American Spoken Word Poet decries Jamaican slack lyrics – Barbados Advocate staff concur with independent items

Those who follow this blog regularly will be aware while I want libel laws to be updated and Freedom of Information to be favourably comparative to International standards, instead of the archaic nonsense we endure in Bim now, nevertheless, there’s also an ongoing concern for my side over how far Freedom of Speech as it relates to public poetry slams can escalate… I am not against such programmes, it’s just in the way they’re presented with no due process of a warning this is a nite where it’s straight up with no chaser!

In the same way films, compact disks and TV-programmes can have lettered codes indicating what kind of content may lurk therein, thereby allowing parents or guardians to decide if little ones should be present, then a show where children have been present and can do so again needs to have relevant caveats.

Therefore, when Jamaica’s Broadcast Authority has decided to clamp down not only on lewd or vicious Dancehall tunes (aka: Daggerin’) but indeed expanded their non-playlist to include any similar efforts to be found in the Soca genre – it was no big surprise to me, in fact, why has no one in the region thought to do so sooner, as hinted by Claude Robinson in the Observer?

…the Commission (of which I am a member) announced a prohibition on alldaggerin’ songs, recordings and videos which containexplicitly sexual and violent lyrics in breach of regulations that set standards that broadcasters are obliged to adhere to in keeping with the terms of their licences.

Regulation 30 (d) of the Television and Sound Broadcasting Regulations states that “no licensee shall permit to be transmitted any indecent or profane matter…” and Regulation 30 (l) provides that no licensee shall transmit “any portrayal of violence which offends against good taste, decency or public morality“.

The Commission also imposed a ban on ‘bleeping‘ and ‘beeping‘ editing techniques used by broadcast media in a mostly futile attempt to sanitise material which station managers would normally consider inappropriate for airplay.

The action was intended to bring a halt to what the Commission determined to be “indiscriminate transmission by some licensees” of inappropriate content on the airwaves “to widespread audiences including children” for sometime now.

But how did “daggerin’” start? So I checked the Gleaner and found this;-

Close to the end of 2007, a dancehall promoter known as ‘Jook‘ and disc jockeys Gary Chuck, Spready Glory and Little Richie were mulling over some dancehall trivialities on Pink Lane, Denham Town, Kingston. During this period, a trio of dances reeking with sexuality were impregnating dancehall – the infamous Dutty Wine, Hot Wuk and Drop Dead. All three also had corresponding songs which evoked the raunchiest versions of the dances when played.

With dancehall’s ever-changing skin, a new dance was in order. Like the aforementioned dances, the title of the new dance would have to be as possessive as the move itself.

We were just sitting down on the corner and we seh ‘we need a new dance’ and Jook just say dagger and it just develop in the streets. A him seh ‘daggerin’ never postpone‘,” said Gary Chuck, who played at the popular Dutty Fridaze street dance at Fletcher’s Land in Kingston before it was discontinued by the police.

However, Little Richie said even earlier in 2007, up-and-coming deejays Bragga Dat and Charley Blacks were using the slang in songs.

I would credit the start of daggerin’ to Bragga; a him start it in a Jungle (Arnett Gardens) long before people start put it pon record,” stated Little Richie. He said dancers of the MOB Squad and Shelly Belly helped popularise the daggerin’ variations.

Daggerin’ soon spread through the dancehall like a wildfire in a Californian forest, primarily because of the nightly street dances, such as Dutty Fridaze, in the inner city. From there it captivated the rest of the dancehall community, easily excited by the latest fad.

Reactions have been surprising and free-ranging both here in Barbados and in the USA. The print edition of the Barbados Advocate has sought many perspectives on the matter. On page 21 in the Friday 13th edition, the Advocate quotes the Observer too, but the Jamaican media house spoke with Heru, a Ghanaian-American who’s also performed in Barbados. Heru sees daggerin’ as a form of Jamaican deejays spitting in the public’s eye and that freedom to chant does not guarantee the right for everyone or anyone to bellow there’s a fire in a crowded theatre as he noted that freedom comes with responsibility.

Mutabaruka also sided with the spoken-word poet and was actually one of the first to castigate this nasty form of expression.

The very day before in their 12-2-2009 edition, on page 8, the Advocate‘s Jenique Millington considers daggerin’ as “…disastrous lyrics” and remains not quite convinced as to if the Jamaican entity did too much too late or they’ve finally taken a step in arresting dangerous trends? She even realises taking such a stance has its costs and potentially subjecting oneself as an object of derision;-

Of course, here I would be castigated for trying to infringe on the artistes’ freedom of speech and expression and the right for persons to listen to what they choose.

Nevertheless, the question remains whether such freedom of expression supersedes social responsibility at all times…

On the same page, right below that is Enricco Bohne – acknowledging that any artform taking certain types of expression too far can not only be perceived as depraved but perverting the original thought or process into something of a way lesser value than before;-

  • Music within the Caribbean has moved away from the sensual subtleties by skilled songwriters, to the slack (and often violent) slurs of the depraved…
  • …when the gift of sex is misused – [then] the divine, becomes a demon.

Having been demonised for cautioning the how, why, where and levels of expression in Barbados before, I found it ironic, satisfying, hypocritical and oh, so amusing – yet totally true!

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One Response

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  1. The only issue with demonising a genre of music is that due to the publicity with this act creates, it actually has the effect of creating more popularity. This is also predominately within the age group which such bans are out in place to protect. The eventual worldwide notoriety of the Dutty Wine is a sterling example of this, with TV warnings in The UK, an explosion on You Tube etc etc.

    In a era where more 1st World countries use sex to sell everything from toothpaste to financial investments, is it fair to append the mantle of encouraging sexual deviance solely to a genre of music?

    In short, the act of censorship is a reverse psychology,normally reserved for those without enough financial clout or influence to object.

    But hey, that’s just my opinion!


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