Dancehall deserves more respect - Industry players hope for change after genre highlighted at BET awards show

October 29, 2020
Beenie Man (left) and Bounty Killer performing at Reggae Sumfest 2019.
Beenie Man (left) and Bounty Killer performing at Reggae Sumfest 2019.

Approximately five months after the iconic Verzuz dancehall battle between Beenie Man and Bounty Killer, the genre was back in the spotlight on Tuesday as some of the island's most talented entertainers took over the BET Hip Hop Awards stage.

This time Bounty and Beenie were joined by Shenseea, Koffee, Skip Marley, with ZJ Liquid as DJ, to deliver a dancehall cypher that has Jamaicans beaming with pride.

But despite the positive exposure, there is still a question of whether dancehall music will be treated better on the global stage going forward.

In an interview with THE STAR, artiste manager Julian Jones-Griffith explained that after watching the BET performance, he is hopeful of a change.

"We have been marginalised by these mainstream platforms for decades, only to be called upon when they feel like they need a little flavour to spice things up instead of recognising that Jamaican music and culture is the main ingredient of everything else they are pushing. So, hopefully, this is the start of a more consistent approach by BET and the other platforms to recognise and incorporate the power and influence of the Jamaican music and culture," he said.

Recalling the infamous ' Billboard snub' in August when the magazine left off Bounty and Beenie's photos from the cover art of their story about the Verzuz effect, Jones-Griffith opined that perhaps this latest move by BET is a sign of good faith.

"A couple months back people were using the #TimeNow hashtag that was calling out the need for things like this and so a show like this is always good to see. You can tell from their (BET's) social media posts promoting the reggae/dancehall cypher that there is someone there who understands the culture, and, hopefully, it will translate to people on the inside of these platforms advocating for even more inclusion. In the meantime, all we have to do is keep lobbying and calling them out on it if they don't," he said.

Music analyst Donovan Watkis believes the inclusion of Jamaican acts in the BET show was a direct result of key local players speaking out about the unfair hand dancehall has been dealt perennially.

"So I'm looking forward to more in subsequent shows and across the BET network. They didn't include dancehall in the nominations or the awards but it's a start. After Verzuz, more people are recognising the pull of the future so all we have to do now is continue presenting the best when the opportunity presents itself," he said.

ZJ Liquid told THE STAR that although the experience was a start to changing how dancehall is treated by international platforms, he believes the genre has to be more respected locally first.

"Truth is, we out here pick and choose who we support. If a nuh fi dem artiste, some people act like dem nuh support the music and at the end of the day we are one industry so we have to act as a collective body. We need more love and unity in the music because if they see us segregated, then they will treat us accordingly," he said.

He said the support must also translate to areas such as music sales.

"If sales go up, maybe one day we can see dancehall represented in a category at the awards show and not just during performances," he said.

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