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 876radio.com 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
- Watch the signature story about how public responses to the ban reveal the legacy of two Jamaicas dating back to the country’s slave history: One island, two Jamaicans and a ‘whole heap’ of difference.
- Watch Jamaican Dancehall artist Spice sing about the poverty plaguing Jamaica’s ghettos.
- Watch all the Worldfocus In the Shadows video signature series
- For more information on homophobia and HIV in Jamaica, visit The Glass Closet, a multimedia project produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.