Music is Not the Only Monster


It has sauntered to many people’s doorsteps and others sit in terror as they hope that they will never one day be as unfortunate. The hope is that luck will not run out on that 84 year old grandmother or a relative trying to enjoy a church service. Theorists like Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton have posited that a certain amount of crime can be beneficial to society since it has the ability to improve social integration and social regulation. Whatever cap the sociologists thought of, it appears to have already been exceeded. Therefore, in an attempt to safeguard life and livelihoods, home and business owners try to protect their properties with cameras and authorities prolong ZOSOs, but none seems to be a perfect fix. When options have ran out, blame is casted, sometimes not as accurately as it should. As such, music, particularly dancehall music, has been considered the scapegoat in the issue, as the cause of crime.

Professor Donna Hope, artistes and loyal fans of the music have made attempts to salvage the reputation of the genre. The professor posited that crime and violence goes well beyond dancehall - “The problem why the music is always blamed is because dancehall has that connection with the hardcore lifestyle of Jamaica that involves guns. Dancehall comes from the garrisons, the ghettos where the guns play a big part. A lot of artistes grew up in these communities where they saw a lot of the things, they sing about playing out before their eyes.” The statement above may be suggestive that the music is a reflection of what is already happening and not the other way around.

The professor, in another instance assured that dancehall artistes are not role models for her son. “His role modelling was first of all within the family.” Artistes have said they are just entertainers and should not be considered as agents of socialization and role models.  Recording artiste Konshens, in an interview conducted by the Loop group, “mi shy weh from it because is a whole heap a responsibility fi tek on a role like dat or fi she dat dis is yuh title, icon or role model.” Really, is it the artiste who decides if he is a role model, or is it his fans who make that decision? According to Ding Dong, another recording artiste, “yuh cannot view yuhself as a icon or role model. It is supn weh yuh get it from di love a di people or yuh circle if somebody look up to yuh its based on what yuh doing.” It is likely that despite who the artiste thinks he is, the audience’s perception of him decides how he is seen and perhaps how his music is used. The artiste does not have direct control over this, but does it mean the potency of his influence is lessened?

If it is to be agreed upon that the music and an artiste does not have an impact on societies’ beliefs and actions, it might also be agreeing that gospel songs cannot set the tone for worship, love songs have no romantic effect and that Dexta Daps’ concerts that have had women fawning over him, are not attributable to his sexually explicit music. Perhaps farther in memory is the rise in demand for the Clarks brand which many believed to have been because of Vybz Kartel’s ‘Clarks’ song.

The music however cannot be divorced from the context within which it operates. There are consumers who eat, sleep and drink lyrically violent music; those who do not always see the content of music as just entertainment, but real and doable practices, possibly solidified by the artistes’ whose characters have been questioned and others who have been convicted. One may even venture to say that the inadequacies of the justice system may imply that there are no serious consequences associated with criminal behaviour. Greater access triggered by globalization has allowed for the distribution of more powerful and deadly weapons in an environment that supports violent behaviour. Equally mentionable is a society that does not normalize therapy to facilitate healing from trauma endured. Also, let us also not forget the level of poverty that is crippling the society, that may make criminal activities appear attractive.  There really are so many factors outside of the music.

While an artiste cannot control these variables, it does not mean they have no involvement in the crisis. Music with violent content sometimes glorify violent behaviour and suggest creative ways for execution. It therefore calls on a collective effort to mitigate all the factors that could be at play in the continuity and rise in crime in Jamaica.

Credits to:

The Gleaner Group:  http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/entertainment/20201129/dancehallmurder-link-broken-record-crime-and-violence-goes-well

Loop News Group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNvGckS0JZo&t=124s


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