Sunday, May 15, 2011

back at the beginning of the love story...

Bored with mediocre cable I found myself encapsulated by the riveting film-making that was Grease 2. Almost upon arrival Michael zeros in on Stephanie and decides that's my girl. He makes and move, she shoots him down but not without dropping a hint. "I need a cooooollll rider." Thus begins the journey of Michael becoming the man Stephanie WANTS. And so it goes from 'Sixteen Candles' to 'Ten Things I hate about You'. Love is sold to us as sacrifice, change and compromise. Even when we take the love out of high school and into 'Sweet Home Alabama' or 'Love Jones' its the same story. Its not a series of perfect dates. Its a moment. Love is seemingly some moment that you either pay attention to or ignore. Whether you follow the moment or ignore it- you're haunted.

It follows you. It judges you. It lingers on your shoulder within each moment of the impending love story. You break up with someone and in the postmortem you're bound to say "well we didn't have an instant connection so.." or "i felt it, the moment we met. i don't know what changed." The middle of the love story or the end of the story always has us revisiting the beginning. Actually the middle or end of any love story has us revisiting the beginning of every love story. It's the search for the Why? What's my type? Why is this perfect or not perfect? What makes this love and that a fling? Someone told me once that each person is allotted five great loves and your soul mate may never be your lover. Of course it made no sense to me. That's not what the movies say neither the romance novels nor that voice in your head.

So you're back at the beginning of the love story. Are we star-crossed lovers? We must be. We had this moment in the past and left it there. So why are we having it again? Today? In a public place at that. Even worse. If you have this moment with more than one person does that make you a whore or someone living with a series of incomplete love stories? Why do we always find ourselves back at the beginning of the love story?

For me it could be because I have never dated. I have never had that moment where someone sees you and wants to get to know you and asks you out and you say yes and prepare for a potentially awkward meal of avoiding the garlic. I don't try things. In the game of love I don't play. I don't take chances. I have no impulses. In the game of love. I have fallen and risen all without any reciprocation from the other person. I suppose we return to the beginning of the love story in search of ourselves. Love takes of us and what it takes we will never get back.

This is what I kept thinking as Michael the British Nerd became Michael the cool rider simply to be noticed. Its also the question I asked myself as Patrick Dempsey fell apart in 'Can't buy me Love'. Of course I also wondered if other people were having this intellectual experience while watching these rather basic and Utopian love stories.

And then like a lightning bolt it hit me. I am Michael. I am that grand romantic gesture. I play Russian Roulette with my heart. I am my Achilles heel. While existing in the middle of the love story my mind is always regressing to the beginning, to the moment because I'm certain in that moment I immediately gave up something to get you to look back at me. Maybe I should have watched that movie with a glass of rum and ting and then this blog post would have gone in an entirely different direction.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dancehall Music: Shooting itself in the FOOT!

Dancehall Music: Shooting itself in the FOOT!
Yes I said it and I won’t be taking it back. Like other Jamaicans I have listened to the jeering and mockery made of Keith “Shebada” Ramsay as speculation of his sexuality looms. I have pointed my gun finger to songs by artistes like Elephant Man, Assassin, and Vybz Kartel using ‘Shebada’ as the symbol of a ‘battyman’. I am 27 years old but I have worked in entertainment for more than five years and without fear I state that dancehall music is advancing the gay movement.
Dancehall Artistes have taken a clear and affirmed stance on homosexuality. So vocal has the industry been of its dislike of homophobia that I posit that it is the music that is the primary contributor to Jamaica being labelled the most homophobic place in the world. We witnessed Shabba Ranks catapult from the top to the bottom with a single opinion. Buju Banton’s career though reflective of maturity seems to be forever overshadowed by the lyrics of Boom Bye Bye. Elephant Man, Beenie Man, Capleton, Sizzla and so many more have all been dropped from concerts for their violent and homophobic songs. Dancehall would argue that with groups like OUTrage and the Stop Murder Music Campaign it wouldn’t be such a big deal but I beg to differ. This is suggestive of a larger societal problem- the trivialising of violence but that is for another article.
In spite of it all the one question we can’t seem to answer is from whence did this lyrical obsession come? I theorise that homophobic lyrics are simply a natural progression from the violent lyrics that have been a dancehall music staple. There is a violent dancehall song for every societal wrong- aggression seems to live in the heart of the music. Take for example, the way these repeatedly self-proclaimed heterosexual men speak about women- violently. Sadly, dancehall music and the artistes that produce it are a reflection of the wider society. However, if the sale of cake soap has proven anything, it’s that dancehall music possesses great influence.
“The militant anti-homosexual attitude of Jamaicans, men and women alike, is startling. Few subjects arouse such strong emotions here and polls have shown a strong majority in favour of jailing homosexuals,” leading to a situation where, “no stage show goes by without at least one ringing condemnation which inevitably draws a huge chorus of approval from the crowd.” (Chang & Chen, 204) Barrow & Dalton attempt to explain, although not justify, this bigotry. “Some psychologists, accurately or not, attribute this to a lack of real male self-confidence in a society where 85 per cent of children are born out of wedlock, and the vast majority of boys lack full-time male roll model while growing up.”
- ‘Reggae routes: The story of Jamaican music’, written by Kevin O’Brien Chang and Wayne Chen. Temple University Press: Philadelphia, 1998.

Do I agree with the above statement? Yes. Does it apply in 2011? Yes. But I add this, in seeking to affirm his heterosexuality the dancehall artistes has embraced ‘homosexual stereotypes’ with the hope of undermining the movement. This action will inevitably aid homosexuals in ultimately attaining their just reward- basic human rights.

