Sat | Feb 22, 2020

‘Goodas Fi Dem’ - Grounation ­embraces dancehall

Published:Friday | February 1, 2019 | 12:12 AM
Female artistes Pamputtae (left) and Stacious.
Herbie Miller

Now in its eighth year, Grounation (the discussion series organised annually by the Jamaica Music Museum, an arm of the Institute of Jamaica), in ­celebration of Reggae and Black History Month, will this year finally ‘hug up’ dancehall music.

Lectures will be held each Sunday in the month of February, beginning at 2: p.m. at the Institute of Jamaica on East Street, downtown Kingston, under the theme – ‘Dancehall Culture’, within which a host of energetic subtopics are set to be explored.

IOJ’s musical director and curator for the Jamaica Music Museum, Herbie Miller, admitted that for the past seven years, Grounation has focused almost exclusively on what he describes as “the more historical aspect of the music”. It has expounded on such lofty themes as ‘Garvey’s Ghost: Muse, Aesthetics, Cultural Arts and Freedom Sounds’; ‘Seeing Sound and ‘Hearing Images: African Aesthetics in Popular Jamaican Culture’; and ‘Riddim Across the Atlantic: Di Drum in Africa and its Diasporas’.

Miller emphasises, however, that this seven-year wait had nothing to do with any perceived or ­deliberate bias against dancehall.

“It is the first time that we are taking on our most contemporary music form – dancehall – and this is in direct response to the request of many young people, who have enjoyed the information and the knowledge gained from previous Grounations and are now ready for this.

“What they are saying is that they are eager to hear how this ­polarising style has been understood by those who are a part of that culture, as well as by those persons whose reaction to dancehall music is a reflection of the resistance to being open to what it represents,” Miller told The Gleaner.

He added that as the director and curator, he has to “pay attention to all forms of music that we create as Jamaicans”. He added, for good measure, “For those of us who are not up to date as ­custodians, we need to engage and employ others who understand.”

Author and cultural studies lecturer Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah, who has been working closely with Miller on this year’s Grounation, could hardly contain her ­excitement over this year’s theme, and declared that it’s quite revolutionary that the IOJ is ­seeing the vision and speaking to the ­people. She echoed Miller’s affirmation that the Music Museum is reaching out to that demographic and ­embracing the audience.


She disclosed that a formidable set of people has been confirmed as panellists and moderators to discuss topics ranging from sexuality, gender, stardom, crime, justice and punishment. She noted that the conversations will centre on burning issues within dancehall.

“For example, we will look at artistes such as Busy, Tommy Lee, Kartel and Jah Cure, and the punishment they have received for their run-ins with the law; the effect on their earning potential, not being granted visas to travel to certain places where they have a large fan base,” Dr Niaah outlined.

Grounation kicks off on February 3 with the topic, ‘Goodas Fi Dem,’ and will have as panellists dancehall artistes Stacious, Pamputtae and D’Angel, in ­addition to Karlene Samuels and Adwoa Anuora. Stacious and Pamputtae will also perform.

The second Sunday’s panellists will be Dr Lisa Tomlinson, Ce’cile, Shauna Chyn and Dr Donna Peterkin, and they will examine ‘Bleaching, Piercing, Tattooing and Altered Dancehall Body’; while on February 17, they will ­explore Dancehall Stardom Vershon 1, with Michael Dawson, Heavy D and Sonjah Stanley Niaah. Version 2 is the finale with panellists Cordel Green, Robyn Smith, Christopher Charles and ‘Dancehall Queen’ Carlene Smith.

Confirmed to perform on Version 1 is Ding Dong, while Tommy Lee’s performance on Dancehall Stardom Version 1 will bring the curtain down on Grounation 2019.