Dancehall Invasion at T&T Carnival
Updated: Nov 26, 2020
As dancehall music becomes increasingly popular among revellers in Trinidad and Tobago, the question of its place in Carnival culture has become a source of constant debate among persons in the entertainment industry. Persons against dancehall music in Carnival have suggested that it is not a part of the culture and including it takes away from the cultural and historical significance of the season. Additionally, it has been argued that Soca artists have a limited time to push their music in Trinidad as after carnival, persons no longer listen to Soca; therefore dancehall should not be included in carnival events.
On the other hand, artists such as Trinidad Killa share the view that local dancehall music should in fact be included in Carnival celebrations. Though the genre is not indigenous to the island, by virtue of the music being a creative product of Trinidadians, it is Trinidadian. Mr. Killa’s comments come after discussions have recently been reignited after his song, “Gunman in She Hole” recently went viral on social media. In an interview with Boomchampions 94.1 FM, Mr. Killa expressed that he has been asked not to perform the dancehall song, instead being prompted to perform his soca songs such as “Dyy Zess”.
Dancehall music has been included in carnival celebrations for several years; as stated by veteran artist Neil “Iwer” George as he recalls artists such as Supercat, Beenie Man and Bounty Killa performing at Machel Mondays. Why then is there suddenly an issue with local dancehall being included in carnival celebrations? Mr. Killa suggests that Soca music is losing its essence and that soca artists are afraid to lose their ground. He also said that it was hypocritical of society to denounce local dancehall music. Soca artist, Preedy shares similar sentiments, stating that music is music and local is local; whether Soca or dancehall, it’s all a part of Trinidad and Tobago. He added that rather than fight it, persons should figure out how everyone can benefit from it.
There is no doubt about the place soca and calypso have in Trinidad and Tobago carnival as these two genres are synonymous with carnival. Dancehall music, while not indigenous to the twin islands, has been included in the celebrations for several years. As more young artists produce music from this genre and it gains popularity among revellers, the question of whether it should be included in the celebrations is a reoccurring one. A few things must be considered when determining the response to this question. What makes music distinctly Trinidadian? Should only Trinidadian genres be included in carnival celebrations, despite influences being taken from genres all over the world? Is the issue with Dancehall music with the genre itself or with the competition that it provides for soca music as it increases in popularity?