World is in trouble
Anytime Buju Banton come
Batty bwoy get up an run
At gunshot me head back
Hear I tell him now crew
(Its like) Boom bye byeInna batty bwoy head
Rude bwoy no promote no nasty manDem haffi dead
Boom bye byeInna batty bwoy head
Rude bwoy no promote no nasty manDem haffi dead

(Two man) Hitch up on an rub up on An lay down inna bed
Hug up one anotherAnna feel up leg
Send fi di matic anDi Uzi insteadS
hoot dem no come if we shot dem–   



For the past several years now a rising crescendo of protest against  an aspect of Reggae music, called Dancehall, has hit artist directly and nationals indirectly in a most profound way.  Alas, the ongoing controversy surrounding the lyrics contained in dancehall music, dubbed “murder music”, in my eyes have taken on an imperialist and anti-African overtone.


Brief History of Dance Hall Music

Described as a brash, raucous, computer-driven (?) reggae that came to prominence in the 1980s, Dancehall music refuses to go away.  Viewed by many as a return to straight – forward fun after a decade of “roots ‘n’ culture’s piety”.  Dancehall derived its name because many of the records made, was deemed unfit for radio airplay and therefore were suitable only for the dancehall. However, the controversy didn’t stop there. Dancehall reggae established itself through characters like Yellowman, sistah Nancy, General Echo and a host of other underground artists with a penchant for slackness (raunchy) lyrics.  

 Don’t want JackieGive dem Paul instead
Dem don’t want di sweetness
Between di leg
Gal bend down backway
An accept di peg
An if it really hotY
ou know she still naw gon fled
An some manStill don’t want diPanty raid
Pure batty business dem love
repeat chorus
(Woman is di Greatest thing
God ever put pon di land
Buju lovin dem from headDown to foot bottom
But some man a turn around
Where dem get that from  

This deejay-led, music epitomised the 1980s with dub poet Mutabaruka maintaining, “if 1970s reggae was red, greed and gold, then in the next decade it was gold chains”. Dancehall is so far removed from roots and culture music, that there are actual debates as to whether it was genuinely reggae or not. According to a recent  BBC documentary on the genre, Dancehall represented a new generation of reggae’s primary audience reclaiming the music for themselves after ten years of roots ’n’ culture that: 

 A) Had not done a great deal to change the way they lived; and

B) It, roots ‘n ’culture, had been adopted so thoroughly by the international mainstream (mainly Anglo-    Saxon) it didn’t seem like it was “theirs” any more.  

According to the BBC: “This was a new  way of reacting to the harshness of their environment and drew on hip hop’s brashness to express themselves with an impatience not seen in roots reggae. It needed a radical approach to shake reggae out of its seeming complacency and dancehall opted for the apparently obnoxious to satisfy nobody beyond the sound system crowds.

Producers like Henry Junjo Lawes and King Jammy’s made deejay records that were as raw as those audiences wanted, with deejays like Yellowman, Josey Wales, Lone Ranger, Eek-A-Mouse and Brigadier Jerry. Not that it was all deejays, but singers such as Barrington Levy, Little John, Cocoa Tea and Frankie Paul had to struggle to be heard.” 

Peter is not for JanetPeter is for John
Suzette is not for PaulSuzette is for Ann
Where the boboclothDem get dat from
Here come the DJName Buju Banton
(Come fi) ((Straighten yuh talk?))
repeat chorus      
 (Two man) A hug up on an kiss up
An lay down inna bed
Hug up one anotherAnna rub dung leg
Send fi di matic anDi Uzi instead
Shoot di batty boy come if we shot dem—  

The rapidly developing studio technology played a big part as it meant records could be made quicker and cheaper, with it becoming far easier to version a rhythm once it was made. This in turn allowed a flood of new talent into the business ensuring that dancehall reggae would continue to stay fresh for years to come. Dancehall music has also followed and taken on the same persona and is now embroiled in a similar type of controversy, as of Hip Hop, Rapping and Gansta Rap.  

 Ashante Infantry Pop and Music Critic for the Toronto Star on Mar 03, 2008, penned an article titled: 

 [’Murder music’ sparks Caribbean tourism boycott call: Gays victimized as defamatory reggae grows in popularity in Jamaica and region] 

This article talks  about the next stage of protest by homosexuals, their supporters, human rights advocates and even the clergy against what is deemed inflammatory and violent lyrics in Dancehall. The articles reports on a two-hour discussion, attended by about 200 people titled, The Sound of Hate: Where Sexual Orientation, Race, Dancehall Music and Human Rights Collide. The debate focused on lyrics that gay rights activists say “contains threatening sentiments toward homosexuals and pejorative patois terms for them”.  

They also allege that the songs have motivated brutal attacks on Jamaican gays by mobs who often recite the hateful lyrics of songs such as “Boom Bye Bye” (Buju Banton) and “Log On” (Elephant Man).   Panelist Gareth Henry, 30, former co-chair of Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays, the island’s leading gay rights organization, had fled to Toronto in February seeking asylum as a survivor of homophobic violence. He supports the call for Canadians to consider a tourism boycott to pressure Caribbean governments to protect the human rights of their gay citizenry. 

 Dem don’t want Jackie
Give dem Paul instead
Don’t want di poom poom
Between Patsy leg
All dem want
Is the body from Fred
But dis is Buju Banton
Me sayDis is not an bargain
(Me say)Dis is not a deal
Guy come near we
Then his skin must peel
Burn him up bad like an old tire wheel
gwaan buju banton yuh tough
repeat chorus
(Two man) A hug up on an kiss up
An lay down inna bed
Hug up one another
Anna rub dung leg
Send fi di matic an
repeat chorus “


A tourism blackout would affect my family back home,” said Henry, “but what is our long-term vision? How many people must die before we realize we are all one?” “The sound of hate is also the rhythm of pain, because people are being kicked and chopped by people singing these songs; there is no way for me as a Jamaican to appreciate reggae right now,” said. The panel discussed the  Jamaican authorities reluctance to investigate and prosecute incidents of gay bashing in a country where sodomy is a criminal offence, abortion is illegal and a condoms-in-schools proposal was recently shot down, Henry claims that the attack were “state-sanctioned homophobia,” supported by reggae artists and the church. 

Other speakers on the panel have urged a wider boycott on the basis that anti-gay attitudes are pervasive throughout the Caribbean region. Parallel to a tourism blackout, other suggested strategies included dialogue with Jamaican churches, pressing the federal government not to give certain artists entrance visas and exhorting concert promoters not to book them.

One also naturally went as far as to claim, “This music, which is also quite misogynistic, has become a way of defining Caribbean nationalism,” he said “Would we accept someone singing ‘Kill all blacks?’  “Besides the age old ruse of always invoking and comparing everybody else’s struggles with the African liberation and human rights struggles, I am upset that this whole situation is taken out of context and used as an agenda to oppress an all ready oppressed people. All this while ignoring the pervasive violence and anti-homosexual and anti-African sentiment of the very same countries and institutions that purports to be boycotting Jamaica’s tourist industry. 



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