Mon | Sep 25, 2017

From rhapsody to crapsody

Published:Monday | August 17, 2015 | 8:00 AM

I like a wide variety of music genres. I even like classical music. I also like oldies. I play and sing along to those a lot while I'm on the road, especially while driving to and from the country parts.

Perhaps it's because I heard them during my formative years in the early 1970s; perhaps it's because I can hear what they are singing clearly and they make sense, but I seem to remember the words.

On the other hand, I rarely know or remember the words to much of the 'modern' music. It feels weird to think that some of what I'm hearing is being classified as 'music'. Most of the oldies but goodies were rhapsodies, but some of what is produced today is just plain crap, rubbish, chaff. I call them 'crapsodies'. There is a place for every kind of musical expression, but some of what passes for music nowadays is nothing short of disturbing.

 

Dancehall spinoff

 

I remember the Jamaican music evolution from ska to rocksteady to reggae. I have always liked listening to reggae. Now we have dancehall music; it is a spinoff of reggae because it certainly doesn't sound like an evolution of that genre. Honestly, dancehall sounds an awful lot like dinkimini to me.

Dancehall music started out slowly in the 1970s. That genre was driven by disc jockeys who spun reggae at dance sessions as they tried to get the crowd interested and worked up. Soon, the songs that they rapped to were relegated to a base rhythm over which the deejays got the crowd's attention with their entertaining lyrics. Eventually, some rode the rhythms with social commentary and to publicise their opinions on happenings, problems and attitudes.

Ultimately, the deejays achieved celebrity status. Sometimes, they used the dub side of the vinyl as their background rhythm. The deejays would produce witty and innovative rhymes to the delight of the crowd. Sometimes the music began with the hit song, then, with a shout of, "Dubwise!" morphed into the rhythm version over which the deejay could do his thing.

This used to be very entertaining and the deejays' renditions were bright and artistic. In time, deejay music became dancehall music. The two became one. And, dancehall music survived outside of the dancehall sessions. It migrated to the airwaves and stood its own on vinyl records, then cassette tapes, CDs, Internet downloads and all modes of modern electronic data storage. Most people are surprised to learn that I like clean and clever dancehall music.

Unfortunately, an indeterminate number of deejays and singjays found that dancehall crowds were titillated by vulgar lyrics. I am still confused and dismayed by the excited and joyful reaction of women in the crowd who scream with delight and become super-animated (leggo and spread out) whenever the deejays unleash explosive nastiness about women. Their lyrics are gross, crass, disrespectful, demeaning, sick, vulgar and downright nauseating, yet the women in the audience seem to love hearing it!

 

Slack music

 

Sadly, some deejays record nastiness in the studios and then release them on CDs and the Internet. I was surprised to learn that several of the dancehall songs that I like have a clean version and a dirty version. In fact, much of contemporary pop music is produced with a clean and dirty version; this is by no means confined to Jamaica and it certainly isn't confined to reggae or dancehall music.

Thank God for the Broadcasting Commission! That kind of crapsody is banned from airplay and I'm sorry that they can't be banned altogether. There is nothing redeeming about them. They expose impressionable children to nastiness, and they are not entertaining, at least not to most of us.

Responsible event producers should ban all public performances and/or playing of such degrading 'music'. And, the police should shut them down once that vulgarity can be heard beyond the confines of the event.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.