Years have come and years have passed but the debate continues today as to whether or not Dancehall music influences behaviour. It has sparked even more debate recently as the views of the former Minister of Youth and Culture, Miss Lisa Hanna circulated islandwide.

Critics argue that lyrics by various dancehall artistes can be violent and this affect the thought processes of individuals. While die-hearted supporters of the music oppose this view stating that the music is getting a fight, all agreeing that dancehall is intertwined in our culture and so it should be accepted, instead of embracing other countries music. Let us love our own!

Definitely all good points.

CAN MUSIC INFLUENCE THE BEHAVIOUR OF PEOPLE? 

To further understand this, we should first ask ourselves a few questions—Why do you listen music? Why do we prefer one genre of music over the other? How does that said genre or genres make you feel? Can music teach us about our brains? and can our brains teach us something about music? And is it possible that music is so profound that it can teach us something about ourselves? Is it nothing more than just entertainment? or is it–?

According to (Levitin, 2006), music can elicit emotions such as aggressiveness, happiness, sadness, relaxation, and frustration. In one study North, Tarrant, & Hargreaves demonstrated that participants who listened to upbeat music were subsequently more willing to engage in a helping behavior when asked to do immediately after exercising. Another study by Anderson, Carnagey, & Eubanks revealed that the effect of music on thoughts and feelings; participants who were exposed to a rock song with violent lyrics showed higher levels of hostile feelings than participants who heard a nonviolent rock song (as cited in UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research XIII, 2010, p. 1-2).

Dancehall Music, Crime and Violence in Jamaica

One could agree that the recent upsurge of anger portrayed by Jamaicans home and abroad, and the massive amount of violent threats sent to Lisa Hanna as it relates to her views on the now incarcerated Adidja Palmer (Vybz Kartel) confirms the information gathered by researchers and writers. The recent lock up of another popular Jamaican artiste “Alkaline” had individuals quite livid leaving a great stir of violent threats being sent to police officers and other individuals who dared to “diss” the “Vendetta Boss.”

Of course, there is not one side to a story; dancehall music is beautiful–JAMAICAN MUSIC is beautiful. The beats or “riddim” as we call it can make anyone dance. When I say anyone,  I really mean anybody. When you have five to ten artistes singing/DJing on one riddim that is something to applaud. That is harmony! When someone can vibe naturally to a song he or she doesn’t know, that is spectacular!!When we can just move our heads and that alone brings some sort of tranquility that is memorable!! So then why is it that critics believe our own music is related to crime and violence? Rubbish! Eh? How can it possibly cause one person to commit such acts?

According to the findings it would seem true that music has a great effect on the human mind both consciously and unconsciously, which cause individuals to act and think in a specific way. If the information from these studies are not fully true, they are partly true. In his article, O’donell (1997), he discussed that responses to music can be observed in humans that can affect them in both good and bad ways and these effects can be short term or long lasting. Music is thought to link all the emotional, spiritual, and physical elements of the universe. Music can also be used to change a person’s mood, and has been found to cause like physical responses in many people simultaneously. Music also can strengthen or weaken emotions from an event such as a funeral.

Personal Views and Recommendations

While I do not know if dancehall music is getting a fight or if those who are responsible for relaying information properly are not doing a good job; I do know two things, people tend to find all the bad in every situation which negates their belief so as to feed their ego. Secondly, dancehall music directly correlates to crime and violence in Jamaica. A study carried out by Crawford (2010) found that young females gravitated more to sexually explicit lyrical content, while their male counterpart showed more interest in the violent lyrics. Interestingly, the result also indicated that respondents mentioned that the lyrics of these dancehall songs inspired them to carry out various actions- sexual and or violent.

Now that we understand that music can impact us whether we are aware of it or not. Whether we agree with it or not. It can inspire both good and bad and until we all agree on this then we will not be able to reach a compromise. Let us disagree with each other but agree to disagree. We can all have a discussion while placing our biases aside for a few hours. Instead of verbally or physically attacking each other, what can we do to make both sides happy? Or what can we do for the greater good?

