Dancehall: The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture

Author: Beth Lesser, Stuart Baker
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by grawprog   2018-08-25
I read this book a while ago about the history of Jamaican Dancehall music. I highly recommend it. It goes into a ton of history both about music and politics in Jamaica from the 50's to present day and is an amazing read if such things interest you.

Jamaican music in general is the perfect example of music theft giving rise to a whole new style of music. Ska music was created by Jamaican musicians trying to imitate swing and jazz music from America. From there it developed into rocksteady and reggae. At the time Jamaica had no copyright laws so songs were freely sampled and remixed back even back then. Most modern dancehall music still has it's roots in old baselines and melodies written back then. Because of the poverty in Jamaica, a lot of songs were remade and updated over and over again with different singers or musicians.

Hip hop was influenced by Jamaican dancehall brought over by people immigrating to new York and other cities from Jamaica. In the 80's dancehall tunes started sampling from hip hop tracks and a bunch of bands like Sublime took reggae songs and redid them. Every single one of Sublimes songs is a reimagining of either some some reggae, punk rock or old rock song. The downside to this is a lot of talented artists ended up dying broke despite having a bunch of hit songs. Producers who could afford equipment ended up owning the rights to a lot of the music and the artists tended not to be paid properly. Some of them eventually managed to get royalties if they became famous enough that big record companies took interest but for the most part they all lost money they should have been paid.

Now today there's dancehall and reggae festivals all over the world. Some of the biggest ones happen in Europe and Asia. Even Japan has a reggaeband dancehall subculture.

Reggae in general is a pretty cool, I don't want to say genre because there's so many different genres within reggae music, branch of music I guess. So much of it was made in so many different styles, sometimes dozens of different versions of the same song were produced. There's really a ton of music to discover.