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D ancehall is a popular type of music originated in the late 70s in Jamaica, as a result of varying political and socio-economic factors. So named because many of the records were deemed unfit for radio airplay and therefore were suitable only for the dancehall. And the controversy didn’t stop there.
The genre is characterized by a deejay singing and toasting (or rapping) over danceable music riddims. The rhythm in dancehall is much faster than in traditional reggae, sometimes with drum machines replacing acoustic sets. In the early years of dancehall, some found its lyrics crude or “slack”, because of its sexual tones. Like its reggae predecessor, dancehall eventually made inroads onto the world music scene.
Dancehall music is by far the most popular music in Jamaica, and has been for quite some time. Though there are a wide variety of artists and sub-genres present in the dancehall arena, “slack lyrics” with R to X-rated content, are very popular.
Alongside dancehalls increasing popularity however, there remains disapproval. Additionally, many deejays are violently homophobic and misogynistic in their lyrics, which has caused dancehall to sit on the back burner in the world music scene. Much like the responses from upper class Jamaican citizens, many in Britain deem dancehall a vulgar and inappropriate. In several other countries, dancehall artistes have been banned from performing because of the violent lyrics, sexually explicit songs, and homophobic content. There has been however no attempt at stopping dancehall events and dancing. Perhaps because the dancing itself changes so quickly, it is hard to put a hand on.
Like anything the popular culture views as out side of the law or outlaw, Dancehall is forging major inroads into the listening spaces of people around the world to the point where even those who realize the extremeness of the lyrics contained in the music, can’t help but rock to the beat and rhythm.