Dennie Quill, Contributor
I have had a few beers in my time, but it is not my brew of choice. However, I have decided to purchase a few cases of Red Stripe beer. As of now all visitors to my home will be having beer, like it or not. Why? This is my way of applauding the brewing giant for taking the bold decision to withdraw sponsorship of local concerts which feature filthy, violent lyrics from artistes who spew hatred and slackness from the stage.
The decision has set ablaze blistering criticisms of the company. And one can only lament the hypocrisy of our people who will excuse this phenomenon by saying something about freedom of expression.
The fact is someone had to take a stand, and I hope all well-thinking Jamaicans will express solidarity with Red Stripe. Dare I hope that other corporate giants will follow? It could not have been an easy decision since the concert environment provides a ready market for the sponsors' products. But a sponsor must feel comfortable that what is being acted out on stage fits its own corporate objectives. Obviously, dancehall lyrics which mostly denigrate women and promote violence do not blend with Red Stripe's corporate image.
Music has a powerful influence on the youth population. I had a hard time convincing a group of young men that Red Stripe did the decent thing. They maintained that dancehall music is as Jamaican as ackee and saltfish and the people love it. They cite American hip hop music as falling within the same genre and how it was not frowned upon by the Americans. I believe hip hop artistes know just how far to go and they never push the envelope.
My only question to Red Stripe is this: What took you so long? Politicians, planners and parents are wringing their hands in anguish about the coarseness in society, and it is obvious that the breakdown in standards and decency can be traced to the dancehall culture. Images of artistes posing with high-powered weapons or reports about artistes being arrested for rape and violent behaviour are par for the course. The mode of dress, the disrespect for elders are all associated with this culture.
Responsibility of sponsoring
By sponsoring events, a company is positioning itself as a supporter of the event and is, in fact, endorsing what happens on stage. There was a time when people attended music concerts to experience the joys and thrills of a live performance. Today, many people have stoutly refused to attend local concerts because they have been previously offended by the blasting and wailing filth.
I am not suggesting that we should stifle creativity, if that is what this is. But there was a time when the lyrics reflected our unique history as a nation. Musicians of yore addressed oppression and pain without advocating violence. Women were never 'gals'.
Instead of stepping back and thinking long and hard about how they can rid the music of its ugliness, some of the artistes have reacted with outrage and are seemingly taking the fight to Red Stripe. They say Red Stripe's decision is influenced by its European owners who have been stung by the anti-gay lyrics of the dancehall. That might very well be so, and no country in the world will tolerate lyrics that call for obliteration of any group. How is this different from sanctioning lynching? It's difficult to envisage a palatable compromise to this impasse.
Enforcing the law
The artistes have also taken issue with the police for enforcing the law by insisting on the 2 a.m. cut-off for dances. I expected no less, for the lifestyle associated with dancehall is one which exhibits disrespect and selfish disregard for the comfort of others.
Why should hard-working people be deprived of their rest by persons who are simply out to have a good time? The police should not back down, for this would certainly hand victory to the lawless.
Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org