the Disc Jockey. Grove Press, 2014.
  17. ^ a b c d e "The Essential Guide to Dancehall". Retrieved 2023-12-09.
  18. ^ Potash, Chris (1997). Reggae, Rasta, revolution : Jamaican music from ska to dub. New York: Schirmer Books. pp. 189–191. ISBN 9780028647289.
  19. ^ Henriques, Julian (2008). "Sonic diaspora, vibrations, and rhythm: thinking through the sounding of the Jamaican dancehall session" (PDF). African and Black Diaspora. 1 (2): 215–236. doi:10.1080/17528630802224163. S2CID 14966354. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-02-21. Retrieved 2019-09-17 – via Routledge: Taylor and Francis Group.
  20. ^ Henriques, J. (2008). Sonic diaspora, vibrations, and rhythm: thinking through the sounding of the Jamaican dancehall session. African and Black Diaspora, 1(2), 215–236.
  21. ^ Harris, Michael Sean (2022-08-26). "Beyond dancehall: Exploring its influences, impact, and identity". Blog | Splice. Retrieved 2023-12-09.
  22. ^ Thompson, Krista (2015). Shine. Duke University Press.
  23. ^ Natal, B. (2009). Dub echoes. Soul Jazz Records, 1.
  24. ^ Henriques, Julian (July 2008). "Sonic diaspora, vibrations, and rhythm: thinking through the sounding of the Jamaican dancehall session" (PDF). African and Black Diaspora. 1 (2): 215–236. doi:10.1080/17528630802224163. ISSN 1752-8631. S2CID 14966354. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-02-21. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  25. ^ "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life – Grove Atlantic". Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  26. ^ a b "Magazine". International Reggae & World Music Awards. Archived from the original on 2020-10-28. Retrieved 2020-10-27.
  27. ^ a b "Dancehall music | Reggae, Jamaica, Culture | Britannica". Retrieved 2023-12-09.
  28. ^ Oumano, Elena (September 1993). "Daughters of the Dance". Vibe: 83–87. Archived from the original on 2020-10-08. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
  29. ^ "Mad Cobra". Slacker Radio. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  30. ^ "Drake's New Tracks 'One Dance' and 'Pop Style' Reviewed". NME. 2016-04-05. Archived from the original on 2017-01-16. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
  31. ^ "Meet the Producers Who Brought Dancehall Back to the Charts In 2016". Billboard. Archived from the original on 2017-01-18. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
  32. ^ "Vybz Kartel Speaks: After Five Years in Prison, He Still Rules Dancehall". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-03-26.
  33. ^ "Drake: 'Vybz Kartel Is One Of My Biggest Inspirations'". Hype Life Magazine. 2016-05-10. Archived from the original on 2017-03-26. Retrieved 2017-03-27.
  34. ^ The second coming of grime Archived 2019-04-25 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, 27 March 2014
  35. ^ "Trap dancehall isn't going anywhere, say genre's producers". The Gleaner. September 16, 2019. Archived from the original on June 7, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  36. ^ "Choppa Rising: A History of Jamaican Trap Dancehall". Afropunk. October 22, 2019. Archived from the original on June 7, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  37. ^ "MoBay artistes are taking over – Producer". The Jamaica Star. September 11, 2018. Archived from the original on June 7, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  38. ^ a b c d Manuel, Peter, Marshall, Wayne (2006). "The riddim method: aesthetics, practice, and ownership in Jamaican dancehall". Popular Music. 25 (3): 455. doi:10.1017/S0261143006000997. S2CID 151501512. Archived from the original on 2020-10-26. Retrieved 2020-12-04.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  39. ^ Lipsitz, George (1986). "Sound Clash: Jamaican Dancehall Culture at Large". Cultural Critique. 5: 160 – via JSTOR.
  40. ^ Donna P. Hope Inna di Dancehall: Popular Culture and the Politics of Identity in Jamaica. UWI Press, 2006
  41. ^ Kingsley Stewart "So Wha, Mi Nuh Fi Live To?: Interpreting Violence in Jamaica Through Dancehall Culture", Ideaz Vol. 1, No. 1, 2002: pp. 17–28
  42. ^ Mapping Black Performance Geographies By Stanley-Niaah
  43. ^ A Story of Space and Celebration, by Sonjah Stanley Niaah.
  44. ^ Sonjah Stanley-Niaah Kingston's Dancehall: A Story of Space and Celebration, Space and Culture, Vol. 7, No. 1 2004: pp. 102 -118
  45. ^ Norman Stolzoff, Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica Durham: Duke UP, 2000. pp. 1 & 7.
  46. ^ Norman Stolzoff, Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica Durham: Duke UP, 2000. pp. 14–15
  47. ^ a b Ellis, Nadia (July 2011). "Out and Bad: Toward a Queer Performance Hermeneutic in Jamaican Dancehall". Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism. 15 (2): 7–23. doi:10.1215/07990537-1334212. S2CID 144742875.
  48. ^ Ellis, Nadia, "Out and Bad: Toward a Queer Performance Hermeneutic in Jamaican Dancehall."
  49. ^ Niaah, Stanley, DanceHall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto(Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2010)
  50. ^ "International News – Spate of broken penises caused by dance style "daggering"". Archived from the original on 2010-01-18. Retrieved 2010-01-07.
