'DANCEHALL: A comfort to the poor, but a threat to Babylon'

No. 64 Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Conservative elements in Jamaican society, who speak of the negative effects of dancehall, are concerned about its greater persuasive weight and effect on social and moral behaviour of poor Jamaicans in comparison to that of the church.

    This according to University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer in cultural studies, Dr. Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, who also states that the violence with which the musical _ genre is often associated is -in many cases- connected with the police who frequently use excessive force in attempting to close down dancehall sessions.
    Dr. Stanley-Niaah who spoke at the 2010 Distinguished Lecture Series of the Montego Bay Community College (MBCC) on Thursday, March 4 is the inaugural Rhodes Trust Rex Nettleford Fellow in Cultural Studies (2005) and is also author of several publications on the subject of dancehall.
    On Thursday, in the presentation entitled 'Jamaican Popular Culture: Decay or Opportunity,' the lecturer stated that the musical form continues to be a source of cultural satisfaction and income for the poor of Jamaica, even while it continues to attract violence from the authorities.
    Dr. Stanley Niaah, on Thursday, cited the January 27, 2003 English's Birthday Bash 2003, with the sound system Stone Love on hand for a night of celebration at the frequently used La Roose Restaurant and Nightclub, a venue which has hosted countless dance events. As the dance event approached its height at 2 a.m., members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force reportedly opened fire on patrons at the St. Catherine nightclub.
    Whatever the reason for opening fire, five persons including "Pinkie or Doreen Prendergast, sister of Jamaica's media proclaimed Dancehall Queen, Carlene Smith, were victims of gun shot injuries."
    This incident Dr. Stanley-Niaah said is also matched by the British Link-Up dance held at the same venue on March 22, 20.08 when approximately eight persons were shot and injured after police interrupted the dance proceedings to shut down the sound system.
    Dr. Stanley-Niaah cited research which identifies a "deep and loud disquiet over the popular cultural form, an anxiety over the moral values embodied in the contemporary popular practices, among them music and dance creations and celebrations."
    The disquiet, she believes, lies in "the consistent and prevailing influence of the popular on the youth (which) is proportional to, if not exceeding the influence of the church. For the critics, this reflects erosion of fundamental values and structures of the society."
    Dr. Stanley-Niaah noted that there continues to be a "a lot of anxiety over the staging of dancehall events - their sonic proportions and associations with criminal elements and this has further given rise to legislation such as the Noise Abatement Act of 1997 which offers an exploitable framework through which money could be extorted in exchange for permitting dance events."

No comments:

Post a Comment