Reggae’s Morph into Dance Hall

The music of reggae has been defined in many ways since it was created. The most important thing to remember is that reggae is not something that can be understood simply. It is a complex system that has stood the test of time and continues to do so today. “We view reggae as music created by Jamaicans /to satisfy their spiritual and emotional needs. Styles and trends may shift and turn, but this yardstick definition remains incontrovertible. You can classify the various eras of reggae, but it’s nonsense to say the music being made today in Jamaica is not reggae but something entirely different.” (2)

“The name has changed over the years (mento, ska, rocksteady, dub, dancehall, ragga) but the tradition in which the music is created and enjoyed has not.” (2) Reggae was created by the Jamaican people for the Jamaican people. Reggae may have taken other names over the years such as dancehall, ska, and rocksteady but that did not change the overall importance of reggae. It helped the nation of Jamaica evolve and adapt with the struggles that Jamaica faced in their years. Without reggae who knows what Jamaica would be like today. Reggae became a huge part of not just Jamaican history but has even affected other parts of the world historically. Reggae I can honestly say is one of the strong things that has put Jamaica on the map today that is still holding strong for them and shows no signs of slowing down at all.

One of the most important transformations that reggae evolved to was called “dancehall”. This particular transformation of reggae it was seemed to divide a lot of the hardcore reggae followers and believers. The creation of dancehall is an interesting story it was not created like music genres in our time. The authors state that “In 1983, Michael Thompson, head of Inner City Promotions, coined a show “Dancehall 83. “The particular manner in which this event was marketed caught the attention of the downtowners, the real dance goers, and it almost flattened the venue. A massive crowd turned out, and those of us with experience in the business knew a chord had been struck.” (59) The event which gathered dozens of people is what created the transformation of reggae to dance hall. After this event the name “dance hall” was seen everywhere and started to grow in popularity over time.

The dividing aspect of dance hall which seemed to turn some people away who supported reggae was the computerization of the reggae music. “Everything old became new again. Many of the most popular dancehall ‘riddims’ were basically computer versions of old Studio One| rhythms, and a slew of dancehall versions of ska and rocksteady classics became hits. Whatever their artistic merits, computerized keyboards did have one undeniably positive commercial effect. While poor recording quality had previously been a big hindrance to Jamaican recordings abroad, the cleaner’ computer sound allowed dancehall to make new inroads in North American and European dance clubs.” (61) The quality of the computerization at first was troubling even if you did like dance hall. This is because the quality of computers and sounds were not the same quality as the North American computers at the time. The recording processes in North America and Europe however were much better and helped a lot of dance hall songs find popularity in those countries. Some people appreciated this way of making old music new again and others thought it of a way as running their favorite music and insulting the roots of Jamaican and reggae. “Today, for all intents and purposes, reggae in Jamaica is dancehall.” (61) The fact was that if you did not like dance hall it did not matter it was here to stay and showed no signs of slowing down. With time reggae would eventually be considered the new reggae and become more popular than its predecessor.

Dance hall may be a divisive genre for the people of Jamaica it did have its defenders that attempted to rationalize the changes that dance hall brought. “Lovindeer put it this way: ‘If you go to any reggae concert, people will react to the so-called cultural music. But to see them get into a frenzy and go on bad, put on a deejay. Deejay music just has the power to move those people it has a force.” (61) This force that is referenced here is what makes dance hall such a powerful force in the music industry in Jamaica. Dance Hall still contains the roots of reggae while still adapting to new styles of modern music in today’s world. People may not have liked it at first, but overtime these nonbelievers eventually must have come around and started to listen to more dance hall music. Because it did more popular than the old style of reggae that proceeded it.

“Dancehall can be crude, unpleasant and repetitive. But it has undeniable rhythmic potency, brutal vocal power and irresistible visceral appeal. Like a hammering artillery barrage, the endless stream of dancehall tunes from Jamaica has blasted the music into the international pop consciousness.” (62) It is surprising to see how dance hall still uses the methods of reggae, but still continues to adapt to new methods. It is genre that literally took the old beats of rhythm of the classic reggae and created its own identity out of it. There are plenty of reasons to see why not everyone is on board with the reggae called dance hall. Dance hall brought a lot of changes to Jamaica and it is a common theme that people are afraid of change especially when it is something that they love like their music.

 Reggae is no longer the king of music in Jamaica. The greats like of reggae such as Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers no longer exists. The style of reggae that Bob Marley has made so popular over the years in no longer popular. Dance hall has officially taken over as the new type of reggae that people want to come and see. “Reggae in Jamaica today is like rock and roll in America acknowledged as the tradition’s foundation, but also yesterday’s music, what daddy and mommy used to listen to. Some claim dancehall has moved Jamaican music away from its roots, but with the discovery of digital recording, an extreme minimalism has emerged. On the one hand, the music is totally technological; on the other the rhythms are far more Jamaican so despite the extent of the technology being used, the music is becoming even rootsier, with a resonance even for old time listeners, because it echoes back to what they first heard in rural Jamaica.” (64) Even though Dance Hall may not be loved by everyone in Jamaica, it still has grown into an unstoppable force in Jamaica. I could not agree more with the statement made by the authors that compare rock n roll and the old style of reggae. I did not believe that neither style of music is gone, but I do believe that their time has passed on to new things such as dance hall that do honestly try to respect the roots of where reggae comes from.