  51. ^ Schneider, Kate (2009-06-03). "Erotic "daggering" dance craze causing bodily harm – The Courier-Mail". Archived from the original on 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2010-01-07.
  52. ^ "The Origins of Dancehall Reggae | Dancehall Reggae". 2009-08-17. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved 2010-01-07.
  53. ^ "Dance craze causes bodily harm". 2009-06-03. Archived from the original on 2010-02-18. Retrieved 2010-01-07.
  54. ^ Kingsley Stewart "So Wha, Mi Nuh Fi Live To?: Interpreting Violence in Jamaica Through Dancehall Culture", Ideaz Vol. 1, No. 1, 2002: pp. 17–28
  55. ^ Donna P. Hope "I Came to Take My Place: Contemporary Discourses of Rastafari in Jamaican Dancehall" in Revista Brasileira Do Caribe, Volume 9, No. 18, January–June 2009, pp. 401–423
  56. ^ "Rastas blast Munga's 'Gangsta Ras' image". 13 May 2007. Archived from the original on 13 May 2007. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  57. ^ Donna P. Hope. Man Vibes: Masculinities in the Jamaican Dancehall. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2010
  58. ^ Donna P. Hope "The British Link Up Crew – Consumption Masquerading as Masculinity in the Dancehall" in Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies Special Issue on Jamaican Popular Culture, 6.1: April, 2004, pp. 101–117.
  59. ^ Donna P. Hope Man Vibes: Masculinities in the Jamaican Dancehall. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2010
  60. ^ ""Beenie Man to perform as 'Ras Moses' at Rebel Salute"". Archived from the original on 2009-04-23. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  61. ^ a b c d Cooper, Carolyn (2004). Sound clash : Jamaican dancehall culture at large (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 154. ISBN 1-4039-6425-4. OCLC 52799208.
  62. ^ Nettl, Bruno (15 May 2015). The study of ethnomusicology : thirty-three discussions (Third ed.). Urbana. ISBN 978-0-252-09733-1. OCLC 910556351.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  63. ^ Rice, Timothy (1994). May it fill your soul : experiencing Bulgarian music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-226-71121-8. OCLC 28799339.
  64. ^ "Denmark: Activist campaigns against online sales of 'murder music'". Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  65. ^ "Sizzla – Reggae Industry To Ban Homophobia – Contactmusic News". 2005-02-08. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  66. ^ "Murder Inna Dancehall: Songs & Lyrics". Archived from the original on 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  67. ^ Petridis, Alexis (2004-12-13). "Pride and prejudice". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 2016-12-01. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
  68. ^ ""Stop Murder Music" Blocks Sizzla and Elephant Man Canadian Performance". 2007-10-02. Archived from the original on 2012-02-17. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  69. ^ "village voice > music > Jah Division by Elena Oumano". Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  70. ^ a b "Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton renounce homophobia". The Guardian. 2007-06-14. Archived from the original on 2021-03-31. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  71. ^ "A First In Reggae: Singer Mista Majah P Speaks Gay Rights In New Song". Urban Islandz. October 19, 2010. Archived from the original on January 22, 2021. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
  72. ^ a b "A First In Reggae: Singer Mista Majah P Speaks Gay Rights In New Song". Urban Islandz. 2010-10-19. Archived from the original on 2021-01-22. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  73. ^ "Reggae stars renounce homophobia – Beenie Man, Sizzla and Capleton sign deal (Jamaica)". Archived from the original on 2013-04-29. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  74. ^ "Reggae Stars Renounce Homophobia, Condemn Anti-gay Violence |Gay News|Gay Blog Towleroad". Archived from the original on 2008-09-25. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  75. ^ a b c Nyong'o, Tavia (2007-11-30). "'I've Got You Under My Skin' Queer assemblages, lyrical nostalgia and the African diaspora". Performance Research. 12 (3): 42–54. doi:10.1080/13528160701771303. ISSN 1352-8165. S2CID 193225758.
  76. ^ a b c Out and Bad: London's LGBT Dancehall Scene (Full Length), 14 December 2015, archived from the original on 2015-12-14, retrieved 2021-03-20
  77. ^ a b Donna P. Hope. Man Vibes: Masculinities in Jamaican Dancehall. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2010.
  78. ^ Donna P. Hope "From Boom Bye Bye to Chi Chi Man: Exploring Homophobia in Jamaican Dancehall, Culture", in Journal of the University College of the Cayman Islands (JUCCI), Volume 3, Issue 3, August 2009, pp. 99–121.
  79. ^ a b c d Ellis, Nadia (July 2011). "Out and Bad: Toward a Queer Performance Hermeneutic in Jamaican Dancehall". Small Axe. 15 (2): 7–23. doi:10.1215/07990537-1334212. S2CID 144742875.
  80. ^ Refinery 29, "How Jamaican Dancehall Queens Twerk For A Living | Style Out There | Refinery29". Youtube, hosted by Connie Wang, April 6, 2019, Archived 2019-05-25 at the Wayback Machine
  81. ^ Will, Jay, and Janet Ginsburg. Bruk out! A Dancehall Queen Documentary. Video Disco, 2017.