On industry, slackness and spirituality

Another influence was the growing backlash against “slackness” and “violence” music in certain circles. Hence the “banning” of Lady Saw from  performing in Montego Bay proclaimed by that city’s Mayor after her notorious success at one of the music festivals there; or the decision by various members of the Jamaican Federation of Musicians to refuse to provide musical backing for singers of slackness or violence, or a renewed policy of filtering of much of this music by certain of the radio stations and a corresponding promotion of “spiritual” music.

The conditions in the “industry” were therefore conducive to a renewal. It is obvious that the swing benefitted enormously from the emergence of heavily “spiritual” singers of the quality of Garnet Silk in the early nineties, or Luciano slightly after, but the dance hall also experienced a duality in some and an outright “conversion” in others of its major figures. Lady Saw, for example, the top female D.J. who continues to be the undisputed queen of sex lyrics, can sing a highly successful song of praise and thanks to God (“Glory be to God”) for her material advancement resulting from those same “slackness” songs. In the midst of his 1991 album of sex lyrics, “Gold”, Capleton sings a song “Bible fi dem,” proclaiming his religious righteousness. It is neither that these singers are being inconsistent nor that they are being opportunist. Indeed, their reconciliation of sex with spirituality is consistent with a value system that does not dichotomize carnality and spirituality.

Naturally, such a mix does not meet with approval from orthodox Rastafari. In discussing “the anointing” of dancehall, Yasus Afari argues that: “You cannot accept just any song into the dance because the dance is to praise Jah.”

Even Capleton becomes intolerant of sexual lyrics in his more recent phase. And yet, Bob Marley had no difficulty in singing songs of sexual expression, if not slackness, recognizing the validity of this human dimension, just as front-line “conscious” singers like Buju Banton today defend the mix of carnality and spirituality.

Found in: Babylon to Vatican: Religion in the Dance Hall
Author: Joseph Pereira
Source: Journal of West Indian Literature, Vol. 8, No. 1 (OCTOBER 1998)

Image source: Lady Saw Net Worth

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