Thursday, June 17, 2010

Violence in Jamaican Dancehall Lyrics (LAT)

Jamaica music lyrics — trigger of violence?

The debate has intensified since lethal police raids in a slum that is the home turf of an alleged drugs and arms trafficker whose violent lifestyle is glorified in lyrics of a music called dancehall.

By Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times
June 13, 2010

Reporting from Kingston, Jamaica —

Ova di wall, Ova di wall
Put yuh AK ova di wall…
Blood a go run
Like Dunns River Fall.

Blood flowing like waterfalls. Brains floating like feathers out of a torn pillow. Women submitting to the whims of neighborhood "dons."

The images are typical of dancehall, a popular Jamaican music style that has sparked a furious debate over whether it merely reflects an increasingly violent society or somehow contributes to the mayhem.

Some of dancehall's most popular performers, including Elephant Man, who wrote "Ova di Wall," use hyperviolent lyrics that chronicle the exploits of "badmanism," the cult of gun-toting gangs. Some are also criticized as misogynistic and anti-gay.

The national debate has intensified in the aftermath of lethal police raids last month in the Tivoli Gardens slum that is the home turf of Christopher "Dudus" Coke, the alleged drugs and arms trafficker whose violent lifestyle is glorified in dancehall lyrics.

Community leader Henley Morgan, a pastor who runs a social outreach program in the lower-class Trenchtown district where reggae legend Bob Marley grew up, worries that the extreme songs of dancehall, a successor to ska, rocksteady and reggae, could be "dictating the culture."

"This is music that is coming out of what we call garrisons, or ghettos that have been politicized. Violent dancehall has a lot of profanity, glorifies guns and degrades women," Morgan said. "Not all dancehall promotes violence, but it's the songs with raunchy lyrics that get played."

Youths interviewed recently seemed torn between their enjoyment of a genre that is perfect "jumping up," or dance, music and their aversion to the lyrics' often explicit messages.

"These are things the Jamaican middle class doesn't want to hear, but they happen in our society," said Adrian Demetrius, a 20-year-old telemarketer who was interviewed one Saturday night amid the din of a popular dance club here called Quad. "Dancehall is just bringing it to the mainstream."

As the music's influence has grown, Jamaica's Broadcasting Commission has tried to impose rules on radio stations to limit explicit language. But dancehall's enormous popularity has frustrated those efforts fueled competition among the island's radio stations to play the most outrageous tunes, said Donna Hope, a Jamaican music expert and professor at the University of the West Indies.
Read the full story HERE.

No comments: