Bob Marley’s One Love is heralded as the song of the 20th century. Jamaicans are jubilant about this. We boast of the impact of such songs as Redemption Song in encouraging the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Millions across the world identify with the message in Bob Marley’s songs. We agree that music has tremendous power and effect. Isn’t this evident in how Jamaica has become known worldwide because of Bob Marley’s music? How is it then that the same voices that acknowledge the powerful effect of Marley’s music now seek to deny the effect of dancehall artistes such as Vybz Kartel’s lyrics on the minds and subsequent behaviour of those who listen to them? Dancehall has moved from the space that reggae occupies, in its promotion of social and political consciousness, to the elevation and advancement of slackness.
This affects our youth in a negative fashion. Dancehall is not just the music, but it is a culture which impacts dress, fashion and body language; it influences attitude. Dancehall dress leaves little of the women’s bodies to the imagination. It is this mindset that is now affecting so many of our young people in school. They are following the dancehall culture of ‘badmanism’, ‘hottie girls’, ’nuff girls’, ’nuff skin’ and body parts exposed, ’nuff slackness’, public wining and grinding, ‘bling and more bling’, and every thing else that the culture promotes.
PARENTS ALSO MORE DULGING
There are parents who are indulging in this dancehall lifestyle and who, therefore, cannot guide their children to lead moral, self-disciplined lives. The children and the parents are now both indulging in the dancehall slackness. We see the effect of this in our schools. We see it when little children are taken to Passa Passa and adults delight in watching them wining and grinding their undeveloped hips in imitation of their slackness. Before these children can begin to know what innocence is, they have lost it. Their innocence has been aborted. This exposure to unbridled slackness from an early age has ensured that we produce a generation whose morality has been warped from the beginning. They will now believe that this slack and loose behaviour is the norm.
WOMEN AS SEX OBJECTS
We add slackness to slackness when the songs played on the sound systems and the images portrayed in the music videos all promote women as sex machines. These women represent themselves merely as objects of sex as is made clear by how they dress and by the sex-simulating gyrations they indulge in, which are termed ‘dancing’, with bottoms bouncing and going round like gigs and pelvic thrusts emphasising their genital areas. With such a constant diet being fed to the senses of the young, how can their consciousness develop in an innocent, childlike way? Add to these stimuli, the images of ‘upstanding’ Jamaicans wining and grinding on the roads during carnival; women sandwiched by men from behind and before; women and men of all shapes and sizes, some totally unknown to each other, wearing the barest of coverings, indulging in unrestrained sexual conduct on the streets with the media promoting and covering it, with hordes of police (including high-ranking police officers) guiding the train.
What are we saying to our young? We are saying that slackness is acceptable, that sexual behaviour is not a private matter; that sex can be practised publicly with society’s approval. Why, then, are we shocked when our schoolchildren display this same type of behaviour on the streets, at the transportation hubs, on the buses, on the school grounds? Why are we shocked when they want their sex acts to be video-taped and published? “Children live what they learn.” They have simply taken a step further what they have been taught by the ‘big people’, the adults, around them. We are simply reaping what we have sown. This is what some young teenagers say about the impact of dancehall on their behaviour: “It makes me break out of my little shell. I am an innocent girl and dancehall music breaks that barrier.”
“It makes you feel all gangsterish and cool. And the music teaches you how to dress.” “The lyrics are influential. They tell you to walk roun’, smoke weed and buss gun. Many people, children in particular, look up to some of the artistes who feature these lyrics in their songs and they actually do some of these things because they feel that if their favourite artiste is doing it and they are ‘hip’ and admired, then why not do it too. Hence, dancehall music is influential, not only to me, but to the wider society.” “I have stopped listening to dancehall music now and that’s good because it had such a negative influence on me. At one point, I found myself acting in the way that the songs portray a ‘hot girl’ should be.”