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High failure rate

Published:Sunday | July 7, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Headline Entertainment's Jerome Hamilton. -Janet Silvera Photo
Elephant Man-File

Jamaican dancehall, reggae acts search for formula for renewed success on the charts

Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter

Success is not new to Jamaica with many of the artistes originating from the country achieving success on major international charts. With this kind of success getting less frequent, the consensus among some persons in the industry is that Jamaican artistes need to get back to their roots.

Where charting is concerned, Sean Paul is one of those persons who usually does well. In recent times, he peaked at number 78 with She Doesn't Mind and number 84 with Got 2 Luv U. He also enjoyed top-10 spots on the Billboard 200 that measures album sales for albums such as Trinity and Dutty Rock and reached number 12 with Imperial Blaze.

Another artiste, Shaggy, also topped the Billboard Hot 100 with Angel and It Wasn't Me. In those early years, Cobra, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Jimmy Cliff, Shabba, Lady Saw, Maxi Priest, Damian Marley, and Patra also had their places on major international charts.

And, more recently, Gyptian's Hold Yuh went to number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Now that the success seems to be dwindling, the cry is that the music lacks authenticity.

According to dancehall artiste Elephant Man, dancehall and reggae have not been successful on the international market in recent times because local artistes are not producing what they know.

"We need to stick to the evil that we know, that is the dancehall rhythms. For us to do it ourselves, we need to stick to the rhythms that people like us for ... our rhythms are groovy and make them move. We have to keep the dancehall music on our dancehall rhythms. You have to stick to the authentic," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

While many Jamaican artistes have not been doing well, Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg) has been making his mark in reggae after only converting to Rastafari some months ago. Snoop's Reincarnated album that was released in April this year has reached the top-10 in 22 countries featured in the iTunes Store for Top 10 Reggae Albums. The album also peaked at number one on the Billboard Reggae Albums Chart and number 16 on Billboard 200.

As it relates to Snoop Lion's recent success, Elephant Man says this is happening because he has decided to do something that many Jamaicans have not been doing.


"Snoop dominate it because people see Snoop a spend time do what we have been doing. He has more interest in our music than we. He is travelling the States and promoting," said Elephant Man, who enjoyed Billboard success in 2007 with Whine Up featuring Kat DeLuna that peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Prior to that he went on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2003 with Pon Di River and Jook Gal in 2004 which peaked at 86 and 57, respectively.

But there are other issues within the industry that are preventing growth, Elephant Man said.

"The music is there, but the artistes not representing. Some a dem just a do it for the money, but we have to do promotion. Some man just want the money but dem nuh waah do the work. The vibes among the artistes is bad. The music need we fi promote it and keep it growing," said Elephant Man, who recently appeared on the BET Awards alongside Dawn Penn, Chaka Demus and Pliers and Beenie Man.

Recently returning from a European tour, Spice also cites the lack of authenticity as one of the reasons reggae and dancehall from Jamaicans have not been doing well on major charts.

"I just came back from a European tour and heard what the international market has to say and they are saying that people are just diluting the music. That's not what the people are looking for, they want authentic dancehall music. They want to hear the dancehall music that they have grown to love," said Spice, who had a bit of success with her Ramping Shop collaboration with Vybz Kartel that went to number 76 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop chart.

Spice says she has many hard-core songs that are not played in Jamaica, but are played extensively in Europe. As a result of Broadcasting Commission directives, she said "I was watering down my style and lyrics to please and fit in, but overseas people are asking for the hard-core songs."

"I can't be tricked by the Jamaican market. I have to go back to the authentic dancehall music. If we can go back to the authenticity, we can start having some more Billboard hits."

But with Jamaica's renewed presence on the international market coming from collaborations, reggae and dancehall songs being sampled by the like of Jay Z, Kanye, Big Sean, Asap Rocky, Two Chains, French Montana, Jim Jones and Nicki Minaj, as well as Jamaicans performing on BET and Grammy awards, Spice believes there is hope for the industry.

"I think the door is wide open right now, we are getting major love. I think people love it so we just need to bring it," she said.

But for Headline Entertainment's Jerome Hamilton, this might not be the case. He noted that none of the songs performed on the BET Awards was under five years old.

"There were no young acts and no young music on that," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

"The songs were all slow that the people could sing along to them."

While he does not believe it will necessarily benefit the industry on a whole, he said interest in the artistes who performed might be renewed.

authenticity lost

Hamilton did agree with Spice and Elephant Man on one point — the fact that the music has lost some level of authenticity.

"One of the challenges is that the music is much faster and harder for them (international audience) to understand. It is more rhythmic than melodious, not as groovy as before because they have taken out a lot of the backbone with the drums and the bass. The music is more like hip hop-sounding dancehall, almost like hearing people from America doing dancehall," he said, adding that artistes need to focus on their hooks.

And, with direction and leadership lacking in the industry, Hamilton says few artistes take the time out to actively market their music to different audiences around the world. Unfortunately, he said, "not many have tried to emulate the success cases."