While the critics blatantly blame dancehall for illegal activities, it should be considered that dancehall music is a wide genre. It goes beyond a violent or sexual lyric. It goes as far as Japan! “Cornbread” can tell you. Yes it influences young and old people alike in ways some would not dare to imagine. It also brings different people from different cultures together. Systems should be put in place to balance the music, but it has to start with the people.

Observation shows that people tend to gravitate towards a specific genre of music as a result of three top reasons; the environment they are in, how they socialize and their perception of life. The issue we are facing with the dancehall and crime saga is that there are people who are not able to control their own thoughts and actions. If people understood that they are not to take a violent lyric literally then the situation would have been different. We need to find a way to inform and educate citizens about their own beliefs-their frame of reference. This will be a tedious task, but it is possible. The Hon. Andrew Holness in his statement mentioned that, “In other societies, you go and you watch the movies and it is not just dancehall, it’s just general. You have hip hop, you have rap music; we are just bombarded with things that have different moral perspectives. But, if you have a well-educated society that can place these things in context,and say this is art, this is from one’s own belief, it’s not what I necessarily believe, or I know that what this person is saying is wrong, then your society can survive that”, Balford (2017). I have to agree with every word! If more time was spent educating people about the power they have within oneself, the world would have been so much better. However, that is a whole other story!

Some may argue that it is not the music but the person that is the problem. You are right! It is the person- the person being influenced by the music! Then tell me, why do we listen music when we are sad, upset, when we want to feel happy, when we want to feel motivated to do something, for example: An assignment. Why do they play music during a workout session? Better yet why do people prefer listening to music during sexual intercourse? Because we do not want to hear our sexual partners’ sounds? If music can inspire people to do good things, why would it not influence people to do bad things?

We should not hide from the fact however that dancehall music can be very distasteful. To the point where the parties are being banned in different countries because of its violent and sexual nature. Though it is a form of entertainment one should not turn a blind eye to the evidence that it contributes to the actions of our citizens. Because some content is killing the music. Do not hide from it! Instead of arguing that the music is getting a fight we should first listen to what exactly is being said about it, since some valid points are being made whether by Police Commissioners, Lisa Hanna, Flex etc. Listen to what the  “selektas” say then listen the song they play afterwards. When a young child can quote any violent line or lyrics by a dancehall artiste with no remorse when he speaks to an adult “Shot dem and figot dem boy haffi dead when dem si mi strap dem…” that shouls make you say hhhmmm… It is a “wickid” song, quite entertaining but how many people (NOT ONLY KIDS) will see the creative metaphors, the puns, the rhythm and will think that it is only a a beautiful song?

Artistes also know that music has great effect on people. Majority, if not all the time when they are being interviewed and are asked the reasons behind the recording of a specific song, it is typically said that they wanted to INSPIRE people through their music.  This is the same reason why they sing about things that are real in society. Jesse Royal did not get up one day and create a “Modern Day Judas” because they are all around.  I could go on and on…

Music influences people to engage in different activities. It influences me too maybe that is the reason why my playlist is filled with happy, positive music. What we need is an understanding of each other’s view. Even though dancehall promotes misogyny and consequently illagal sexual conduct as well as murders and the like, its entirety is not focused on those factors and people love and enjoy different aspects of it. It should further be noted that what might have an impact on one person might not be the case for another. It all comes back to the philosophy! The only way to solve it is having a balance on both sides as well as putting the bias aside to understand each other.

Do I think the music should be banned? NO!

Do I think some contents should be assessed?  Yes!

Can it be resolved? Definitely!

Y.C.

References

Balford, H. (2017). Holness says no to censorship of the arts. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-says-no-to-censorship-of-the-arts_90736

Crawford. A.D., (2010).The effects of dancehall genre on adolescent sexual and violent behavior in Jamaica: A public health concern https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354427/

Levitin, D. J. (2006). This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. New York, NY: Dutton.

Huda, F., & Ganser, J. (2010). Music’s Effect on Mood and Helping Behavior. UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research XIII, 2010, p. 1-2.

O’donell, L. (1997). Music and the Brain.  http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n15/mente/musica.html

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