Ole people use to say, “When one door close, another one opens” This writer grew up with the perception that Reggae’s best markets are the United Kingdom, Europe and Africa while Dancehall (its offspring) had better successes in the United States, the Caribbean and Japan.
Dancehall music came about around the late 1970s when social and political changes shifted away from roots music and leaned towards local preference, centered around ‘the Jamaican experience’ when sound systems performed live and more appealing to locals.
The early 1980s saw the emergence of deejays in dancehall music, two of the biggest deejay stars of the then dancehall era, Yellowman and Eek-a-Mouse, chose humour rather than violence. The United States became the place young Dancehall artistes strive to make a significant impact in order to gain International recognition and many fought hard to stake their claim in the Big Apple. Yellowman became the first Jamaican deejay to be signed to a major American record label.
Thereafter Reggae was now overshadowed locally by dancing, hardcore and sexually explicit lyrics. This shift in style brought about a new generation of artists, such as Buccaneer, Capleton, Shabba Ranks, Lady Saw, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Mad Cobra, Ninja Man and Buju Banton. The early 2000s saw the success of newer chart topping acts such as Sean Paul, Shaggy and Elephant Man, who achieved mainstream success in the U.S. bridging the gap between ‘Popular and Internationally Acclaimed’ as their successes produced several top 10 Billboard hits.
New York may have arguably been the place internationally where Dancehall music first got recognized but at the turn of the decade (2010) many witnessed the birth of a new trend. Underground Dancehall music, the one that was said would never make it past the Jamaican airports have seeped into the European markets and seems to have soared in the past two years. Some may argue that the US visa revocation of several Dancehall and Reggae stars have forced the artistes to look elsewhere to sell their product but this writer believes that the most significant factor that contributes to this new trend, is the controversial and highly publicized, “Gaza/Gully” feud between Vybz Kartel and Mavado.
The Dancehall music that is accepted internationally, even though commercial is polished in comparison to the underground music heard in the streets of Kingston. This type of music has been criticized for years as many have said and are still saying that this music does not reflect the Jamaican culture. But like certain troubled issues that affects the Jamaican artistes and their music, the constant pounding of the underground genre has bore fruit. Just recently, Vybz Kartel performed on the Amsterdam Reggae Festival and he was one of the most anticipated acts on that show, one of the annual Reggae Festivals in Europe that is usually dominated with performances by Reggae acts. The controversial Dancehall artiste is said to be booked for appearances in Suriname and Africa, markets usually reserved for popular Reggae acts. The Gully/Gaza feud and its negativity have opened up a new market for hardcore Dancehall artistes and so it is indeed a fact that, ‘when one door closes another one opens’.