Dance­hall time, space, Spice and big dutty stink­ing Shabba (OD)

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT -

ICANNOT help pun­ish­ing you with a pun, and I have one that is way too juicy (or corny) to leave out, de­spite the dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity that it will de­tract from what I in­tend to be a very se­ri­ous ar­ti­cle. The com­pro­mise is a choice — you can skip to the last cou­ple of lines and read it now and laugh or kiss your teeth, keep­ing in mind that I mean Shabba (who I have lis­tened to since the King Jam­mys days on record and ses­sion cas­sette) no harm. Or you can save it for last, af­ter wad­ing through an anal­y­sis of the Spice gala flare-up in the con­text of re­cur­ring is­sues of dance­hall and me­dia bound­aries. For we have been here be­fore, where a dance­hall per­for­mance has been deemed in­ap­pro­pri­ate for an oc­ca­sion deemed of­fi­cial and re­spectable or it has been car­ried live on tele­vi­sion. How­ever, we treat it as some­thing new and do not seek to take pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures to deal with the mat­ter. The ones that I can re­mem­ber are Bee­nie Man’s “green­delero” lyrics at the Na­tional Sta­dium in July 1991 (which earned him a re­sound­ing boo) when Nel­son and Win­nie Man­dela came to visit, then Bee­nie Man and Bounty Killer at the free-to-air tele­vised Ja­maica Car­ni­val Last Hur­rah in 2005 (which led to the short-lived Coali­tion of Cor­po­rate Spon­sors and ban­ning of per­form­ers who breached reg­u­la­tions). Only three years ago, the con­tro­versy was about Queen Ifrica at the In­de­pen­dence Grand Gala, again car­ried live on free-to-air tele­vi­sion (al­though she said ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong in speak­ing about ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and le­gal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­juana). Then at the Sting 30th an­niver­sary con­cert in 2013, Siz­zla’s per­for­mance moved the or­gan­is­ers to wrath, in a year when it was car­ried live via satel­lite to a po­ten­tial au­di­ence of over 300 mil­lion peo­ple, as THE STAR re­ported ahead of the event.

Peter Tosh’s speech at the 1978 One Love Peace Con­cert, held at the Na­tional Sta­dium, in which he dropped some ap­prox­i­ma­tions of Ja­maican fab­ric (like Rasta-cas­tle), as well as the real thing be­fore an au­di­ence that in­cluded Prime Min­is­ter Michael Man­ley and Op­po­si­tion Leader Ed­ward Seaga, was an­other stun­ner. SPICE’S SET

And now we have Spice’s set on Satur­day at the gala for the ath­letes, which has left some per­son’s panties,( es­pe­cially the prude) in a bunch and pro­vided the me­dia with some ma­te­rial for a cou­ple of days (I did lis­ten to the Be­yond the Head­lines in­ter­views with Spice and event or­gan­iser Len­ford Sal­mon on Tues­day, which thank­fully went be­yond the gen­eral re­gur­gi­ta­tion and opin­ions on pro­pri­ety). It is not an iso­lated in­ci­dent, and we should not treat it as some­thing new and sur­pris­ing.

The no­tions of dance­hall im­pro­pri­ety, which Spice’s per­for­mance have once again raised, have not es­caped our aca­demics. In Sound Clash: Ja­maican Dance­hall Cul­ture at Large, Pro­fes­sor Car­olyn Cooper says “... the dance­hall trope of the ‘bor­der clash’ ul­ti­mately speaks to ide­o­log­i­cal con­flicts between com­pet­ing value sys­tems in Ja­maica”. In this case, value is also about what peo­ple pre­fer —part of the process of se­lect­ing the gala per­form­ers was can­vass­ing the ath­letes, and Spice was among their choices. I sin­cerely doubt that they are gung-ho over a ver­sion of Spice apart from the one with the strik­ing tal­ent of dee­jay­ing while bal­anc­ing on the crown of her head with her back­side grind­ing the air.

Has any­one asked them if they were of­fended by Spice’s per­for­mance?

I sus­pect that they knew what they wanted and they may have just got it. I dare say that Spice has not lost a sin­gle dance­hall fan she had from be­fore Satur­day’s gala per­for­mance; she may have lost the op­por­tu­nity of gain­ing new ad­mir­ers, but they would not have been at­tracted to her au­then­tic mu­si­cal per­sona, and, chances are, would not pay a sin­gle mu­si­cal rate to go through a dance­hall gate to see her. She was true to her­self and the dance­hall artiste who is not, who ‘sells out’, is trod­ding on treach­er­ous ground.

More rel­e­vant to this spicy mat­ter is Dr Son­jah Stan­ley Ni­aah’s ob­ser­va­tion in Dance­Hall: From Slave

Ship to Ghetto, about dance­hall’s self-im­posed bound­aries be­ing rup­tured by the me­dia and ten­sions re­sult­ing from “dance­hall’s move­ment from pri­vate to pub­lic spa­ces”. This me­dia cov­er­age — es­pe­cially tele­vi­sion — is con­sis­tent through sev­eral of the in­ci­dents that I have noted pre­vi­ously. So if dance­hall re­mains its un­com­pro­mis­ing it­self no mat­ter the cir­cum­stances, is there not some­thing to be said about it be­ing pre­sented in real time on free-to-air tele­vi­sion? How about a de­layed broad­cast, even by halfhour, like what is some­times done for sold-out events like foot­ball matches? That leaves edit­ing time.

How­ever, there is an es­tab­lished, work­ing model from dance­hall that would sort out is­sues like these, if adopted by

those who would in­clude the cul­ture in events which re­quire a toned down ap­proach. In 2006 and again 2011, Bee­nie Man was pre­sented as Ras Moses at the West­ern Con­scious­ness con­cert in West­more­land, an event where Lady Saw (of erst­while dance­hall days) was hosted as Mar­ion Hall. Rebel Salute had Mavado as David Brooks and

Shabba Ranks af­ter re­ceiv­ing his award re­cently.

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