Dancehall is a type of Jamaican popular music which developed in the late 1970s, with exponents such as Yellowman and Shabba Ranks. It is also known as bashment.
The style is characterized by a deejay singing and toasting (or rapping) over raw and danceable music ?riddims'. The rhythm in dancehall is much faster than in reggae, sometimes with drum machines replacing acoustic sets. In the early years of dancehall, some found its lyrics crude or "slack", particularly because of its sexual tones, popular among youths in Jamaica. Like its reggae predecessor, dancehall eventually made inroads onto the world music scene. It may be the predecessor of hip hop music.
This deejay-led, largely synthesized chanting with musical accompaniment departed from traditional conceptions of Jamaican popular musical entertainment. Dub poet Mutabaruka maintained, "If 1970s reggae was red, green and gold, then in the next decade it was gold chains". It was far removed from its gentle roots and culture, and there was furious debate among purists as to whether it should be considered some sort of extension of reggae music.
Origins of Dancehall
Dancehall owes its moniker to the spaces in which popular Jamaican recordings were aired by local sound systems and readily consumed by its "set-to-party" patronage; commonly referred to as "dance halls". Dancehall, the musical genre, is long considered to be the creation of Henry "Junjo" Lawes in 1979. The production of dancehall music was further refined by King Jammy in the early 80s, during the transition from dub to dancehall, and original attempts to digitize "hooks" to "toast" over by Jamaican deejays.
King Jammy's 1985 hit, "(Under Me) Sleng Teng" by Wayne Smith, with an entirely-digital rhythm hook took the dancehall reggae world by storm. Many credit this song as being the first "digital rhythm" in reggae, leading to the modern dancehall era. However this is not entirely correct since there are earlier examples of digital productions; Horace Ferguson's single "Sensi Addict" (Ujama) produced by Prince Jazzbo in 1984 is one.
Major artists and milestones
Dancehall emerged in the early 1980s, and most of the creative output can be credited to studio musicians Steely & Clevie, along with the handful of producers they collaborated with. They created the music for many of the riddims that the genre was based on. The decade saw the arrival of a new generation of deejays, most distinct were the harder edged, such as Ninjaman, Flourgon, General Trees, Tiger, Admiral Bailey, Super Cat, Yellowman, Tenor Saw, Shelly Thunder, Reggie Stepper, Shabba Ranks, Johnny P, Peter Metro, Charlie Chaplin, Cutty Ranks, and Papa San to name a few. To complement their sound, a "sweet sing" vocal style evolved out of roots reggae and R&B, marked by its falsetto and almost feminine intonation, with proponents like Pinchers, Cocoa Tea, Sanchez, Admiral Tibet, Frankie Paul, Half Pint, Conroy Smith, Courtney Melody, Carl Meeks, and Barrington Levy. It is important to note that a lot of established reggae singers like Gregory Isaacs, Militant Barry, Beres Hammond, Johnny Osbourne and U-Roy transitioned into dancehall.
In the early 90s, songs like Dawn Penn's "No, No, No", Shabba Ranks's "Mr. Loverman", Patra's "Worker Man" and Chaka Demus and Pliers' "Murder She Wrote" became some of the first dancehall megahits in the U.S. and abroad. Various other varieties of dancehall achieved crossover success outside of Jamaica during the mid-to-late 1990s. Tanya Stephens gave a unique female voice to the genre during the 1990s.
The years 1990-1994 saw the entry of artists like Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Lady Saw, Shaggy, Diana King, Spragga Benz, Capleton, Beenie Man and a major shift in the sound of dancehall, brought on by the introduction of a new generation of producers and for better or for worse, the end of Steely & Clevie's stranglehold on riddim production.
In the late 1990s, many practitioners like Buju Banton and Capleton returned to the Rastafari movement and changed their lyrical focus to "consciousness", a reflection of the spiritual underpinnings of Rastafari.
The early 2000s saw the success of newer charting acts such as Elephant Man and Sean Paul.
Currently, Sean Paul has achieved mainstream success within the United States and has produced several Top 10 Billboard hits, including "We Be Burnin'", "Get Busy", "Temperature" and the 2006 single "Give It Up To Me".
VP Records dominates the dancehall music market with Sean Paul, Elephant Man, and Buju Banton. VP often has partnered with major record labels like Atlantic and Island in an attempt to further expand their distribution potential particularly in the U.S. market.
The Culture of Dancehall
Dancehall music originated in the late 70s in Jamaica, as a result of varying political and socio-economic factors. Its antecedent; reggae music, was influenced heavily by the ideologies of the Rastafarian culture and was further goaded by the socialist movements of the era. Many became embittered by the movements and the harsh economic realities they brought the island to bear. It was during this time that neo-liberal axioms and avariciousness began factoring into the lives of many Jamaicans, which subsequently spawned this ostentatious new form of entertainment.
Typically, dance halls are found in more urbanized areas of Jamaica, i.e., Kingston, but can also be seen in more rural locations. Furthermore, the term 'dancehall' alludes not only to a musical genre or venue, but on a grander scheme, it suggests the institution of an entire culture in which music, dance, community and politics collide.
As an evolution of first reggae, then rocksteady, dancehall draws upon its roots with regard to its stylistic rudiments. However, that, some say, is where the similarities end. The subject matters of dancehall music tend towards profanity, misogyny, violence and homophobia - a stark contrast from the songs of acceptance and social progression sung by reggae spearheads. Its caustic libretti, which are referred to in the region as "slack lyrics", have been rigorously criticized - most notably by artists and followers of archetypal reggae music, and by members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community (GLBT).
Such a drastic change in the popular music of the region generated an equally radical transformation in fashion trends, specifically those of its female faction. In lieu of traditional, modest "rootsy" styles, as dictated by Rastafari-inspired gender roles; women began donning flashy, revealing - sometimes x-rated outfits. This transformation is said to coincide with the influx of slack lyrics within dancehall, which objectified women as apparatuses of pleasure. These women would team up with others to form "modeling possess", or "dancehall model" groups, and informally compete with their rivals.
This newfound materialism and conspicuity was not, however, exclusive to women or manner of dress. Appearance at dance halls was exceedingly important to acceptance by peers and encompassed everything from clothing and jewelry, to the types of vehicles driven, to the sizes of each respective gang or "crew", and was equally important to both sexes.
One major theme behind dancehall is that of Space. Stanley Niaah in his article "Mapping Black Atlantic Performance Geographies" says "Dancehall occupies multiple spacial dimensions (urban, street, police, marginal, gendered, performance, liminal, memorializing, communal), which are revealed through the nature and type of events and venues, and their use and function. Most notable is the way in which dancehall occupies a liminal space between what is celebrated ant at the same time denigrated in Jamaica and how it moves from private community to public and commercial enterprise.
Taken From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancehall