Tue | Jan 26, 2021

Dancehall yet to get respect in Jamaica - PR specialist

Published:Monday | November 30, 2020 | 12:11 AM
Patrons at Alka-Vybz dancehall party held at St Lucia Car Park, New Kingston in May 2019.
Patrons at Alka-Vybz dancehall party held at St Lucia Car Park, New Kingston in May 2019.
Dancehall artiste Popcaan.
Dancehall artiste Popcaan.

When Popcaan and his mentor, Vybz Kartel, released notable albums this year, they were touted as dancehall acts who could possibly make the final five for this year’s Reggae Grammy Awards, making them the first dancehall acts to be nominated in the category in recent times and joining only a handful of acts from the genre to get a nod for one of music’s most prestigious awards.

But when the list was made public last Tuesday, neither Popcaan nor Vybz Kartel made the cut, as the nominations for the golden gramophone went to an all-reggae cast which included the likes of Skip Marley, Maxi Priest, The Wailers, Buju Banton and the late Toots Hibberts. In a post-and-delete last week, dancehall’s ‘unruly one’, Popcaan, voiced his opinions on the Recording Academy’s picks for this year’s nominees, calling out the organisation on what he described as corruption. Then, on the weekend, the person in charge of the account belonging to incarcerated deejay Vybz Kartel also shared their thoughts.

The awards decision-making panel was taken to task for nominating what was described as “bay [expletive]”. In another post, the account holder said the next album from the Worl’ Boss will be a reggae album called Kartel Marley and will feature ‘Rasta Popcaan’, pointing out that it (the project) “must win” then.

But while agreeing that dancehall acts have been continuously dealt a raw hand by the Recording Academy, at least one music insider believes Jamaicans must first look at the way the genre is treated in its home country before calling out the Grammys.

Expressing that there are countless dancehall acts who have their ‘houses’ in order and deserve a shot at the Grammys, Cara Vickers, public relations specialist, told The Gleaner that perhaps the latter hasn’t happened because dancehall is still yet to get the recognition and respect it deserves in Jamaica.

“There has to be an element of either systemic racism or snubbing (by the Recording Academy), because there are a lot of our dancehall artistes whose businesses are intact. They are making solid moves on the international market, irrespective of their personal lives, and they should get their shot. When you look at it from a credibility perspective and an eligibility perspective, an artiste like Popcaan is supposed to be in that running. I absolutely believe that if Popcaan was a ‘reggae artiste’ he’d be on that list,” she said.

“The problem is that nobody respects dancehall as a genre, and so this issue goes way beyond the Grammys. We have not owned dancehall in Jamaica and we need to. You can go to places like Japan and actually study dancehall music, and you cannot do that in the country where the genre was birthed. We own reggae, but most people still look down on dancehall music in Jamaica, and it’s not fair. So before we can complain about the Grammys not giving dancehall its due, we have to make sure the genre is respected in Jamaica first.”

“Nobody respects dancehall as a genre on its own, and that is because nobody out of Jamaica is advocating for that to happen. Nobody is flying a flag and saying ‘hold on, stop. This is what dancehall is and when the people dem come to Jamaica they come for this as much as they come for the reggae music,’” she continued. “There are hundreds and hundreds of footage of white people running up and down in dancehall like dem can’t tired. It’s just not fair that we own patty, we own jerk chicken, we own reggae, but not dancehall? The system is designed to discredit dancehall in Jamaica. They only call on dancehall when the Government wah do some concert down a Waterfront, or dem need money and need the artistes to get the crowd support. We affi do better before we start talking about other people not recognising and respecting the genre.”