The many spaces and places of dancehall!

This year, Rototom  Sunsplash has changed venues. It no longer takes place in Ossopo, Italy. Its new home is Benicassim, Spain. The largest reggae festival in Europe features ska, reggae and dancehall acts, scholars and DJs sometimes in performance at the microphone and at others in speaker’s fora of various kinds. One such fora is the Reggae University.

I am particularly fascinated by the scope and unique features of this festival which is a site for investigation in my current research project. Broadly speaking, the University is organized as a “series of meetings to discuss important moments in the history of reggae music, together with journalists, writers, Dee jays and artistes. A real forum on the past, present and future of reggae music, analysing the influence and evolution of this music style, as well as its social, political and spiritual impact.” The collective that organizes the sessions comprises – David Katz, internationally renowned American writer and journalist; Ellen Koehlings & Pete Lilly, who represent Riddim magazine in Germany; and Pier Tosi, eminent reggae expert from Italy. What a collective!

Well well…this year I spoke about the many spaces, places and faces of dancehall along with Tony Matterhorn, Ellen Koehlings, Sick in Head and Chiquituta, all of whom I give nuff respect! I focused on my new book – DanceHall: From Slave Ship to Ghetto (2010, University of Ottawa Press). Check out the link for the reggae university: http://www.rototomsunsplash.com/en/programme/beyond-music/reggae-university 

In the meantime till I see you again online, enjoy the hottest single on the scene – ‘Hold You’ by Gyptian. What a wicked forward march for this talented artist!

A wha do dem?…

‘A wha do dem’…How could reggae have produced dancehall?

‘A wha do dem, a wha do dem dem dem…..mi nuh kno oh….’. These are classic lines from a dancehall tune back in the 1980s when the musical genre was thought to have emerged. Such lines form part of musical aesthetic structures that are founded on toasting, vibing and chanting to please crowds of celebrants typically atending dancehall events or ‘dances’. Dancehall style emerged in the work of Count Matchukie and King Stitt in the late 1950s and begins the era of the dancehall musical genre. How then can we say that reggae gave birth to dancehall? Have we all been mistaken? What is even more is that we continue to give credence to the technological shifts that give way to computerized rhythms and the proliferation in lyrics about women’s body parts when such strands were always a part of the lyrical repertoire. As for the technology, shifts from the juke box my grandfather bought for entertaining patrons in his shop, to pressing vinyl, and the broadcast capacity via radio stations, need not be discounted any longer!