Sunday, December 27, 2009

Local Academics Blamed for Falling Standards

Daraine Luton
Several local academics who daily sing the praises of dancehall, as well as its main practitioners, are being blamed for the falling standards of Jamaica's music.
In fact, at least one veteran player in the music industry believes these dancehall apologists are only seeking ways to promote themselves.

Mikey Barnett, veteran producer, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week that the strong defence of dancehall being mounted by academics is "self-promotion and not about the music".
"These are persons who left Jamaica, came back to Jamaica, and wanted to find a way to get known in a hurry, and so they jumped on the dancehall bandwagon," Bennett charged.
He added: "The quickest way to get known in the society and to make a name in the society was to support a cause that the grass-roots people in Jamaica, which are the majority, are associated with, and that was dancehall music."

The music producer, who told the editors' forum that he was not a fan of dancehall music, is the second person in recent weeks to articulate such views.
Dr St Aubyn Bartlett, member of parliament for Eastern St Andrew, told a parliamentary committee recently that the "new PhDs" are responsible for the continuation of the foul lyrics being spewed from the dancehall.

Bartlett was responding to Cordel Green, executive director of the Broadcasting Commission, who told the Human Resources and Social Development Committee of Parliament that a teacher-education programme on media literacy was being developed.
Green said the aim was to help schools to protect students from poisonous music.
But Bartlett said he was concerned because the "educators of these trainers - and I am speaking about some of the new PhD and the new master of science in dancehall and in you know, all kinds of things - sometimes the defence that they put up for these dancehall artistes, you wonder whether these persons are supposed to be training the trainers to deal with children at the primary level."

Added Bartlett: "... When a professor from the university backs the Gaza and Gully and the dancehall tradition in some of the wickedest lyrics that come out of it, you know, you hear at the corner from the professor or from the university man, dem like it, so a must something good."
However, at least one academic has taken issue with the criticisms of persons who study dancehall.

Dr Donna Hope-Marquis, a lecturer in Reggae Studies at the University of the West Indies, said it is not ignorance that motivates people to hold such antagonistic views of students of the art.
"It could be selective amnesia and selective reading," Hope-Marquis.
"It would be good if individuals who talk about something that is an important part of Jamaican dancehall culture would read some of the works that have been done on dancehall," Hope-Marquis said.

She argued that history demonstrates that music forms, such as reggae and mento ,have been subjected to similar criticisms in the past and time has vindicated them.
"I found it very interesting that almost 50 years ago, we were having very similar discussions about a part of our popular music, which was seen as having the propensity to damage the psyche of our children," she reasoned.

The Reggae Studies lecturer and dancehall expert said that an unfortunate aspect of public discourse was a propensity to dismiss aspects of Jamaican culture as bad.
"It would be very good if we try to move away from painting our cultural output as one thing only and look at it as a whole, which has many facets," Hope-Marquis said.
Notwithstanding the criticisms, Hope-Marquis has pledged not to back away from studying and documenting the music form called dancehall.

"If I am not a part of the documentation of Jamaican culture, what happened with reggae where 90 per cent of what is written is written by people who are not Jamaicans, the same thing will happen with dancehall. I live here and I consider myself a student of Jamaican culture and I will continue to do the work, even when I have to do it at odd hours," Hope-Marquis said.

1 comment:

  1. He's just talking out of his ass the same way as some of the academics he's pillorying. What makes his opinion of any more value than anybody else's? Why is this even published? These talking heads clearly need each other for legitimacy and to generate hype. Next, look out for the response from Carolyn Cooper in next week's Gleaner, and so it goes on... The only person at UWI who's doing anything that can be called scholarship on dancehall is Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, and even she needs to work hard to resist the insularity and anti-theoretical stances of her colleagues.