The last two years have seen an incredible rise in the use of dancehall and reggae influenced sounds in the mainstream. As a club and radio DJ, label owner and producer who specialises in these areas, this has filled me with both delight and frustration in equal measure.
Delight because the music that I am passionate about finally seems to be getting the props that it undoubtedly deserves, reaching an increased global market with strong support from streaming, radio and digital platforms.
Frustration because much of it seems to be an adaptation – or “borrowing” – of the music and culture, without due recognition of those who are at the heart of the movement.
While there is something fulfilling about seeing Justin Bieber, Maroon 5 or Ed Sheeran acknowledging the power of dancehall and reggae, I would also love to see acts such as Popcaan, Alkaline or Spice get their dues.
I have never had so much music to choose from for my weekly radio show on BBC Radio 1Xtra as I do now. I can quite easily have over 200 new pieces of music a week from Jamaica.
However, while it seems the glass ceiling of reggae being a “summer” genre and having minimal appeal outside these months has now seemingly been shattered, I do feel that the “cool” that comes with it has seen virtually every major label riding the dancehall train and looking for that “killer” remix.
There are a few A&Rs who are “directing” producers from other genres to “blend in a bit of that dancehall feel...”
The reggae industry has always seemed to work independently of the mainstream as a whole, and 2017 could be the time when the core artists can progress to the fore.
As a Grammy-winning producer, I have had many phone calls from labels “looking for that reggae touch” to their new pop project...
International producers such as Major Lazer have always shown great care, love and appreciation for the Caribbean culture, and have strived to bring dancehall artists through via their work.
Artists such as Busy Signal and Vybz Kartel have added to Diplo and the crew’s work and also benefitted from the collaborations with them.
New generation homegrown producers from Jamaica are now making music that can undoubtedly reach a much broader global audience. Hip-hop has managed to draw influences from Jamaica for a number of years, with everyone from Biggie and Jay-Z to Drake and Partynextdoor going fishing at the dancehall well.
It seems the collaboration of styles and influences have increased the appeal for the product from Jamaica, be it production or artists.
As a remixer and club DJ, I have been involved in the cross pollination of dancehall and hip-hop, but I feel the scales have now become way too unbalanced.
Listen to the production of Phillip “Winta” James, who was responsible for the 2015 Protoje album Ancient Future, and you will find a clean, crisp 21st century roots reggae sound that is palatable for core and mainstream radio in equal measure.
Winta is an accomplished musician who plays in Damian Marley’s band, and his cross-board musicianship has propelled both the Protoje and the acclaimed Sevana projects to a different level.
Producers Jordan McClure and David Hayle – aka Chimney Records – have been in the game for a decade and have worked with the likes of dancehall legends Bounty Killer, Mavado and Sean Paul amongst others.
Their production seems to get better and better and they are providing a lot of the musicianship for many of the tracks coming out of Jamaica, bringing the magic ingredient that makes them popular in the Kingston dancehalls as much as they are on the radio stations across Europe. A true gift.
The endless supply of talent in front of the mic is just as impressive. 2017 will be a critical year in the sound and development of music from Jamaica and it is exciting for me to see a new batch of artists such as Konshens, Charley Black and singer Romain Virgo picking up the baton from their predecessors.
So, the future looks very bright for dancehall and reggae, and once we can ensure this recent rush is not just a short term burst, we can try to make the sun stay out for longer...
Story By: Seani B