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In the Newsroom

October 2, 2009
No daggerin’ on Jamaican TV and on Worldfocus

Daggerin’ dancing at the Passa Passa Dancehall in Kingston, Jamaica. Photos: Gabrielle Weiss

Correspondent Lisa Biagiotti reported the signature story One island, two Jamaicas and a ‘whole heap’ of difference with Micah Fink and Gabrielle Weiss of the Pulitzer Center.

Lisa shares why Worldfocus didn’t broadcast daggerin’ images, addresses the realities of rampant violence and adolescent sex and recounts how some Jamaican artists are singing more uplifting gospel Dancehall music.

At the center of the music ban in Jamaica is daggerin’. Earlier this year, Jamaica’s national broadcasting commission banned sexually-explicit and violent lyrics and images related to daggerin’.

Worldfocus — based in New York City, not Kingston — also decided not to air these images because we thought our audience might be alarmed by the graphic nature of the dance. (Tell us below what you think of the daggerin’ images!) We didn’t mention daggerin’ in our video story because it begged the question…what is daggerin’?

Americans usually refer to this form of dancing as “freaking,” “bumping and grinding” or “dry-humping.” Urban clubs across the U.S. are packed with young people doing the American version of daggerin’.

In Jamaica, opponents of daggerin’ have described the dance as having sex with clothes on and even framed it as an aggressive, violent rape. Essentially, a woman bends over while a man pounds against her to the beat of the music. They liken the dance to a dagger stabbing piece of meat, violently and repeatedly.

The daggerin’ dance and the music that goes along with it slit Jamaican society. The Christian moral guard said children were overexposed to sex at an immature age. The defenders of Dancehall said the music mirrored the life and pressures in Jamaica’s poorest ghettos.

Turf wars and teen pregnancies

But behind the public music clash lurks the reality of rampant violence and adolescent sex in Jamaica.

Last year, 1,600 people were murdered mainly because of turf wars and reprisal killings. But this is still four to five  murders a day for an island the size of Connecticut with a population of 2.8 million. (Most murders are confined to waring communities and the result of turf wars and reprisal killings.)

As for sex, approximately 80 percent of children are born out of wedlock and 35 percent of Jamaican women are pregnant by age 19.

Put down the gun and praise the Lord to the tune of gospel Dancehall

Not all Dancehall music is “murder music,” and not all of it is so sexually charged it could electrocute you. The Dancehall genre can be broken down into three streams: hardcore (explicit), mainstream (radio and TV friendly) and gospel (uplifting and positive).

The Worldfocus signature story One island, two Jamaicas and a whole heap of difference focused on the hardcore Dancehall variety, examining Jamaican society through the lens of the public debate on daggerin’ music. Hardcore Dancehall has gained international airplay, but has also come under attack abroad. Concerts of Jamaican singer Buju Banton are currently being canceled in the U.S. because gay groups are saying his lyrics advocate the killing of homosexuals.

As for mainstream Dancehall, lyrics must be sanitized or changed completely for air play. For example, “Rampin’ Shop” became “Dumpling Shop.” The tune and rhythm were the same, but the lyrics were child-proofed.

When I was in Jamaica late last spring, I stopped over at Roots FM, a community-based radio station that pumps positive music and conversation into the inner cities. Every week, Dudley Thompson hosts “What’s the Verdict” — an American Idol styled contest where callers can vote on songs from emerging artists. The gospel Dancehall song “Same Gun” by Xtreme had won the contest. The song traces the cycle of violence committed by one gun that kills a person, is stolen and used again until it it is put down. The young artists of Xtreme, Chris D and Lyrical, dedicated the song to their three slain friends and hope their music encourages more peace and love.

LISTEN to Chris D and Lyrical’s song “Same Gun:”

Joel Harrison, known as Kruddy, is a DJ at and supports the music ban, believing that Dancehall artists are now forced to be more creative and are singing about the recession and fathers abandoning their children. Critics aren’t convinced the ban has had any real effect on artists because the realities in Jamaica’s inner city have not changed.

Keepin’ it safe with Daggerin’ condoms

And for his part, Vybz Kartel, whose sexually-explicit song “Rampin’ Shop” provoked the ban, has come out with a line of Daggerin’ condoms. Now you can dagger away to his sexually-explicit music, and should you feel compelled to take off your clothes, you’re equipped with his Daggerin’ brand of condoms. See the commercial below…and let me know what you think of the daggerin’ debate.

– Lisa Biagiotti




If we should trace back jamaican roots back to africa looking at the different tribes such as the ashanti tride we would recognize that these so called sexually explicit dance, was being done quit similarly. These dances was done as apart of there cultural, traditional dances and was expected to be learned by there ofsprings. When European colonist saw the way these dances were done they too just as many in todays society felt it was wrong and stop them from doing these traditional dances for this reason and others. People have different morales and cultural belief and I do believe this is another case of people with different cultural ways having a collision and one being more dominant stoping the other. For me personally i think many people make sex and topic of sex too big of a topic that they feel they should hide from children. Even nudity is aproached in quit a simular manner its all body just parts, They are even censoring animals having sex now. Are they going to put law animals having sex in public.


