Dancehall reggae started in Jamaica during the 70’s as a stripped down version of reggae but by the 80’s was its own super popular type of reggae in both Jamaica and internationally. It evolved during the government transition away from socialism and towards capitalism as inner city Kingston residents were not allowed in the dances uptown. Many of the older rhythms of the 60’s were recycled with new voices and lyrics. Much of the rhythms came from King Tubby who was a sound engineer and would create vocal-less backing tracks that toasters/singers would use. Sugar Minott, who was working as a studio musician at Studio One would put his own voice and lyrics over old rhythms and is believed to be the originator of this style.
By ’81 a new generation of dancehall toasters had taken over the Jamaican music scene and toasting was more popular than singing. Digital recording took this to another level as sampling and musician-less rhythms became easier to achieve. Battles (think rap battles) with head to head deejay competitions took place at dancehalls sometimes ending in violence as loyal followers clashed over their favorites. One of the most successful artist to come out of early dancehall was Yellowman. He became the first Jamaican deejay to be signed by a major American label and at his peak was as big as Bob Marley in Jamaica. He was the most unlikely of stars, being abandoned by his parents due to being born an albino and grew up in an orphanage being shunned by his fellow orphans. Much of his earlier music like much of the dancehall of the time was about his sexual prowess like his huge hit Zungguzungguguzungguzeng.
I saw him after his King Yellowman album, a much lesser known act at the time Shabba Ranks opened for him who would go on to become a huge international hit.
But my favorite “Ranks” of the time was Nardo Ranks.
The genre is not all men though, acts like Sister Carol, Lady G & Shelly Thunder were also extremely popular.
I could go on, this genre doesn’t lack colorful characters but on with the show… Thank you for your continued support of DeadSplinter.