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Don't deny dancehall's place in culture

Published:Thursday | July 30, 2015 | 3:27 PM


Dancehall is not part of our culture. This is what I learnt Wednesday while watching the popular morning programme 'Smile Jamaica' on TVJ.

It was during an interview with an archaeologist at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), Lesley-Gail Atkinson, that the issue arose about whether dancehall was part of Jamaican culture, to which Ms Atkinson replied, "It's above my pay grade."

I believe that in the same way we like music from different parts of the world, it is in that same way we are going to gravitate towards other customs.

But to accept so boldly something that is not ours, like carnival, while shaming, downplaying and degrading something that actually is seems mindless. It also speaks loudly to the rhetoric that we are indeed rich but regard ourselves as poor.

As small as we are, we have music, dance and religion that are ours. Many countries have had to adopt, but we have cultivated our own.

Which brings me back to culture. What is it that depicts culture? One dictionary meaning tells me it is "the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society". Considering that these words are true, shouldn't dancehall be part of every cultural event? And if not, shouldn't the reason be a valid and poignant one, and not as poor and degrading as the one that Ms Atkinson gave.

I believe that as a public-relations officer or communications specialist, she would have had a better spin on her answer. But that is exactly what it would have been, spin, another blatant attempt to conceal the truth that dancehall is not welcome among those considered refined.

We know dancehall is raunchy, to say the least. I am not a partygoer and you probably will never see me doing the latest moves, but I am not going to deny dancehall its place among us. No one should, especially those responsible for preserving our heritage.