The Awesome Power of The Dancehall ... Oops ...The Church
In the '80s, Sugar Minott declared, "Give dem inna dancehall stylee" and "Inna dancehall we deh, we a play reggae." These two songs heralded the beginning of the modern dancehall culture. Many pundits have declared dancehall the most powerful cultural expression of the youth and the dispossessed. Many claims have been put forward as to the power of the dancehall; in fact, some have said that dancehall saved reggae internationally after the untimely death of Bob Marley.
Dancehall deejays are said to be more powerful than the police, teachers, area dons, and not to mention our obsolete politicians. If you have a girlfriend or wife, the word is, don't let her near a popular deejay or else two things might happen. One, you might get some serious "bun", or two, you might lose your wife or woman entirely. Such is the power of a dancehall artist!
In many happy households, the names Sanchez, Beenie Man, Wayne Wonder, Don Yute, Spragga Benz, even Buju and Bounty (members of the non-pretty boys' clan) are taboo. If these names are mentioned, worse, their music is played on any CD player in the house, well a girl might have to go stay with her mother or girlfriend for the weekend, and the CDs go in the garbage and the player in the repair store. Such is the power of a dancehall artist!
Even the police fall prey to the dancehall power and clout. Imagine a popular deejay speeding or breaking a red light in his Lexus in full view of a police radio car, well for ordinary folks like me and you that would mean $800 plus six points off your license. For the powerful deejay, the first thing that would greet him would be a clenched fist as a sign of street respect.
Then he might be asked for an autographed CD for his kid or his girl (what a fool – she soon be his ex-girl). There might be some mention of some food and drink money, and our deejay would be on his way just like that. However, if Mas Deejay was less than penitent, he would suffer the same fate as ordinary people, worse if he refuses any requests from the officer. Such is the power of the dancehall!
Dancehall, however, has a few stigmas. Night noise is a big problem; large, uncontrollable crowds is another. Dancehall has been known to disrupt productivity, and time management is not a strong point of the dancehall culture. It is said that a dancehall star will flop any other event that is taking place; that is why nobody does anything during the Sting period. So dancehall has the rep as the biggest crowd-puller, the biggest noisemaker, having the largest gatherings, the biggest fashion statements, the biggest time-wasters and the most non-productive elements in our society.
Hold on a minute; this is not right! Dancehall can't get so much credit. Anyone who came up with these notions must be drinking mad puss piss.
Apparently, these 'experts' have not visited one of our oldest and dearest institutions – The Church. Yes, the Church. Anybody who says dancehall is the biggest noisemaker has not visited Wildman Street Pentecostal Church or Church on the Rock or a Paul Ellis tent. When these churches get kicking, Stone Love and Metro Media pale insignificance. If Stone Love or Metro Media dare to compete, they are shut down, but despite the intolerable decibel levels from the churches, they are allowed to go on.
You see, all these sinners who are within earshot of the noise realise that this is the closest they will get to a church for a very long time and are scared of the wrath of God if they dare to protest against the noise of worship.
As for the biggest crowd-puller, get real, please! On any given night, every tent, every church building is packed to the limit with Christian soldiers, hypocrites, parasites, the indigent, woman looking for man, man looking for woman, and, heaven forbid, same-sex looking for same-sex. Think about the number of churches in Jamaica. If all these churches are half full on any given night, can you imagine the crowd? Dance stop keep; Mirage look like it shut down; Cactus struggling some nights. If dancehall is such a crowd puller why is this happening? And why do so many shows flop and sound system owners are dying of hunger?
With so many churches, no wonder Jamaica's productivity is so slow. While the workers of other countries are producing on well-organised night shifts, Jamaicans, in their thousands, are busy praising the Lord and giving away their money.
At the few dancehall venues, production is high when you consider the ways people make money from these venues – the sky juice man, the cigarette man, the drinks and liquor lady, the peanut man and the cess man, the self-appointed car washers and security and parking attendants. Not to mention the poster boy, the orange lady, the pan chicken crew and the soup lady.
These are but a few of the many productive efforts on the part of the dancehall workforce. Well, that's that for dancehall being the most counterproductive.
We now move to the burning issue of the fashion. Dancehall is known for its outrageous styles – yellow, red, blue, silver and purple hair are huge fashion statements. Spandex, sequins, chiffons, bubble gum suits, fishnet stockings, platform shoes, designer sneakers, Tommy Hilfiger, Karl Kani, Versace, Moschino, Biggy, DKNY and Fubu, are the hot items in the dancehall. In short, dancehall people 'can dress'.
Are they the leaders, though? Well, if you are like me or Yasmine Peru, dancehall people are miles ahead of us mere mortals. However, if it is a church member of a famous fashion mecca like Wildman Street Pentecostal Church, Church on the Rock or Swallowfield Chapel, Bethel, Websters, Andrews Adventist or Holy Cross, then dancehall fashion is a distant third.
High fashion rules supreme in churchdom, where sober and sophisticated names like Liz Clairborne, Elizabeth Arden, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfield, Ivy Ralph, Carole Issa, Farrell and Les and Max Brown are the order of the day and night. Mere mortals like Yasmine and I are usually embarrassed when we visit these various churches. When one visits the car park and the area surrounding the churchyard, if you put your hands to your ears to block out the sound of worship, you would believe that you are at a car show for the latest luxury car and utility vehicles.
Such is the awesome power of the church!