Monday, December 08, 2008
Mash up the Dancehall!
Dancehall reggae has got a lot of bad press through the years. This has often been warranted in my opinion and the sexist and homophobic lyrics of some dancehall used to be as bad as even the worst gangsta rap. Their seems to be a curious machismo in much of dancehall reggae's past and it is often said that this "slackness" is a product of the ghetto's where dancehall stems from. The anti-homosexual and sexist sentiments in Dancehall music is a direct reflection of the male machismo/egoism in Jamaican culture. Personally, I'm glad that in recent years many dancehall artists have returned to the more conscious and positive sounds of roots reggae.
There is one place where the credentials of dancehall reggae have never been doubted. I'm lucky enough to have grown up going to a nightclub where dancehall was paramount, and it only seems like yesterday when me and my pals used go and check out Donkeyman spinning the best dancehall tunes in the Donkey's Ears and the Back Bar of Sir Henry's. Having taken over from him in Henry's I felt under qualified with regards to Dancehall and even though I was a big reggae fan it took me years to feel that i could spin that music with the same ability as Donkeyman. Thankfully I learnt from the best and luckily in Cork we have always had a good amount of people spinning the hottest rhythms from the Jamaican dancehalls. The likes of Dr Fiasco and Bellyman are regularly holding it down and always worth checking out if you like to hear the hottest grooves.
Dancehall has sporadically hit the mainstream over these years too but in many ways it's the same old story as when reggae dominated. The rhythms, many originally culled from reggae classics anyway, manage to get exposure eventually through pop or r&b hits. Just like with Bob Marley, there is one dominant artist who enjoys hit after hit, but it is fair to say Sean Paul will never enjoy the same kudos as the Wailers man. He is absolutely huge these days though and it is fair to say he is still a decent enough artist and he relies less on the novelty factor than the likes of Shaggy did when he was popular. Beenie Man, Shabba Ranks, Chaka Demus and Pliers are just a few more who have enjoyed success but for me the best dancehall flavours will always be the ones that have bubbled under the radar of the mainstream charts.
Capelton, Louie Rankin, Cham, Cutty Ranks and the likes have all been regulars in the dancehalls around the world in recent years and this is just the tip of the iceberg really. The rhythms and sounds are still absolutely banging and the music is as good as ever, but this is one form of music where you really need to be searching out the best stuff by digging deep and through the right networks. It's definitely worth it though because there are few musical forms that sound so good as when the vibe is the right the Dancehall is still king!
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- I'm a DJ from Cork in Ireland. I work with RedFM, presenting Red Drive, The Hitlist and my specialist show, Black on Red. I'm probably best known for being one of the main hip-hop/soul DJ's in Cork and Ireland. I've been DJing in Cork since the early 90's in legendary clubnights such as Sweat in Sir Henrys, Mor Disco, Free La Funk, Yo Latino and also Jam and Jam Junior at the Savoy and the Pavilion. I've also held down long term residencies at clubs around Ireland such as Brown Sugar at the Kitchen in Dublin, U-Turn at Ri Ra in Dublin, Jazz Juice at the GPO in Galway, Thompson Garage in Belfast, the Soul Clinic, Dee-Bop, Meltdown and Mo Bounce in Limerick and i've played abroad in the United States and the U.K. on numerous occasions. I also write a music column for the Evening Echo and i'm a regular contributor to the U.K.'s Blues and Soul, the longest running black music magazine in the world. These days i run the Pavilion, a music venue in Cork, which hosts my Jam night every few Fridays http://www.pavilioncork.com also you can catch me at http://djstevieg.podomatic.com