Patterns pay homage to the inherently vibey genre of Dancehall on the 5th of July with a host of Brighton’s best local selectors.
There must be something in the water over in Jamaica; for such a small island their impact on the global music scene has been absolutely enormous. And that’s no exaggeration, from the many facets of sound-system culture all the way through to the Rastafarian movement and Bob Marley, they have consistently brought fresh cultural ideas to the rest of the world. Through the Ska and Rocksteady that came over to the UK via the Windrush generation, closely followed by the massive and enduring success of Reggae, Jamaican music has continuously found new audiences, playing an instrumental part in musical evolution in the process.
Since the 1980s it has been the genre termed Dancehall that has reverberated most strongly with folk at home in Jamaica and further afield. Born out of the adoption of new technologies, and changing attitudes to the essential dynamic between singer, DJ and MC, this new sound began to grow in the early 80s, spurred on by key figures such as Yellowman. For a while he enjoyed levels of popularity that only Bob Marley could have matched, becoming the first Jamaican “deejay” to be signed to an American major label. It is crucial to make the distinction between modern DJ and “deejay” here, as they are far from the same thing. In sound-system culture the “deejay” typically played the role of what we would now consider the MC, “toasting” or rapping along to an instrumental in order to ramp up crowd excitement.
Before the late 70s this was something that was largely only seen at live events such as sound clashes or gigs, but it became increasingly common to see on the flip side of popular singles, and it wasn’t long before deejay artists were beginning to record full-fledged songs of their own. This was a development that would be crucial in the evolution of Dancehall – it is very rare to hear a track from the genre where the lyrics are 100% sung, and the intrinsic dynamism of toasting is crucial to many of the track’s rhythmic qualities. Take Cutty Ranks’ seminal track “Limb By Limb”, for instance, and you can see how much this style of vocal delivery influences the track’s bouncy and infectious nature.
The affects of this shift towards rapped lyrics rather than sung can be seen in anything from Hip-Hop to Grime, well and truly setting the blueprint for several offshoots in the decades that followed. And as time went on Dancehall would become more and more of its own genre; whilst the first riddims used were strictly of Reggae descent, the sounds were beginning to change more and more to suit the vocals. The introduction of MIDI and similar new digital production technology played a massive part in this, and before long instrumentals utilising this began to flood the market.
In the early 90s Dancehall is widely recognised to have been in its golden era, with a range of artists such as Buju Banton, Cutty Ranks and Beenie Man making a slew of very well received singles. By now the genre had fully capitalised on its inherent dance-led nature, and the instrumentals perfectly reflected this, often utilizing faster rhythms and the iconic drum pattern found in Soca, Kuduro and High Life amongst other things. Dancehall, by now, had achieved its own status as something more than mere genre but genuine cultural trend. Political upheaval in Jamaica changed many attitudes that Reggae had helped popularise, placing more emphasis on individuality and a sense of self.
Whilst this was not an inherently bad thing, it did lead to a rise in the problematic nature of Dancehall, namely in the objectifying of women and homophobia. Buju Banton, for instance, began his career with some wholly controversial lyrical content, but later embraced Rastafarianism and backtracked on a lot of his previous material. Still though, the genre’s problems have not completely gone away, although due to the influence of mass media there is now a certain stigma around its name in some circles. Nonetheless, nowadays Dancehall stars such as Sean Paul or Popcaan are certified global pop stars in their own right, and many artists like Drake and Rihanna have used the genre as a crucial inspiration.
Although it is obviously incredibly popular – just look to The Heatwave and popular music trends – purely Dancehall events can be quite hard to come by, especially if you’re looking for the real deal, not a watered down commercial version. You would think that, with the popularity of events such as Hot Wuk, there would be more nights perfectly catered to fans of the genre, but alas, it is not always the case. Ever the people looking to bring something fresh to the Brighton clubbing scene, Patterns have decided to throw a free Dancehall party with some of the city’s finest local selectors joining for the ride.
The most exciting face on the line-up has got to be local stalwart KXVU, a man responsible for more than several Grime hits, as well as the burgeoning UK label Southpoint. Although it is not his main line of work, the man is somewhat of a Dancehall fanatic, and so it is incredibly rousing to see him play set of the genre. What’s more is he is joined by veteran MC Danny Jaqq, a tried and tested combo that has turned dance-floors upside down across Brighton, as well as at the iconic Fabric. The possibilities are endless when these two link up for a super special Dancehall set, it is sure to be one to remember.
Elsewhere a partnership between local selectors Baloo and Movement winds back the clocks. These two started out life as a core DJ duo, however it has been a while since they have taken to the booth as a sole pairing. Although both multi-genre specialists they hold a soft-spot for Dancehall and other carnival-centric genres, as proved by their popular events brand Tropicalé. Take one listen to their guest mix for Native a couple of years back and you will be immediately well acquainted with the feverish energy they bring to the table.
Mac-99 is another Dancehall aficionado who gets the call up, every Thursday from 12-2 he holds down a Trickstar Radio show that often touches on the genre, and appearances around Brighton clubs further exemplify his prowess. Another exciting addition to the line-up is rising Brighton multi-genre DJ I-Sha, who has continuously been making her mark on the city in recent times. Part of the crew behind SHOOK there is absolutely no doubt she will smash it down in the Patterns basement. Saffia Ghorishi rounds things off, ensuring that the line-up is absolutely saturated with talent. And it’s all for free too with your name on the Facebook wall, what are you waiting for?
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