Dancehall: A Musical Journey for Music Lovers

July 19, 2021
Dancehall: A Musical Journey for Music Lovers

If you want to understand Dancehall music, you would have to understand the timeline. So, let’s time travel to the late 1970s.

Remember it was the time when different musical genres were already gaining attention. So, if the artists wanted to bring a new theme, genre, into the community, it must have something unique and exciting.

Otherwise, it might not have made the cut, and be where it is today. Or would it? We can never know, and probably would not have it otherwise.

Dancehall (mainly the digital version) gained popularity in the 1980s. Music experts consider Dancehall songs to be less serious, and spread out, compared to Reggae music songs.

What’s the main difference between Dancehall and Reggae? The former had a faster rhythm, something unheard of in the latter (if we are truly going by original definition). In Dancehall, Jamaican Patois is more frequent, but you can hear English songs too. Another point, the artist will painstakingly focus on the riddim (rhythm) than anything else.

Jamaican people residing all over the world took it upon themselves to spread this music, just like Reggae. But it was not until the 2000s, we first saw the commercial version. And in the 2010s, we came across more westernized Dancehall forms.

In Jamaica (especially in open spaces, and large dance halls), DJs would have to use large music systems. Otherwise, the crowd would be unable to hear the songs and enjoy them.

Sometimes, they would make some adjustments to the musical system, and talk (rap) over the riddim. This led to the name Dancehall. Musical studies show that true dance halls were non-existent at the time (or unheard of), so these parties were usually organized in large outdoor areas.

The path to Dancehall was established as early as the 1940s. But the final stroke came three decades later. People were facing issues with the government, and the political, social, and economic conditions were not great, to say the least.

Dancehall was never meant to be internationalized, for the time being. It was something that only Jamaican people (the local ones) will have access to.

The wordings of these songs were quite similar to Reggae, according to a Dancehall artist. These songs mention dancing, violence (that is rampant during the time) among many other things.

Also Read: Hiphop in Its Many Forms and Shapes

People were looking for something more down-to-earth, more natural-sounding during this time. Dancehall music catered to this mentality, hence the popularity.

In this method, the old sayings and even songs got a very modern look. The initial credit for doing that should go to Sugar Minott. Later different artists did the same thing while exploring and experimenting.

We soon saw new artists and deejays coming to the limelight. Some were signed by famous labels worldwide (such as Yellowman),  amongst others.

Experts say that Dancehall reached people because the radio could not. Dancehall, in a way, promoted the usage of local technology, especially among the poor class.

When we hear modern songs, we often hear remixed versions, don’t we? If the quality of the remix is good, then we applaud the song. If it’s not, then the music will not be popular.

These DJs knew that from the beginning, and it’s what sets itself apart from other Dancehall forms.

The promotion got strong during the 90s. Numerous concerts were held, and these events were tied up with other famous ones. It got a break on the Saturday Night Live episode, and you can probably guess what happened next.

The digital versions, being more versatile, got attention worldwide. The genre saw deviations more than others, and with it, came famous artists.

The 2000s led to the first fusion version, Dancehall pop. Here, we got variety, something that’s missing from the previous versions.

We got choruses, melodies, tune variations, and careful placements of hooks. The previous versions were highly violent and sexual, and it is tamed down somewhat in these songs. You will hear songs with fewer slurs, and offensive words, and it’s a welcome change.

In recent times, we got more multiple variations, which are quite diverse from the rest. Today’s artists probably refer to Vybz Kartel as one of the influential names in this department.

Dancehall was forced into the background for a specific period. But it again was reinvented by several artists of our time. The field has become weirdly competitive but in a good way.

It means we get to check out new albums every month or two. Some releases their albums even before that.

Nowadays, Dancehall promotes positive messages to audiences. These messages are actually about women’s empowerment, and safety.

Apart from that, it also speaks about other issues though in a much lighter form. This forms a full circle and serves what music is created to do, provide empathy to people. And here Reggae, and Dancehall, despite all these dissimilarities become similar.

Now, what are the elements of this stylish genre?

According to a Female Caribbean Artist, every genre is developed using some elements. Instruments play a crucial role here, that’s why we see electronic keyboards and other instruments. They bring beats to life, thus creating a joyful environment.

We have described the term riddim countless times in the article.  Riddim is a portion of the music that is not inherent to a single song. That’s right numerous artists can use it to create different styles.

I recently released a song called Poppy Show. This is directly inspired by a Dancehall riddim, and you will see other characteristics in it.  But, I gave it a modern twist. It is about men who brag and then lack in the performance department.

If you want to listen to that song, you need to head over to any streaming platform. I have a list of other songs if you prefer something else.

So, that’s the details you must know about Dancehall. Next, we will research Hiphop and other music genres. Until then, this is me signing off, take care, bye.

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