Tue | Dec 18, 2018

Wedding bans on gyallis culture

Published:Tuesday | December 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Agent Sasco
Dr Donna Hope
Shelly-Ann Weeks

"A long time me a ol gyallis

Me an de gyal neva yet inna malice"

"So de faada so de son

Mi puppa was a gyallis

Same way me come"

- Leonard 'Merciless'

Bartley, 1990s

A just mi good ole wife, a just mi good ole wife

She alone mi coming home to every night

A just mi good ole wife, a just mi good ole wife

Mi nah go make no Jezebel mash up mi life

- Wayne Marshall, 2011

From Shabba Ranks, who egged on men to have a "traila load a gyal" to Beenie Man, who said, "man fi have nuff gyal and gyal inna bungle", it has become almost second nature for male dancehall artistes to encourage multiple concurrent female partners. From the early 1990s to the present, the lyrics from many male dancehall artistes have promoted a 'gyallis culture' in Jamaica.

While nothing much has changed in terms of the messages being spewed out by many male entertainers, the number practising what they preach - not settling down with one woman - seems to have significantly lessened as more hardcore dancehall artistes tie the knot.

Aidonia, Mavado, Agent Sasco, Konshens, Kevin Blair from Voicemail, and Shaggy are among the entertainers marrying in recent times.

According to Dr Donna Hope, cultural analyst and senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI), marriage is in and the 'gyallis culture' is just not cutting it anymore. "I think people were carrying on about the 'gyallis culture' because it was something that was appreciated by the fans. It was an accepted part of how a man should be, but social pressures are now coming from different places, where it is not acceptable to have the 'bag a woman', and so we see a change in the trend," she said.

Hope also explained the effect of social media. "We have the opportunity to see what's going on in people's lives a lot more now with social media. Social media has opened up our eyes, and people have become more cautious of that. The society is not as tolerant of the loose lifestyle these days, and people seem to be very much in love with the idea of their celebrities having a structured life, showing that they are real, and people are going for that," she said.


Settling Down Sooner


Hope also explained that many younger dancehall artistes are settling down sooner as there are perks to the image of a family man. "We see Agent Sasco in his marriage and his lifestyle, and he's very public with how he lives, and people give him a lot of props for it because they see it as a positive move," she said. "I find that more artistes (male) are recognising that there is some positive value to be had from modelling a sort of lifestyle and so it is interesting that a lot of the younger dancehall artistes like Aidonia and Konshens are on the Internet with their wives. They have also earned a lot more respect from many," Hope said.

Sexologist Shelly-Ann Weeks agreed, pointing to maturity. "Artistes' persona on the road needed to show that they were gyallis, but a lot of these entertainers are getting older, and the gyallis persona wears thin after a while. We see it in hip hop, too. Jay Z did a song called Big Pimpin'. Now, he's talking about the importance of being with your family and working through the problems, and the latter was a matter of him maturing. It's the same for dancehall artistes," she explained, pointing out that entertainers are also becoming more cognisant of the fact that they have a lot to lose. "They know when they go on the road or on stage it's one thing, but when they go home, it's a different thing, and they can't afford to lose their families, so they have to strike a balance," Weeks said.

Weeks also said that understanding the business of music and the power of marketing also plays an important part as a man with several children with multiple women is a harder sell than a man with a wife and family, particularly in the corporate world. "Gyallis nah gwaan wid nothing now, and settling down does a lot for their image," she said. "If you look at it, them having a family shows a different side of them, and that helps with marketability. A lot of the brands going after artistes are family brands, so it helps if they have that kind of persona and helps with their ability to earn overall."

Hope is encouraging persons to recognise when artistes are making positive moves. "Dancehall is Jamaica's sore foot, so we are not going to see when the sore is being bandaged up or healed. Dancehall has to do only bad things, and we only see the bad things. When things like these are happening that send a positive signal, not enough is done to highlight them," she said.