'We come to see raw dancehall'
With strict rules being imposed on participants in the inaugural staging of the Sumfest Heavyweight Sound Clash, patrons with whom The Gleaner spoke expressed displeasure at what may described as a 'watered down' clash.
While admitting that certain aspects of the dance hall culture are too 'raw' for corporate Jamaica, patrons expressed that when it comes to sound clashes, lewdness and profanity are necessary.
Toni Simms, a patron from Thursday night's events, was visibly upset as she begged for some 'excitement' to ooze from the stage. "Clash can't work without bad word and the slackness. A dat we expect when we hear clash and a dat we come out to see," she said. "When you hear of a clash, you come to hear selectors cussing bad word and all. That's the norm and it's not effective without it. Look pan di forward weh Tony Matterhorn get when him start talk the things. That's what people want."
Her partying partner agreed. "No kids are here. It's an adult event, so why would you want to censor it?" she questioned. "Yes, we understand the whole making adjustments for corporate Jamaica thing, but this is dancehall, and dancehall is raw, and that's what we came to see."
Patrons also noted that if this is the approach that sound clashes are going to take in the future, it will be difficult for organisers to find sound system operators who will participate.
But at least one of the participants from the event disagreed with that argument.
With bad words slipping out at different intervals throughout the night, Tony Matterhorn said that although the no-profanity clause proved difficult for most of the competitors in the initial stages, everyone adjusted in the end. "The clash was good. Organisers did a good job," he said. "At first, it was kinda shaky because they had so much rules, but great warriors will know how to adjust and excel."
Sumfest judges support 'clean' clash
While noting the concerns of some patrons, the judges for the Heavyweight Sound Clash stood by the organisers' decision against the use of profanity, stating that it was high time the players in dancehall learnt how to adjust themselves for certain events.
Following the event, judge Skatta Burrel explained that the organisers' decision was based on the reluctance of corporate Jamaica to sponsor dancehall events. "If you look at our sponsors for Sumfest, you will see why we take this approach. The Jamaica Tourist Board is a sponsor of the event and they want to be a part of a clean event," he said.
Fellow judge Sonjah Stanley Niaah agreed. "Dancehall has been plagued with a lack of sponsorship over the years, so big up the sponsors. Selectors and deejays have to learn how to expand and adjust, so this is a good move."
The Heavyweight Sound Clash, held at Pier One in Montego Bay, St James, on Thursday night, featured Tony Matterhorn, No Limit Sound, Warrior Sound International, Yaadbeat and Soul Supreme. Prior to the event, selectors were warned not to use bad words or do or say anything that could hurt the festival's brand.
"We want to promote clean dancehall and that is why, over the years, we have decided to cut expletives out of dancehall night. We are going a positive route and are looking to influence the youth the right way," Robert Russell said.