KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Jamaica Council of Churches has become the latest addition to the ongoing debate surrounding the purification of Jamaican dancehall music, with the organisation calling for a further ban to be placed on street and community dances, which perpetuate the playing of sexually crude and explicit songs.
The umbrella church agency has further called on the police to exercise a zero-tolerance approach towards both public and private vehicles with heavily tinted windows that play loud and vulgar music, claiming that this is contributing to the general degradation of morals in society.
The JCC, in a statement yesterday, said it was at one with the recent decision made by the Broadcasting Commission to ban the media from airing X-rated songs, such as the chart-topping hit by popular DJs Vybz Kartel and Spice, Rampin’ Shop, and other tunes which could be deemed to be ‘daggerin’ songs’.
The commission’s stance has sparked a lively debate across several sections of the country, but the majority of contributors appear to have sided with the attempt to clean up the airwaves.
Clean up music
General secretary of the JCC, the Reverend Gary Harriott, told The Gleaner yesterday that if Jamaicans were really serious about renewing certain values in society, then it must begin with cleaning up the music in the communities and public transportation.
He further said the council was not calling for a wholesale banning of street dances in general, but those dances that promoted the playing of explicitly sexual and vulgar songs.
“It is not that we are saying no dance, but those that communicate these kinds of sexual language and content of music, where no matter where you live, you are forced to hear it and be exposed to it,” Harriott said.
“If people want that kind of sexual entertainment, then it should be confined, so whoever wants it can go there, but you shouldn’t involuntarily have to deal with it.”
The JCC further said the playing of such songs in public buses and taxis has significantly contributed to the lewd behaviour of many of Jamaica’s schoolchildren.
“We have successfully created an appetite for looseness among so many of our children that they innocently and uncritically gobble up every meal of it that is presented,” the council said.
The JCC said it shared a similar concern for other genres of music that are considered inappropriate for the airwaves and public consumption, including soca and calypso.
However, dancehall promoter, Wayne ‘2gran’ Bartley, who is in charge of the popular street dance Dutty Fridays, said he had no problem with the Church calling for a general ‘cleaning up’ of the music, but that for the organisation to call for a banning of street dances altogether would be ludicrous.
Street dances have become a popular staple in the Jamaican dancehall diet over the years, with a dance fittingly named after every day of the week, including the most popular of the bunch, Passa Passa.
“As far as I am concerned, dancehall is pay-per-view; everybody doesn’t have to go to the dancehall, you go there if you want to,” Bartley told The Gleaner yesterday. “So, parents should monitor their children as to where they are not to go.”
He admitted, however, he was not against any attempt to improve the lyrical content of the present crop of dancehall songs.
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Cornwall ‘Bigga’ Ford, said the police already have a zero-tolerance approach to persons in breach of the Noise Abatement Act, as well as those buses and taxis that sport elaborate tints. He further said the police would continue to stand resolute in enforcing the law.
However, a senior police officer who also spoke to The Gleaner yesterday, but asked not to be named, questioned the approach of the Church.
“I don’t understand what they mean by this, because the Church has no control over what happens in the dancehall,” the police officer said. “There are people who believe that the Church is disturbing them in their homes too, who don’t want to hear the Church.”
He continued: “If the persons are in breach of any law, then the police will act accordingly, but you can’t ask that the street dance be turned off because you don’t like it.”