The concern that I have with Arron’s comment is that it descends into a moral and ethical relativisim that has no bottom. I cannot offer an opinion about what is good, bad, positive, or negative because everyone is allowed to adhere to the moral and ethical values that they espouse. While on the surface, his comments would appear to be an example of cultural relativism, allowing for an appreciation of the musical and cultural expression, the tenets of cultural relativism also realize that – like the forces of bioloigical evolution, the evolution of some behaviors can be detrimental to the society itself. Personally, I would have to understand a great deal more get a bead on the direction and trajectory of this behavior. I think Aaron’s comments to Lisa were unfair because hs is making an assumption and then running with it about her decsion not to air the piece. I did not get that from her writing at all. As for what gives anyone the moral authority to question, well, I do agree, but at some point a consensus has to be reached about the acceptable limits of behavior. I don’t think anyhone can – or should – enforce limits to behavior. The best way for it to change is from within. The real concern is that Aaron does seem to fit perfectly that contemporary ethos that permits everyone to have their own set of morals or ethics – down to the individual – and no one can question them. Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot would love that soft relativism!


Hmm, Tisk, Tisk; Let me get this straight, Lisa Biagiotti, you choose not to show images or videos of Daggering because you thought your audience would be alarmed by it. So I take it that you’re entire audience is either too fragile or they are all extreme religious conservatives: I guess I’m not counted in your audience? I have seen this dancing before and as such, knows what the term Daggering refers to, hence the very reason why I’m reading this article. Your rational therefore doesn’t hold much water and from the very content and tone of this piece, I’m leading to believe you are not a fan of it.

I wouldn’t dance it, because i’m an introvert but I do respect there right to express themselves in any manner they see appropriate as long as its being done by consenting adults who are well aware of indecency laws. Now there are a number of approaches you could have taken with regard to the “alarming” nature of these imagery, at a minimum or very least you could have done was have a link that led to a warning that explained the nature of the contents and give the reader the choice whether to accept to view or quit: But you didn’t give that option and so it begs the question of your motives here; it feels like you have a position in that piece.

I don’t get what gives some people the moral authority to say what is best for me, however thank you for concern and the preemptive forethought to the possibility of alarm; gasp at the mere thought.
The point I’m trying to get at here is that freedoms has its price and if we want to ensure that we continue enjoying those freedoms, then we must protect not just the ones we like but those that we don’t as well. You, Lisa Biagiotti, as a “Journalist” should appreciate this because modern history is filled with such stories.

As for the comment saying that its the lowest common denominator….. Sex is not a bodily function; it could be for you depending on what you’re doing but who am I to judge.

Remember, the people who do this are just trying to have fun and are not hurting anyone in the process; well, except some Victorian members amongst us.


lowest common denominator. have they truly run out of choreography and imagination that all they can think of is to mimick a bodily function. will they squat down and mimick defacating next? hmmm!


Thank You for not showing the images on television and for defining the term daggerin.
Could/should you have referenced and defined daggerin on air? Possibly. Should you have shown the images? No.


They call that dancing, I see it as nothing but a pathetic attempt at having “dry sex” in public. It’s stuff like this that have turned me off from my fellow country men.

The entire island is in need of drastic reform. These people have their priorities in the wrong place. This is plain ignorance on display.


Come on. That’s not dancing! The argument about the realities of ghetto life don’t make it here. Ghetto life isn’t about this stuff. It’s the music industry promoting ‘daggering.”


Calling others ignorant and prejudicial
about facts as seen in truth-telling videos
is like calling truth a lie and calling
the Day a darkness as black as Night
and just as dark!

But it is noted that some on Earth
know not the difference.


God is love. Nature is God’s creation. Love can soften nature the way Jesus calmed the storm. Nature is the earth’s character; she is a loving mother when she is loved or a punishment when she is treated with contempt. Examine how the earth was treated in places hit by natural disasters. Love the earth and she will love you. And if you need to know how to love the earth, ask God by reading THE HOLY BIBLE because I would tell you to provide education for all from kindergarten to the end of their lives in any subject desired for as long as desired. Loving your neighbor as yourself is desiring for your neighbor what you desire for yourself, and where there is a will there is a way once the desire is birthed. Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people who love others as Jesus loves them.


To label this form of expression as animalistic is more a show of ignorance and prejudice than it is any declaration on the part of the writer as being “better than that”. Educate your self to Khujaraho in India, Patan Square in Nepal, and indeed a large part of the creativity of Roman and Greek art (that is not known because it is censored and not shown in museums). Erotic expression is as much a part of humanity as is ritual cannibalism in Christianity. I find the latter example revolting the former…. just plain fun!


Aspects of Human Nature.

Nothing will change Nature.
Yet, Civilization may not agree
with what Nature is.

It is true Shadows inhabit the Day
as Twilight ignites the Night.

But for what “human” purpose?

And what “civilized” aspect
in “humans” will bring back the…


Will there be…a Morning?

Who can presume on the hidden
aspects of Nature…In Nature…
and in Humanity?

Is it “God or Nature”?

What will “explain” to us…
which is which?


Bunch of animals.

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