Jamaica’s underground genre

You have to be there to experience it!

That’s what Jamaican singer Charly Black said when asked about how much of dancehall was expected during his performance at The Cosmopolitan in Port Moresby.

For those who don’t know what dancehall is, it is an underground genre that emerged from Jamaica, at least two decades after Roots Reggae.

According to Jamaicanmusic.com, it is often referred to as reggae's ‘rebellious cousin’.

Just like other music genres, it has evolved and redefined over time. And while it is mostly confused to be reggae, Jamaicanmusic.com states that the two are very different.

Bob Marley, Toots and Dennis Brown are names from Jamaica who infiltrated the world with 'one-drop' riddims – understood to be reggae, in the 1960s.

Shortly after, King Yellow Man and Shabba Ranks introduced a different spice – dancehall.

This is the time when sound systems began stringing up on street corners, attracting large crowds of locals, resembling a dance hall, hence its name.

As explained by Jamaicanmusic.com, artistes would toast (similar to rap) over digital riddims (rhythms) as opposed to the usual playing of pre-recorded music.

“The fast paced tempo laid the foundation for a genre with dancing, sexuality and ‘gangster life’ at the heart of it,” explains Jamaicanmusic.com.

“The dancehall market was initially concentrated in Jamaica, especially for the members of the inner-city communities. It was often seen as very coarse and raunchy with no apologies. Some prime example of this includes Love Punany Bad by Shabba Ranks and Boom Bye Bye by Buju Banton.”

But there’s a conscious side to it too.

“Artistes like Capleton and Sizzla later introduced a more conscious side to the dancehall through the influence of the Rastafarian movement.”

Today, you know names like Bounty Killer, Sean Paul and Elephant Man.

Bounty Killer is responsible for many more dancehall artists like Charly Black.

“He is the prime minister of dancehall,” Charly Black describes Bounty Killer. 

Dancehall, according to Jamaicanmusic.com, is known for its exuberant demeanour.

“Hardcore excitement pulsating through your stereo is typical of dancehall music. It is raw and uncut as it delivers the common reality of the everyday Jamaican.

“Dancehall is also more dynamic than reggae as it is known to introduce new ideas from slangs to fashion fads to dance moves.”

For that one night performance with Charly Black, let’s say it was a typical dancehall energy in Port Moresby.

Read more about dancehall on The Difference between Reggae and Dancehall

Gloria Bauai