Dancehall and Many Sub-forms: What Should You Know?

August 4, 2021
Dancehall and Many Sub-forms: What Should You Know?

In an earlier episode, we have discussed the sub-classifications of Reggae music songs. But we promised that we will discuss the branches of Dancehall music, so here it is. Some say that Ragga and Reggaeton can be a derivative of Dancehall, but the consensus is towards Reggae. So, we have put them under the Reggae wing. Feel free to disagree with it, I would love a music-related discussion.

Some of the Popular Dancehall sub-genres:

  • Afroswing
  • Dembow
  • Oldschool Jungle
  • Tropical House

Dancehall dances around riddims and instrumentals. So, naturally, all the derivatives will do that too.

  • Dembow

Does this genre feel familiar to you? Have you listened to a song with a similar name? Maybe you are thinking about the Shabba Ranks song with the same name. This song came out in 1990 and became insanely hit. All the copies are sold instantaneously.

The catchy rhythm was then used in several songs, and thus a new genre was formed. It first originated from Jamaica, then it became international. The Latin community became thoroughly invested in it, after of course, the Latinized version.

As mentioned earlier, Dembow stresses more on rhythm. You can find similarities between it, Reggaeton, and Dancehall music. However, the pace is much faster, and steadier. It is also repetitive, and the melodies are quite simplistic. If you are a fan of something simple, I would suggest this style.

  • Afroswing/ Affrobean/ Afrobashment/ Afro-trap/ Afrowave

The origins of this genre are in the UK, and it combines different musical elements, such as Dancehall, and Afrobeats. Although Dancehall is a parent, it is not the only influential one. Trap, Hiphop beat, R&B, and grime are very much present within it. Apparently, it’s a huge commercial hit in the UK and the surrounding areas.

Unlike other genres, Afroswing is more about the mood. It can depict either light or dark tones, and people will feel that mood while listening to these songs. In this case, the drum pattern is equally important, especially the snare. In Afroswing, drummers hit the snare in the third beat, and Hiphop is generally characterized by a fourth drum snare beat.

Read More:  Dancehall: A Musical Journey for Music Lovers

The tempo is somewhat variable, as per the opinion of artists. The music speaks about different things, like cars, money, and a very lavish lifestyle. It also discusses several other topics, some of which belong to adult content.

It started as a movement, as African music styles became a part of the British music industry. There is a lot of funky songs produced in this genre. The artists to whom the credit greatly resides are:

  • Mista Silva
  • Kwamz
  • Fuse ODG
  • Timbo

These are the ones who started the genre’s journey. But, later artists played a crucial role in making it a staple for the community. Streaming platforms like YouTube have become a strong supporter of promoting these subgenres and in turn the genres Reggae, and Dancehall themselves. When we think of it, it’s pretty cool, right?

  • Oldschool Jungle

The jungle is another style that takes elements from both Reggae, and Dancehall, their cousins (both near and distant). The jungle is a part of the British rave parties. And this is the genre that made the concept of sound systems popular. It started its journey in the 1990s and was considered cool by the youngsters.

In musical terms, it has a hardcore beat, both happy and intense. It is heavily influenced by percussions, sampling, bass, melodies, and vocals. It resonated with the people living in poverty, especially with the urban population. Let’s say that these people were not in the least happy with some government reforms and decisions.

It became an anti-racism tool, as it draws people from different cultures. It also symbolized the unification of these people and made that happen. The music itself is heavily influenced by all genres known to listeners at the time. So, if someone is a fan of Rock, they will find something. If they are familiar with Reggae, and Dancehall, they will find something.

So, the parties where they are played became an instant hit. It was played at clubs as well. However, people were unsure about the success of this genre, though they did not have any reason to do that.

Some people even went out and said that it’s a form (the very first one) of British Hiphop. It’s up to listeners to judge, but yes, there are some similarities and dissimilarities between them. As a Reggae music artist, I enjoy these songs. What about you?

  • Tropical House

How does this genre sound like, you ask? You would be pretty surprised to know the basic elements. For example, it has Dancehall (surely), contemporary pop, tropical music, and another music genre known as Balearic House. These songs were first heard during the summer festival concerts. A good example of it is Tomorrowland.

Some notable artists of this genre would include:

  • Thomas Jack
  • Kygo
  • Matoma

If you are familiar with the characteristics of traditional house music, then you are halfway there already. But it’s more inclined towards the deep house section, than anything.

The overall focus is on creating a happy mood, and this is where it differentiates itself from the aforementioned genre.

Use of synthesizers and drums (with 4/4 beat are the keys here). Other instruments are also used here, including steel drums, guitars, marimbas, and pan flutes (all crucial for tropical music).

The rhythm can be borrowed from any genre, but mostly it’s Dembow. The reverse is also true, and it can be said for the subgenres listed here.

Artists were usually trying to empower and enrich their music through these genres. So, the borrowing of elements is not considered as something problematic but is encouraged.

So, we have discovered some sub-genres of the main music genres. Later we will discover the ones we have missed or may need a little bit of attention. But, for the next one, we may check out Hiphop, or do something completely different. Stay tuned to find out.

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