Dancehall had emerged in Kingston in the late 1970’s and was formed as a integration of several genres including Reggae, Toast, Ska, Rocksteady(has nothing to do with “Rock”) and R&B. The music as with all from Jamaican was formed amidst the hardships and trials faced by the ‘ghetto people’ of Kingston. The genre had began to gain grounds in the late 70’s and owes its name to the Jamaican “dance hall” sessions which were held in the poverty stricken Kingston suburbs.
The dancehall served as a substitute for the “uptown” parties, get together and socials which the typical Kingston resident couldn’t dream of attending due to his social class and at times colour. (No, that’s not a typo and I’m talking about Jamaica, but that’s for another time) In the in the dancehall sessions selectors and Dj’s would often play classic riddims and a popular act would toast over the sound. Because earlier forms of music were slow; such as Rocksteady producer like Junjo went back to the drawing board to create a new sound suited for the ever faster toasting.
An example of an early piece is from Yami Bolo who was 13 at the time of recording!
Yami Bolo – When a Man’s in Love.
Tenor Saw – Ring the Alarm
As the sound progressed the singing in the sound faded for a more suited form.
Yellowman – Zungguzungguguzungguzeng
Wayne Smith – Under Me Sleng Teng
The song above by Wayne Smith is considered to be the one which brought the digital sound to the new genre and is considered one of Dancehalls greatest hits.
Pt.2 will speak to the purpose of Dancehall and how it was used to bring to light the voice of the ghetto.