In the blink of an eye, another year has flowed on – swift like a wave that washes the shore; with it, building and breaking up the coastline. Similarly, Jamaica’s entertainment industry has seen the constructive and destructive nature of the waves of talent and issues associated with the business of music. I would be lying to you if I said that the year 2019 was a spectacular year for dancehall; instead, it was a year of high and low tides. From the triumphant breakthroughs to the comebacks and setting records, to the publicity stunts, my focus was not necessarily on what was newsworthy but knowing the value and lesson within a story.
• Buju Banton’s return, not only to the island but to making gigantic strides with his Long Walk to Freedom Tour across the Caribbean, and successfully creating two major hits with Steppa and Trust. The reggae/dancehall icon said it best in Steppa, “Wen mi say steppa, steppa a nuh petty thief, steppa a nuh taker. Man nah step fi the worst man ago step for the betta” , and that he did.
• The close examination of sound clash culture in Jamaica influenced its revival through Red Bull’s Culture Clash in November and, though the dancehall team felt cheated, it was still great exposure to what the local industry should aim to produce.
• So many dancehall artistes search to find lyrics that are good as a gold mine, but very few end up digging up the treasure, still Elephant Man proved that “finding it” takes time.
• The Noise Abatement debate by members of the dancehall sphere was not met with open ears. Even though the noise surrounding it may have helped, not much has been accomplished by a genre that is challenged to become organised. In the words of dancehall princess Shenseea’s tweet early on December 30: “IDK [I don’t know] who needs to hear this but; there’s more to life than party, party, party!” Time to focus on the business aspect as a team.
• There were no easy predictions as to what were or were not publicity stunts. Spice led in 2018 with her fake bleaching picture, but then deejay SKP followed suit by actually bleaching half his face. Other stories like Devin Di Dakta’s wig wearing and Desha and Wiz Ravers’ Snappin’ production of a wedding, all for the promotion of music. I can’t say I am impressed with that level of creativity.
• The number of dancehall artistes involved in car accidents: Munga Honorable, Aidonia, Stylysh, Chronic Law, Blak Ryno and Vershon, to name some.
• While young reggae artiste Koffee is turning heads by having an EP nominated for the Grammy Awards Best Reggae Album category, the world is still waiting on the dancehall fraternity to redirect its focus from flooding the radio with singles.
This may not be a high or low per se, but two points to reflect on are the mental health of entertainers and the need for the dancehall to not only think resolutions but to have 2020 vision for the new year. So, improving self, the goals to aim for, the time it takes, teamwork, knowing your worth and actually speaking positive things into being should all be part of the vision.