Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Dancehall Road March cyaa stall - Outfits replicate Queen Carlene’s dancehall wardrobe

Published:Saturday | February 29, 2020 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer

An iconic character of the ‘80s and ‘90s dancehall scene, Carlene Smith or – as she is popularly known, Dancehall Queen Carlene – has embarked on a major project for the leap year. Alongside Whirlwind Entertainment International, founded by Michael Dawson, she has introduced the Dancehall Road March, slated for the month of July.

“Dancehall has been good to us as a company, so giving back to the space is a must. It is a global phenomenon, and it cyaa stall,” said Dawson of the road march concept.

He added: “We expect a fight. As a matter of fact, it start already, and in Carlene and my discussions, we have tried to understand the true reason for dancehall getting a fight, but what is important is that we anticipate and plan for it.”

Dawson said that organisation is key, especially for an affair that wears the title of dancehall. Starting with the launch, every month leading up to the date of the road march, the organisers will be releasing more information, including confirmed acts.

“We have to be almost perfect in pulling everything together from insurance to the routes. It is a challenge, but when a person invests in dancehall, it is not just about the money – remembering we are looking on something that is the livelihood of many individuals, from dancers and other entertainers, as well as other contributors … . We just want people to embrace it because at the end of the day, it is ours,” he said.

Speaking of dancers, Sher Luxury Doll (DHQ Sher), Chinny Unique, Latonya Style, Pinkii Pinkx, Renee Six-Thirty, Queen Nikki, Shelly Belly, Stacy Xpressions, Chriss Choreo, Marvin the Beast, and Belgium’s Lady K, are currently on board as ambassadors for the Dancehall Road March. They all participated in the showcase of outfits on Thursday night at the launch, held at House of Dancehall.

There are six main sections: Big It Up, Murder She Wrote, Slo Whine, Slam, Set Good, and Bumpaz, and an additional outfit design for the males called Rude Bwoy. The majority of the outfits are replicas of the wardrobe that Dancehall Queen Carlene wore in her heyday and Bumpaz is a tribute to late dancer Bumpa.

Not a competition

Dancehall Queen Carlene smiled as the dancers as well as her daughter, Crystal Davis, participated in the showcase. She said, “Because it is a project and full production that is now becoming a reality, and seeing them in the outfits – note that we call them outfits and not costumes because they can be worn after the day of the road march to a dance or party – reminds me of me back in the day.”

Her crown was given to her in 1992, and since then, she has been featured in several music video productions. Outfits for dancehall bands and sections Murder She Wrote and Set Good both represent the dancehall queen’s work with Chaka Demus and Pliers. Murder She Wrote was the title of the hit that catapulted her to international stardom and Set Good, a black mesh bodysuit which was modelled by Renee Six-Thirty, was the carbon copy of the outfit she wore to perform with Chaka Demus and Pliers on the Red Stripe Mound. Slo Whine, she says, was designed with the outfit, she wore to perform with Super Cat in mind, and most of her followers will remember the infamous Slam condom, for which she was the face for many years, wearing the red leatherette two-piece.

“I am grateful designers Sophia Jones and Loran-V and the fabric sponsors, Pablo’s and L.P. Azar, could help me bring the vision to life. The outfits will be very affordable, with the packages starting as low as $20,000 including food,” Dancehall Queen Carlene said.

“This is not a competition because carnival is not originally Jamaican. It does not belong to here. Dancehall and reggae does. And they do not need to exist as part of anything. We are aiming for the birth of the Dancehall Road March to inspire more persons to be part of it and own our culture so we can carry it on for many years.”

DHQ Sher shared the same sentiment. She said, “Over the years, me always say dancehall need to be this big [big as carnival] because we never get the chance to showcase what it is about at its heart.”

She says, too often, dancehall is criticised for its music and the behaviour of the people, and she anticipates that the road march will create a new and positive perspective.

“Most know what dancehall is, and it is no different from the wildness of carnival season or soca music. It is just people having fun and showing good vibes and free spirits, and it is very important to me to be part of this experience,” DHQ Sher said.