Rhythm and Blues
Dancehall is the musical genre used to describe a kind of urban/ popular music that emerged from Jamaica in the 1970s, characterized by digital instrumentation, bawdy themes, reggae-rooted rhythms, and deejay toasting. Many had considered it as a less political and less religious variant of reggae, but the dancehall genre has since evolved considerably to find its own unique sound. Pioneers and proponents of the dancehall genre include Yellowman, Shabba Ranks, Capleton, King Jammy, Eek-A-Mouse, Elephant Man, Beenie Man, Barrington Levy, Shaggy, Sean Paul, and Buju Banton.
Characteristics of DancehallDancehall is a hybrid musical style that typically features a deejay toasting – or “rapping” – over reggae-rooted rhythms – called “riddim” – instead of simply playing pre-recorded music. Dancehall is also known as bashment. Being that the genre finds its roots in spaces where dance, set-to-party music was aired, dancehall music and dancehall records are characterized by considerably faster rhythms; quick, synthesized chanting; and sound clashes between rival deejays. Lyrical themes of the dancehall genre often focus on dancing, violence, sexuality, homophobia, and other subjects which are more straightforward and less religious and political than that of dancehall’s socially conscious cousin, reggae.
A History of DancehallDancehall originated in Jamaica, where in the mid to late 1970s the deejays set up their sound systems to play popular music in large halls and urban spaces. Three of the most popular dancehall artists at the time were King Jammy, Eek-A-Mouse, and Yellowman. They are only some of the genre’s earliest and most important pioneers.
Digital instrumentation became more widely used in the 1980s, and this ushered in a shift in style for the dancehall genre. Dancehall deejays and artists such as Shabba Ranks, Capleton, and Buccaneer found that dancehall records could be made more quickly and easily, with digital productions that featured synthesized chanting and upstart drum machines. Shifting a bit further from the essence of reggae, dancehall became even more focused on violence, slack lyrics, and attempts to achieve crossover success. While explicit themes kept the genre from being as successful and prominent in the world music scene as reggae, dancehall became the most popular music in Jamaica.
In the 1990s dancehall stayed fresh and modern and continued to be flooded by new talent, the likes of which include Barrington Levy, Buju Banton, Beenie Man, and Shaggy. Complimenting the deejay toasting was a new, sweet-singing vocal style heavily influenced by reggae and R&B. The nineties also saw many dancehall – or bashment – artists successfully cross over and gain mainstream recognition. Sean Paul and Elephant Man followed in their footsteps when they entered the music scene in the early 2000s.
Dancehall Record LabelsThere are several labels commonly associated with the dancehall genre. ”VP” Records, for instance, is one of the most dominant in the market, having associated itself with Sean Paul, Elephant Man, and Buju Banton. Other labels for the dancehall genre are: ”TP” Records, for Frankie Paul and Capleton; and ”Greensleeves” Records, for Eek-A-Mouse and Yellowman.
Dancehall Albums, Dancehall Records, and Dancehall CDsListen to the best of dancehall music and party like the Jamaicans do. At MusicStack, “Yellowman” CDs, “Shabba Ranks” CDs, “Capleton” CDs, “King Jammy” CDs, “Eek-A-Mouse” CDs, “Elephant Man” CDs, “Beenie Man” CDs, “Barrington Levy” CDs, “Shaggy” CDs, “Sean Paul” CDs, and “Buju Banton” CDs, among other dancehall albums, records, and CDs, are all available, as are dancehall vinyl LPs.
Popular Dancehall Artists