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Jamaica: Explicit music banned

Categories: Caribbean, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Arts & Culture, Language, Media & Journalism, Music, Protest, Women & Gender

The long-standing controversy over the appropriateness of certain music for public airplay has once again reared its head in Jamaica [1]. Following public discussion about a recent release by Vybz Kartel [2] and Spice [3] entitled “Rampin’ Shop” [4], the lyrics of which are particularly explicit, the Jamaica Broadcasting Commission [5] announced a ban on all sexually explicit music deemed inappropriate for airplay [6]. This ban went into effect on February 6, 2009 and covered all songs that promote the act of “daggering” [7], as well as any songs that use editing techniques to remove expletives and other lewd content.

Jamaican blogger, Girl with a Purpose [8] notes [9] that while she does think the ban will be effective in reducing the lewd music that is heard “for probably 50% of the time…via radio and television”, a large part of the responsibility lies with the adults of our society, especially parents, who need to censor themselves and realize that:

To expose their young children to lewd and explicit music, thus making them prematurely ready and aware of sex and violent acts, is wrong.

Another trend in these discussions is the issue of other musical genres besides dancehall [10] (i.e. soca [11] and calypso [12], hip hop [13], rap [14] etc.), especially as Jamaica enters its Carnival [15] season – a time when imported soca music [11] takes centre stage across the island. Amidst cries of hypocrisy by several Jamaican artistes who feel that dancehall is being unfairly singled out, MadBull [16], a Jamaican blogger in Cayman [17], writes that he fully supports the ban [18] and thinks it should be extended to any genre of music being considered for public airplay. He exclaims on his blog:

What about soca and hip hop and so on? I don’t care what the genre is! If the lyrics dutty, drop dem too! That's what I think! 

Outspoken Jamaican blogger, Agostinho [19], published on his blog [20] a letter he submitted to the editors of various local media [21] in which he discusses the need for dancehall to revamp its image. While he acknowledges the place of dancehall music in Jamaican society and its importance as the centre of popular culture, he feels that dancehall has a responsibility to the society from which it springs to reform its image…

not just in the interests of practicality given its increased powers of importance in the society, but also as a means of demonstrating its inherent versatility/creativity. The latter, as we are aware, goes beyond a focus on only themes of sex and violence. Excuses regarding a chronic lack of education on the part of many of its producers and artistes are an insult to the diversity of intelligence and depth of talent within the industry/culture. These must yield to the more urgent demands of true national development, cultural pride and meaningful progress. 

Stunner's Afflictions [22] also explains his thoughts on the ban [23]. He fully supports the move by the Broadcasting Commission, noting that it was long overdue:

It is their job to police what is good for public broadcast as prescribed by Television and Sound Broadcasting Regulations. So why did they have to wait on public outcry and pressure for them to take a step to ban such material? What have they been doing and what are they doing, for my hard earned taxpayer dollars? The Broadcasting Commission need to pull up their socks and this incident really shows them up.

His followup post on Valentine's Day [24] sought to remind readers of a crucial point: 

Not all of our Dancehall/Reggae music is less than desirable. There are still very good songs being played on our airwaves.

He goes on to share a video example of one such song, “Love Reigns” [25] by Tarrus Riley [26] and Bugle [27], two of Jamaica's newer artistes.

Since this public ban on explicit music, support has begun for more positive products to come out of the Jamaican entertainment industry. YardFlex [28], tagging itself as the Ultimate Jamaican Entertainment Magazine, reported recently [29] on Tychicus, a self-described healer and prophet who staged a one-man protest last year against “daggering” [30], and who has since come out with some clean dances that he says are inspired by the Almighty. 

This discussion is ongoing as the ban is only 10 days old and the full implementation and its effects are yet to be seen. Jamaican bloggers have all come out in full support of the ban, and see this as a time for Jamaican artistes to step up and prove their creativity to the world.