Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Dancehall music innocent of charges

Published:Sunday | May 1, 2016 | 5:14 AMCurtis Campbell
Vybz Kartel

Following Police Commissioner Dr Carl Williams' recent suggestion that crime is related to dancehall lyrics, several members of the music industry have rubbished these claims, while jumping to the genre's defense.

According to the industry players, dancehall music is always used as a scapegoat for incompetence. Outspoken record producer/animator, Audel Enigma, told The Sunday Gleaner, that the police force is clueless and biased.

"Lets take a trip to 1970 leading up to the 80s when dancehall was not at its peak. Wasn't that one of the most violent periods of Jamaica's history? And didn't politics play a role in the destruction of Jamaica during that period? Politics is and has always been the main cause of crime in the country. Most of the violent areas are led by somebody aligned to politics and the police are very much aware of this and do nothing about it," he said.

The promoter also recalled the 2010 Tivoli incursion. "Following the incursion, didn't the police say all persons regarded as dons should take themselves in? and what did we see as a result? We had weeks of peace and quiet because the criminals were locked in shells in fear of the state. But what did our clever government do? They eased off the pressure and allowed the criminals to once again set up shop and murder our people...now they want to blame music to hide their incompetence," he said.

Enigma says all dancehall has done is to highlight some of the issues causing crime and violence. He also said the police force has ignored such issues due to their affiliation with the government.

"When you listen to songs like Don Story by Gage and Ghetto Boy by Stephen Marley, Cobra and Bounty Killer, the artistes specifically explain the trials of inner-city youths and how politicians have manipulated them through dons. However, the police seldom listen to these songs because they are largely puppets for the government and that is a fact known to the public, a fact that is seldom addressed," he argued.

As it relates to Vybz Kartel's murder conviction which understandably overshadows dancehall's positive characteristics, Enigma said he was not flattered by the trial of the deejay.

"They love to talk about Vybz Kartel this and that. But if you look at it objectively, the police found so much so called evidence and wire taps to put one dancehall artiste behind bars, yet politicians always walk away scotch free. Where are the wire taps and phone conversations to lock up politicians? They don't use phones? Where are the phone conversations? Dem tek wi fi idiot man...locking up Kartel was to prove a point and they have the powers. So what did we really expect?...not saying he is innocent. Read between the lines and compare our justice system and their track record to Kartel's trial," he said.

Enigma also named places like Syria, Afghanistan and Sierra Leon and questioned if dancehall music was the cause of the violence in those areas too. He believes the music is innocent of all charges put forward by the police.

"So a dancehall mek suicide bombing and those other things weh a gwaan worldwide? Look at the condition of downtown Kingston, it hasn't been returned to its former glory since it was destroyed by political violence in the 70s and 80s. You want to have us believe that dancehall did that? Come on man, wake up. The streets of downtown Kingston are lined with urine and homeless people - is that also dancehall's doing? I believe by now you should figure out who are the people in charge and deal with it accordingly. Who controls the ports that guns come through?," he questioned.

Popular selector/producer Delano, also threw the Jamaican government systems under the bus, citing that corruption has created violence. But ironically, the selector believes more of Jamaica's music should be endorsed by the leaders instead of trying to fight its development.

"When you turn off dancehall events, that only causes more violence, because people won't have anything to do with their time. Corruption from Government to Corporate, is what causes the violence. When you allow people to rule this area and that area that is what causes violence. Reggae and dancehall is our culture and if we respect our culture we will have less violence and more tourists. I am touring the world and EDM DJs are using our culture with sound systems and are making millions from it while we disrespect it. Music is what put Jamaica on the map and it should be in the schools and everything. It is not fair to Jamaicans that we cannot use our culture and benefit from it. Persons overseas are always asking me why doesn't the government support our culture," he said.

Popular sound system operator ZJ Rush also shared his two cents. He questioned why Japan hasn't seen a spike in crime since the country is regarded as one of highest consumers of dancehall music. He also believes the police force and government are out of tune with reality.

"If dancehall is the cause of violence why isn't Japan suffering from our level of violence? Dancehall dominates the airwaves in the Caribbean, yet the level of violence doesn't match ours. Why? At one point people blamed Hip Hop in America for crime until they realised Canada listened to the same music and had no such crime issue. Violent video games were also blamed then people realised the same games are played around the world. Violence is simply a result of 'sufferation' and inequality, but those in power can't understand because they aren't suffering. While we in Jamaica suffer poverty and inequality, the system suffers a lack of understanding of reality. The system blames the culture for talking through music about the suffering that the system itself created. Don't be fooled by slight-of-hand or smoke and mirrors. Dem can fool some people sometimes, but dem cyaan fool all the people all the time," he warned.

entertainment@gleanerjm.com