Dancehall has a very bright future, roots reggae singer Etana believes.
The singer, who has emerged as one of Jamaica’s biggest cultural acts on the back of songs like her inspirational hit Roots, says a lot of creative talent is emerging that will take the music to greater heights.
“Dancehall is on the verge of being very creative,” she said. “You are going to find some very talented youths coming up with some well-put-together songs.”
This emergence of talent, she believes, will force some of what happens in dancehall today to change for the better. There has been an emerging cry in recent times about the violent and sexually explicit nature of some of the lyrics coming out of dancehall, given the rate of murder and rape being committed on the island.
It was on that premise that the Broadcasting Commission, the body mandated to ensure that the content being broadcast on Jamaica’s electronic media is appropriate, recently imposed a ban on sexually explicit songs from the airwaves.
Members of the entertainment industry were livid, but the move by the commission was widely hailed. There is the perception, however, that more needs to be done.
But Etana feels that soon, many of the artistes who create the offending songs will be forced to become more creative. “I just don’t think that adult poetry is an excuse for creating any ol’ song for any child to sing,” she said. “Music is something that children catch on to pretty fast. The more positive you can make it, the more positive the next generation can be. The influence of music is more powerful than governments.”
The Learning for Life – Project Artiste programme is also something she believes will help force change for the better within the industry. Under the programme, about 40 young people are chosen from inner-city communities to learn skills that will allow them to be employed within the entertainment industry and thus be able to provide for themselves and their families.
At the recently held Red Stripe Live event held at Sabina Park, the students assisted in what was generally considered a high-quality production.
“They were working on the set, doing the lighting and the wiring, and the extra stuff on stage and they’re learning and all those people who have been in the industry for a long time, they were there endorsing the youth, introducing them to a new world of music. I think it’s remarkable,” she said, describing the show as a success.
These are the things, she says, that make her see a bright future for the genre.
“I think gone are going to be the days when we just jump up on the stage and say, ‘boop, boop, boop, pull up’ and the show done. The dancehall will be a dancehall we all want to go to,” she said.