Money, Guns and Music, has Dancehall been Hijacked?


Has Dancehall been hijacked? Recently assistant police commissioner Ealan Powell made a statement that entertainers are funding crime in Jamaica. This comes shortly after Dancehall artist Alkaline was detained overnight in a murder investigation. Obviously, this is not the first time we hear this kind of rhetoric from the Government about the many music industry players. If we think back we’ll remember that former police Commissioner Owen Ellington made a similar statement towards artist Vybz Kartel, but is this a fair assessment or is the culture or the genre of music under attack by a system that is just out of touch.

In an OnStage interview Beenie Man said,”We all know that music can be used as propaganda for love or war, but shouldn’t we hold individuals responsible as individuals.”

We cannot blame entertainers as a root cause without blaming cultural issues such as poverty, lack of jobs, education or opportunities. Entertainers are in a tough situation. When an artist rises, most times they are the most successful, productive, and influential person in their neighborhood, thus developing followers. Should an artist be blamed for something a fan does?

There are certain isolated situations where artists do get involved in unethical things, but once again this can be blamed on cultural issues in Jamaica. The system creates a situation where three or four artists dominates the music industry. They are heavily highlighted, even glorified on all the radio stations,TV stations and in all the parties. Over time this develops into a cult-like environment where the youths develop a misplaced or excessive admiration for the entertainer. The entertainer then feeds off this high regard from the fans and develops a God complex.

Many artists makes it their duty to give back to their communities, but the good things are rarely highlighted. Most are unfairly blamed for any or many misfortune in their community.
If someone asks you for a dollar to buy food and you give it to them, are you responsible if he takes it and by alcohol?

Reggae/Dancehall music is still one of the greatest resources in Jamaica but it’s being stifled by the powers that be. Until the government, the radio disc jockeys, the selectors, and the artists recognize that this is a multi-billion dollar business that needs to be nurtured we will continue to get the same results.

I do believe that instead of condemning the entire culture for a few people’s actions the JDF needs to reach out to entertainers make themselves accessible, to the ones that are making a positive impact in their communities. Encourage all entertainers to use their influence to be community organizers and participate in outreach programs.

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