Dancehall & Soca – Cinderella and the Evil Stepsister?

This past Sunday was the umpteenth staging of the Bacchanal Road March in Jamaica. And of course this event and the ones leading up to it was a point of contention between some persons and those who believe our culture is being sidelined while we all gobble up every other practice that did not originate on our little piece of hurricane repelling rock. Needless to say, the articles came right after, saying how Dancehall needs a chance and it’s classicism at play because only the rich can afford to ‘jump’ at Bacchanal and its exclusive and blah blah blah black sheep #rollseyes. I would like to say “stop right deh suh!”, “stick a pin!”, “draaah breaks!”

Bacchanal is by no means an activity for the ‘rich’, it is an activity for those who care enough to take a loan to partake, for those who care enough to make their rent overdue, for those who care enough to eat a rabbit diet for the next month or two and  for those who can simply afford it without sacrifice. Real people who cannot afford Bacchanal do not care enough to even turn on their TV’s to watch the highlights (I am sorry the bill to JPS is just not worth it).

The issues presented in the aforementioned articles (e.g. Patria-Kaye Aarons’ Why Can’t We Dagger To Dancehall?) are not without their merit(s), but I find them to be a bit more biased than a heavily skewed data set (remember I am a Chemist…lol). Saying the reason why a Dancehall ‘carnival’ would not get approval from the KSAC or buy-in from the populace because Dancehall is for poor people is not only offensive, but it is a baseless and classist comment (I am not poor and I prefer dancehall to soca on any given day). Dancehall is not for poor people, but Dancehall is poor. Let’s see if we can follow this train of thought.

Picture an economy that is on the rise, so much so that it is threatening a superpower. That superpower (as history would tell us) will put things in place to stymie any further growth of said rising economy. This is exactly what happened to Dancehall; it may not have been intentional but it also may have been. Dancehall is what many of us – certainly us late 80’s to early 90’s babies – grew up on and child it was banging! Now all of a sudden its all Soca and more Soca, like there can be no event without Soca. Somewhere along the way, Dancehall was damaged and it was merely left for dead and Dancehall 2.0 (i.e Soca) took over. The less privileged of us took Dancehall and revived it and made it theirs. So what we are finding is that Dancehall no longer speaks to the mass culture of Jamaicans, but more to unique and isolated sub-cultures (which for some reason, some of us think is less than the majority of our beloved nation). Because of this adoption of Dancehall by the rejected of our society (no offence) and the dawn of Dancehall 2.0, we began to classify Dancehall as poor and used it to separate people into uptown and downtown, basic and less basic, poor and apparently less poor; so because I love Dancehall, the conclusion that follows is that I must somehow be less intelligent than my counterpart who dresses half naked to go gyrate to Destra, I must be less affluent than my colleague who goes to the breakfast parties and the Soca parties (mark you this may be true but it’s still no basis for judgement #wudevuh). We see this also with the 2017 directory cover depicting a Dancehall session. It received so much vitriol and for what? The ladies, hookers and hoochie mamas at Bacchanal in panties and bras have never received this much rebuking and holy water…ever! Admittedly, the activities in the Weddy Wednesday may be a tad extreme for the lot of us (I mean I can`t promise any woman that I will dive into their interiors from atop a sound box) but the activities I have experienced at a Carnival march are far more risky and risque than what happens at a downtown Dancehall session (and I have enjoyed both), so on what basis is Dancehall for the poor?

So here is an experience to tell you why I think Dancehall is poor (the part of Jamaica that no one talks about). Today while going home from work (I have to travel through Crossroads to go home), I took a coaster bus and songs from Kartel, Movado and Alkaline were playing over the course of the Journey and in response to the music, the bus driver was using the bus to create a new dance move. Now, I was mind deep into the lyrics of the songs playing (because let us admit it, Kartel and Alkaline are just lyrical geniuses…the Einsteins of Dancehall music) and it was when I almost flew out the bus door it dawned on me…the problem isn`t with Dancehall, it is with the people who love Dancehall. If the Prime Minister of Jamaica should come out in support of Passa Passa Tuesday and then the 1% should start hosting these sessions in Cherry Gardens and wherever else they live, the flock of sheep would follow that trend. So Dancehall is not for the poor, Dancehall is poor and we simply need to find a way to make it rich again so our little piece of rock can appreciate and enjoy what is ours much like we revel in that of Trinidad and Africa and England and Canada and America and Mars.

9 thoughts on “Dancehall & Soca – Cinderella and the Evil Stepsister?

  1. ” it is an activity for those who care enough to take a loan to partake, for those who care enough to make their rent overdue, for those who care enough to eat a rabbit diet for the next month or two…” BAHAHAAA!

    The way I see it Dancehall is made by the poor and so it belongs to the poor. And that is fine. The rich have their cocktail parties at Devon House, they have their culture, we have ours.

    The problem comes when the heads of the country set a bad example by endorsing another culture (soca) over ours (dancehall). They can’t endorse every aspect of Dancehall but endorse the good like these private companies who put Dancehall artistes as brand ambassadors. That is a good look. The government needs to do something similar.

    — Bless

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  2. Another point that could be added is, soca may be more accepted by general & corporate society than dancehall because of the content. Though I love dancehall to mi heart, the fact is a lot of the popular songs nowadays are either promoting violence or the lyrics are very risque and leave n-o-t-h-i-n-g to the imagination. Soca moreso encourages dancing/whining, and the sexual references aren’t as straightforward as dancehall’s. 90s dancehall would’ve probably been a better candidate for a “dancehall carnival” (lol) when compared to today’s, just my opinion.

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    1. Thats a good point to note, but dancehall isn’t just that which you have stated. One can simply chose to endorse the aspect that is suitable, but to say the whole thing is violent or sexually inappropriate is a vicious lie. I love dancehall to the core, but i don’t support nor endorse songs promoting violence. We can chose, corporate Jamaica and the lot of them are simply wanting of reasons to prove they are above the ‘average’ person and dancehall is a scapegoat.

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      1. Didn’t say the whole thing was violent & sexually inappropriate, I said “a lot”. In comparison to the more popular soca songs that we Jamaicans embrace, it’s easier to accept as “appropriate”. Those soca songs don’t seem to need as much censorship or secondary versions to be able to be played for the masses. I’m not disagreeing with you, just adding.

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