Thursday, September 28, 2017

Dirty Daggering in Jamaica

By: Jacob Solether

Produced & edited by: David Lee


Dancehall music is not performed in clubs or halls, but rather outside the neighborhoods of the lower-class in  Jamaica. “You have these huge speaker box sound systems, there’s a gate and people pay to come in. Usually there are one or two sound systems playing and inside you can buy alcohol, there’s food like cod gold and jerk chicken. Then there’s people standing up dancing. That’s really what a dancehall is,” said Winsome Marcia Chunnu, who is the Strategic Director for Multicultural Programs at Ohio University. Dancehall music is similar to pop music  playing in a dance club in the United States. Both genres have up-beat tempos that are easy to dance to and  both types of music excite people  . The deejays at dancehalls, known as selectors , often play dance songs that instruct people ondancing. Whether that be Dutty Wine, Hot Wuk, or Daggering, take it away!

Photo from
Photo from

From street music to mainstream 

The dancehall movement began in the 1990’s on the street corners of Jamaica’s lower-class communities. Troubled neighborhoods in Jamaica, also known as ghettos and shanty towns, left many youths in disarray. Living in poverty with little money and not much to do, many of the youth used dancing as a way to escape the troubles of the day. Dancehall was also the easiest and most affordable leisure . “Dancing is the cheapest form of entertainment on the island,” said Winsome Marcia Chunnu. And as the Jamaican legend Bob Marley once sang, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”  
To better understand the dancehall scene, one must know the sociopolitical context in Jamaica. Music on the island is often a direct reflection of society. Dancehalls and dancehall music provide a sense of relief for poor communities. The dancehalls are also a place for people to socialize, hear new music and to show off their unique, new dance moves.

Although daggering originated in the streets of Jamaica, it crept into the mainstream during the early 2000’s when popular dancehall artists such as Mr. Vegas and Vybz Kartel performed on the radio. Dancehall has always been known for its oversexualizing lyrics and dance styles. Like most dancehall dance styles, daggering focuses on oversexualizing pelvic thrusts, grinding, as well as male masculinity. Daggering did not usher in an era of people grinding and humping each other, but it did take dancing to the next level. Literally. Today, Jamaicans use dancing to become celebrities and people travel to the island from around the world just to perform in dance competitions. “You’ll have people who are coming from Japan to be dancehall queens,” said Lavern Morant, the Resident Director at Ohio University
The dancehall craze began in street parties by people from the lower-class, but things changed once members from the middle to upper-class started going downtown. “Adults do it, teenagers do it, but it just depends on what part of Jamaica you live in,” Morant said. This movement propelled the dancehall music scene during the ‘90s and into the new millennium. Across town in the upscale communities people have similar parties called sessions, but these typically do not last as long, the music is different, the attendees vary in age and the venues are owned by different people. In the late 2000’s, Jamaicans started having Passa Passa, where a lot of middle to upper-class people would go downtown for the dancehall scene. As a result, dancehall music became more accepted in society. The dancehall movement broke down social barriers, created new norms for dancing and changed the social structure. Now,rich and poor people from all social classes celebrate dancehall music today. Carnivals and dancehall festivals are now openly celebrated in Jamaica.

Photo from Samdiephuis.

“So, we have these huge sound systems on every corner, in poorer communities, and they play all those (dancehall) songs. They happen every week and it’s where most people consume dancehall because they’re not played on the radio,” said Winsome Marica Chunnu.

Uncontrolled content

Parental advisory labels are placed on music with explicit content in the U.S. Though teenagers still find ways of listening to it, either by their parents, older siblings, or via the Internet. In the UnitedStates, music videos on television can be censored or taken off air due to explicit content. This is common in Jamaica.
The country has a long history of banning songs due to lyrical content related to sex, drugs, violence and politics. Before dancehall arrived to mainstream and was seen on YouTube, the Jamaican dance style was already causing a lot of controversy due to its explicit sexual content. The Jamaican Broadcasting Commission has banned most dancehall music from the air waves. 

In 2009, the JBC issued a directive order saying, “There shall not be transmitted through radio or television, any recording, live song or music video which promotes the act of 'daggering', or which makes reference to, or is otherwise suggestive of 'daggering'.The law however, still has not stopped people from daggering or listening to dancehall music that references daggering. “Nobody cares about the JBC banning anything. Most dancehall songs are banned from the airwaves,” said Marcia Chunnu. Though explicit music and dance styles have been banned by the JBC, people can still hear it through the sound systems setup on street corners and continue to dagger. 

Though there is no specific punishment if broadcasts play dancehall music, former and present prime ministers have spoken out against dancehall music and daggering. Many musicians and deejays have retaliated and said there are bigger problems on the island than to worry about censoring dancehall. “Gun shooting, robbing, and other social issues are much more of concern to Jamaicans,” said Lavern Morant.

For those who wish to learn how to dagger, here’s a guide to daggering from Major Lazer.

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