From daggering to dangerous dancing
Before getting into the meat of the matter this week, a correction from the previous column has been corrected by Robert Russell, vice-chairman and co-producer of Reggae Sumfest, about an erroneous statement in last week's Music and More.
Writing about the expense of overseas acts, I wrote, "That is
a hell of a lot of Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and other sponsorship money that has gone out of the country over the years, remembering that the festival has consistently enjoyed US$500,000 in TPDCo support."
I was wrong. Russell says: "We actually don't get any financial sponsorship from TPDCo. We get sponsorship from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and it is not in the amount of US$500,000. I think it is very well spent, because they get a lot of exposure from Reggae Sumfest, here and abroad."
Russell continued: "We attract some 4,000 visitors to Montego Bay every year to attend Reggae Sumfest. It is estimated that they (each) spend US$1,500 on hotel and general expenditure."
There was a single instance of US$500,000 being injected into Sumfest about a decade ago. Then, Russell said, "The hotels came together and put up US$500,000 of sponsorship money. The JTB gave them some advertising to offset that contribution to Sumfest."
Madness as normal
Before things get worse they invariably go bad. And there is, unfortunately, no worse in human behaviour there is always another level that those who are allowed to do so can aspire to and do so with glee once the lines have been
gradually shifted in the desired direction.
So before there was a dancer named Marvin, subtitled 'The Beast', summing up his aggressive approach to his dancehall
passion, there was daggering. It went from the very strong hip thrusts to men and women
leaping on each other's groins from higher and higher
positions, to diving off stages, buildings and whatever platform is available.
Marvin is the most well-known among a group of men who hackled a woman at a party, the video going viral in mid-May and prompting
outrage in Jamaica as well as in external media like The Guardian in the UK.
He was not the only man involved, but he is the one who is well known. Plus, he has a history of the dangerous
dancing all by himself.
It is one of these videos which makes the purpose clear.
In the clip, just after slam dunking a woman on a counter leaving it dislocated and the lass totally out of sorts (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXEwFMAy7aI, start at 3:10 to cut to the chase), Marvin takes the microphone and says that he has to make the video for the event go viral.
Therefore, the immediate experience is not the objective. He is performing for the official videographers and anyone in the session with a smartphone. It is a matter of making it popular at all costs, to be so outrageous that it arrests attention in a world and dancehall space saturated with content.
We have institutions in society which, even if they seem to be lone voices in the wilderness, still serve as a standard for behaviour even as they are lambasted for being prissy, pretentious and puritanical. In media, it is the much-criticised Broadcasting Commission; in the general society it is the Church; in various industries there are specific organisations which maintain the profession's standards.
There is no equivalent in the day-to- day bustle of Jamaican popular music, despite the voices of people like Beenie Man, Sizzla, Bounty Killer and Vegas, who intercede from time to time. So it is up to the media which engages directly with dancehall to establish a standard, if not by making an outright statement then filtering what it passes on to its audience.
Unfortunately, in many instances, this media is following social media, repeating content as long as it is deemed popular, with no sense of making a value judgement. If being popular at all costs on social media leads to popularity in the press in general, we are going to get some people who make Marvin look tame.