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Dancehall is a type of Jamaican reggae which developed around 1979, with artists such as Barrington Levy and others who went on to become the Roots Radics . The style is characterized by a DJ singing and rapping or toasting over raw and danceable reggae music (riddims). In the early years of dancehall, some found its lyrics as crude and "slack", though it became very popular among the youths of Jamaica and then eventually, like its reggae predecessor, made inroads onto the world music scene. In the late 1990s, many artists converted to Rastafarianism and changed their lyrical focus to "consciousness", which reflects the spiritual underpinnings of Rastafarianism. Various varieties of dancehall achieved some crossover success outside of Jamaica during the mid- to late-1990s. In 2001, reggae pop star Shaggy, went 6 times platinum with his album Hotshot. The next year, he received various nominations from the American Music Awards and the Grammy Award, and he has won two World Music Award s. Also some Dancehall-tunes (voiced riddims) become popular during the summer of 2003, especially Sean Paul's Get Busy.

Dancehall developed in Jamaica as a result of varying political and socio-economic factors. Reggae as a style of music was heavily influence by the ideologies of Rastafari and was also spirited by the socialist movements in the island at the time. Dancehall the scion of reggae was birthed in the late seventies and early eighties, when many had become disenchanted with the socialist movement and harsh economic realities came to bear in the island. It is during this time that neo-liberalist ideologies and materialism started to factor into the live of many Jamaicans, such these realities came to the fore in the new music.

Dancehall has been in large part condemned by high Jamaican society, with little or no state endorsement, it has also faced the slaughter of intellectual criticism in the media, particularly by the likes of popular Jamaican journalists, like Ian Boyne. Also Dancehall has come to face scathing criticism from the homosexual community, as they claim that it perpetuates violence against homosexuals in Jamaica (though this claim is unsubstantiated with any data or statistics, except for lyrical excerpts).


  • Stolzoff, Norman C.: Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica. Durham, London: Duke University Press 2000. ISBN 0-8223-2478-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-8232-2514-4 (paperback)