Let us begin with the supreme symbol of homosexuals receiving rights in Jamaica- Adidjah ‘Vybz Kartel’ Palmer. I would go one step further and say the Gaza is making it easier to be gay in Jamaica. Dancehall’s current ‘hero’ has released a statement addressing his hair extensions much in the same way he released on addressing his skin lightening. Kartel as always is baffled by the uproar after all he had extensions at Sting as he flew fist first into the face of Ninja Man and claim that TOK and I-Octane have also worn extensions. I join Kartel’s name calling and present my own example- Harry Toddler. We all know that blonde mane is not his. And let’s not forget Beenie Man’s curls from the early days. Yet, dancehall artistes continue to wear these “homosexual” styles with their only defence being “bad man nuh dress like girl”. Yes they do. Dancehall music has become increasingly homophobic while the dancehall space and its artistes have become increasingly feminine. To what else do we owe songs such as “Too Much Bull” by Macka Diamond and other female artistes or “Couple Up” by Elephant Man. “Too Many Men” by Busy Signal focuses on the massive male entourage but it’s a testament to the feminising of the space. Think back? How often did you see a car full of men before the turn of the century? Or ten men walking into a party that made no attempt to get a girl? Exit Ouch Crew and enter Ravers Clavers. This musical space founded on violence, rebellion and misogyny is shooting itself in the foot. Dancehall music is a slap in the face of men and women who struggle to live their lives as humans.

Elephant Man with his penchant for hair dye, extensions, costuming and pageantry is dancehall music’s Elton John. Both artistes flamboyance are legendary. It seems to me that that dancehall’s over-emphasis is fuelling the fight, energising the charge, giving the movement greater purpose and support. And the industry is scared. I-Octane has released 3 songs in less than six months lauding homophobia. The ‘rules and laws riddim’ released in April is dedicated to the advancement of homophobia, Assassin’s song the ‘Type R riddim’ is also rooted in homophobia. Dancehall is dancing around itself as homophobia struggles and acceptance saves itself from drowning. Female artistes are spitting lyrics like some of the greatest rappers of all time while their male counterparts are ‘tracing’ like vendors in coronation market. Jamaican women are wielding their gay best friends like treats and treasures through Kingston’s streets. The more you attempt to prove that pink is a manly colour is the more blurred the line that separates heterosexuality and homosexuality becomes. Popcaan’s song ‘Tight Jeans’ on the Type R riddim is in defence of his tight jeans. For an industry that’s trying to detract gay attention they are calling a lot of attention to their masculine parts.
Dancehall music is a witch’s brew of hypocrisy. It says one thing and does another, creates stereotypes and then represents them. Thus can you honestly be shocked by the new found confidence of the homosexual on Jamaica’s streets? Can you be shocked at last year’s march in Montego Bay? More importantly can you truly find a justifiable reason for your homosexual hatred with all that has happened? Is it truly necessary? As dancehall artistes lose concert dates, salary, radio airplay, CD sales and continue to be labelled some of the most violent people in the world- is the price truly worth it?
They say when you tell a child not to do something that’s the moment they choose to do it. So is it safe to say, the more you tell a man not to be himself the more likely he is to embrace who he truly is? The graduation from ‘Boom Bye Bye’ to ‘marrow on smouldering asphalt’ only seems to be deflating the movement. Anti-homosexual songs aren’t number one anymore just another moment on the riddim. Where do we go from here dancehall? What’s the plan? Dancehall will never permeate the world as it predecessor reggae has for one reason. Reggae was founded on love while dancehall is angry and in pain. Interesting… Homosexuals are angry and in pain. Dancehall music in 2011 finds itself still struggling to be accepted as just another form of music. Homosexuals in 2011 find themselves still struggling to be accepted as just another form of human. Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we’re at a stalemate.

Cowfoot Macka? Mercy said no...

Dancehall has reached its lyrical plateau. The artistes have clearly peaked and we the fans are paying a heavy price. Its the vivid images that dancehall can paint in your mind with a jackhammer and the eye of a needle that makes this art form brilliant. *Southern Baptist Preacher’s Voice* But when we reach a place in the music when we can conceive of comparing the BEST of a man to a cowfoot there is something seriously wrong with the way our minds work.
I understand that length, girth, height, width, breadth and the size of a man are national treasures and we live to encounter the “anaconda weh longa” but nuttin nuh wrong if yuh guh to yuh fren and cal it di same ting weh she call it. Maybe this is the real problem. We all want our man penis to feel unique and special so David have di anaconda and Richard have the python and Toni own is like a leopard- agile and graceful. But we have to tek time wid these things. Has Macka really stopped to tek a good look on a cowfoot? Has she considered the ramifications of a man walking up to some poor unsuspecting lass and saying “baby, a me have di cowfoot we yuh need yuh nuh”? And what she muss respond wid? “A me have di broad bean wid di gravy”?

And please note that she took the time to differentiate between chicken foot, goat foot and her beloved cow foot. This song did not stop to consider the large section of the population that has no interest in cowfoot pon dem dinner table much less inna dem bed. And as was pointed out ‘cow foot walk inna dodo’ and she uses this to compliment the BEST part of a man. And don’t worry people there is a dance and an event because this a phenomenon, a multi-tiered business plan, the next wave in musical enjoyment. We are bringing the awesomeness of the cow foot to the fore. This is music in the key of foolywang.
Yuh know what dancehall needs? A voice of reason. Someone with human or extra-terrestrial it really does not matter at this point to vet these songs before sending them out into the public domain. The people demanding it now because this is beyond ridiculous.