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Soca and dancehall - an easy scapegoat?

Published:Thursday | April 4, 2013 | 12:00 AM

By Keith Noel

WITH THE coming of Jamaica Carnival, we will, once again, have a renewal of the debate concerning the music that is played to accompany the masqueraders and for the revellers at the carnival parties.

It is an undeniable fact that most of the lyrical content of the music that is played at carnival events tends to encourage debauchery, while some seems to encourage violence. What seems to be questionable, though, is the conclusion that people in the media, and even some 'experts' draw, that the music - or its lyrical content - is actually responsible for increased sexual activity and lewd behaviour among young people. Even more serious are the claims that the music are partly responsible for some violent criminal behaviour.

It may well be so, but we certainly cannot make the claim on the evidence at hand! Even if we agree that today's youth are more accepting of 'obscene' and violent behaviour, why are dancehall music and soca the scapegoat? Examine the fare on cable TV or in game arcades. In many cable TV offerings, we are shown explicit casual sex between the heroes and heroines, persons whom the movies have led us to like and admire! And this is daytime TV fare. Any guidance counsellor can share with you their concern over the ease with which young kids, even pre-teens, can access triple-x-rated blue movies!

Movies and video games also valorise vicious and sometimes even senseless killing of 'the enemy': human, humanoid, or alien!

On the other hand, how can one legitimately have the much-needed open discussion on the rights of gays and lesbians without moving people's thoughts on sexuality and sexual behaviour out of the straight jacket of Victorian cultural mores and European 19th-century Catholicism? How can we, as we should, denounce cultures that stone people (particularly women) to death, or flog them, for disobeying archaic laws concerning sexual behaviour, without opening up our youth to new ideas about sexuality, sexual relations and the significance of the act of sex itself?

When we do so, while ensuring that less archaic ideas about sex, and attitudes to sexuality, are introduced to our children, we probably should consider making it clear to them what are acceptable modes of sexual behaviour, but approach this in a more modern, more realistic, way. If we continue to neglect this, ultra-liberal attitudes to sex will continue to be easily introduced to our young persons. This has serious repercussions. First, we will continue to hear stories of x-rated videos, starring our schoolchildren, appearing on the Internet; of sexual activity on buses; of 'no-panty' days at some of our schools. Then, a growth in the number of weekend sex parties where swapping couples and adventurous singles share sexual experimentation (condoms provided by the hosts).

Insensitive responses

Should we now not think of ways to ensure that our youth do not find themselves hurting because of the bad choices they made, or the insensitive responses of others? Can we afford to continue to place great significance on what may, indeed, turn out to be peripheral things like a song's lyrics encouraging a man to wind on a bumper or a woman to back up her bumper to have it wound upon?

And then there is the issue of violence. Times have changed. For some time now, our youth have been witnessing war being justified for dubious reasons. To justify war for a vague cause, one has to demonise the enemy. This has led to disrespect for the humanity of these 'enemies' as those recent horrible pictures of torture committed by young United States male and female soldiers reveal. Movies which our youth consume, and with whose heroes they empathise, are made in which this 'justification' takes place. In other movies, the actions of the criminal, the murderer, are made almost admirable. There is even a TV series in which the hero is a serial killer. Could this lead our youth to internalise a lack of respect for the immense value of all human life (and, in doing so, a devaluation in the preciousness of their own lives)? When life loses value, the idea of taking one becomes less heinous.

Maybe we should really get serious about attacking the problems besetting our youth.

Keith Noel is an educator. Send comments to