Fri | Feb 26, 2021

Sound clashes are an indelible feature of dancehall

Published:Friday | January 22, 2021 | 12:05 AM


Sound clashes have been around from the before the genesis of the genre dancehall itself. Dancehall music came to mainstream media in the late 1970s to the early 1980s. But there existed dancehall clashes long before. My father had a dancehall from back in the 1950 before I was born. I was actually born in the dancehall culture. I saw the best and the worst of dancehall, but it remains a centre of attraction for most dancehall goers. Dancehall clashes where sound boys try to dismantle their rival with creative lyrics, made by artistes in dub plates in modern times. The main aim in these clashes is to ‘kill’ the challengers with the jabbing lyrics, whether in the streets or in the hallways of the dance vicinity. Let them ‘suffer and die’ on the cold concrete or the cold and clammy clay.

When a sound boy is being ‘killed’ you actually try to ‘kill’ his extended family – parents, grandmother, babymother and children. The sound boy must live in misery all the days of his life with no abiding home or hope.

These guys play with words so brilliantly, which are eloquently put together. No mercy or remorse is shown in the ‘demise’ of a sound boy, as such, pain is an inevitable part of the life a clown boy.

The early 1980s Peter Metro, Early Bee, King Yellow and Lincoln ‘Sugar’ Minott with his Youthman Promotion were enviable with cutting-edge lyrics, with Metro even going Spanish. Sound systems like Aces, Metro Media, Killamanjaro, Wha Dat, Jack Ruby and Stur Gav were the order of the day.

In the early 1980s when things came to a crescendo, we saw the likes of David Radigan of England going up against Barrington ‘Barry G’ Gordon, the Boogie-man of Jamaica. These clashes were much more acceptable than others that came after with violence with Super Cat and Ninja Man, when sound system clashes were dying out. Charlie Chaplin and others like Josey Wales the Colonel were integral during this era. We had to pay homage to the women as well – Junie Ranks, Lady G, Sister Charmaine, Macka Diamond, Sister Nancy and Lady Saw. Then you had the Beenie Man and Bounty Killer escapades, but in later years when Merciless, Mavado and Vybz Kartel came on the scene things got a bit nasty. This was with real-life talks of killing one another by forming Gully and Gaza. Many had to declare whose side they were on in dancehall so it was fun no more.