Sun | Mar 18, 2018

Foreign acts drive dancehall music abroad

Published:Sunday | March 6, 2016 | 12:00 AMCurtis Campbell

Dancehall music has been missing in action on the international scene in recent years, due to several reasons, including visa woes faced by local acts, decline in record sales, unprofessionalism of some Jamaican artistes and a shift from the traditional sound of dancehall rhythms.
However, it would appear that the diamond selling, Grammy award winning genre, is gradually returning to its glory days, but a new driver has taken over the wheel.
Foreign artistes have been enjoying much attention with the genre, while local acts lurk in the shadows of what was once their playing field.
Two of the top selling songs of 2016 are dancehall records. However, both songs were released by foreign acts - Canadian born pop artiste Justin Bieber, with Sorry, and more closer to home, Barbados-born U.S., superstar Rihanna, with Work.
Both songs peaked at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, giving little credit to dancehall. In fact, Rolling Stones Magazine committed the ultimate sin in the eyes of dancehall fans recently, when they credited Rihanna's Work, as belonging to the Tropical House genre.
Internationally renowned producers Major Lazer also raked up a few hits of their own in recent times, dabbling with dancehall, and perhaps helped to regain the genre's relevance on the international scene.
Paying homage to the island by using local acts on their records, Major Lazer climbed the charts with songs like Bubble Butt featuring popular dancer Mystic, Bumaye featuring Busy Signal, Powerful featuring Tarrus Riley, Lean On featuring a dancehall-inspired instrumental and Pon Di Floor featuring incarcerated dancehall superstar Vybz Kartel.
Nevertheless, Major Lazer is predominantly an overseas group with the exception of Walshy Fire, who was partially raised in Jamaica but was born in the United States.
Even St Thomas U.S., Virgin Island's recording artistes R.City, saw Billboard success for the first time in late 2015 with the release of their dancehall effort, Locked Away, which features Adam Levine. That effort also climbed into the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10, once again by a non-Jamaican act.
In the meantime, several of dancehall's top acts made fair attempts at gaining success in overseas markets, but failed to achieve chart success. Mavado's Give It To Me, featured Nicki Minaj and seemed poised to raise eyebrows in the U.S. However, the record fell flat and failed to live up to expectations, achieving no worthy chart success.
Spice's So Mi Like It, was perhaps one of the most viewed dancehall songs on social media, raking up over 40 million views on However, the song neither climbed the Billboard Charts nor sold units.
Alkaline recruited platinum selling singer Sean Kingston for the remix of, Ride On Me, but that effort also fell short of international attention.
The last song in the genre to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 was Sean Paul's Temperature in 2006.
Music distributor Johnny Wonder, says in order for Jamaican acts to compete, they must seek to achieve airplay on international radio. He believes the focus on local parties and Jamaican radio will not aid in taking the music into the global space.
"I talk to radio people in foreign all the time. The thing about that is, for a song to get added to a Hot 97 or a Power 105, the artiste has to be able to travel to the U.S., and promote the song for the station. They are going to expect you to do jingles and perform at their events, but the artistes cannot travel, so that is one of the reasons why some of our top artistes don't get added  because they cannot support their songs," Wonder explained.
"If you are not being played on these stations, where are they going to chart you from? Because Billboard utilities an airplay chart and of course sales, but our sales aren't like Taylor Swift's sales," Wonder told The Sunday Gleaner.
Legendary record producer King Jammy believes local acts will need to improve their product in order to benefit from the new success of the genre. He also says it's time for the music industry to develop new talents to carry the genre forward.
"Jamaica has a lot of talent, there is no place with as many young artistes. But they need to be developed and taught about the business. They also need to be coached so they have the right attitude because their attitude is what is pulling them back. Some of them start get a few airplays on local radio and dem feel big," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
King Jammy also said that while the lack of visas may play a role in the absence of Jamaican acts from foreign charts, it should not be used as an excuse to be outperformed by foreigners.
"Visa can't stop music, once the music is good it will go on the Billboard charts, because people will buy it. The reason why some of those American acts are climbing the charts is because Americans are buying music, but the Jamaican fans are not doing that.
When you don't have a visa, that cause a little problem yes, but you have record companies that are responsible for the promotion of the records.
So just make good music,"he advised.