Opinion

Is Dancehall Music Reggae?

There will never be a dancehall Grammy award for example, but there will always be a reggae Grammy, which Dancehall artists have always been nominated for and even won at times.

If you ask me, its an emphatic yes. There is however a movement afoot to describe dancehall music as its own genre separate and apart from Reggae music. The argument here seems to be that Reggae which traditionally has its sound more in roots rock is so far removed from the hyper hip-hop inspired lyrical combativeness of Dancehall music that it is so different that it is no longer and should not be considered Reggae music. I think that this movement is self-serving and incorrect. Dancehall has always been under the reggae umbrella hence the name Dancehall Reggae. I’m not entirely sure why Dancehall practitioners want and prefer for dancehall music to be considered its own genre. There is something to be said about a force of many.

There will never be a dancehall Grammy award for example, but there will always be a Reggae Grammy of which dancehall artists have always been nominated and even won at times. I am certain that Shabba Ranks, Shaggy, Beenie Man, and Sean Paul as examples of Dancehall artists who actually achieved a Reggae Grammy, appreciate the recognition under the Reggae umbrella. It makes more sense in my mind for dancehall music to be under the umbrella of Reggae music as a sub-genre along with roots rock, lovers rock, ska, dub, and yeah and dancehall. There was no beneficial reason for dancehall music to be considered its own genre. It does not benefit the music from a economical standpoint neither does it from the standpoint of acquiring new listeners. By all measures roots rock reggae and lovers rock far outpaces dancehall music in terms of popularity with a larger swath of active listeners.

Dancehall however is the young, hip, unruly sibling within the reggae family that chooses the forge it’s own way. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. However I think that it is shortsighted for dancehall practitioners to make a case for it to be it’s own genre and that it is not reggae music.

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