Last week provided another proud moment for Dancehall Reggae as the Canadian dance reality show and competition entitled: So you think you think you can dance; featured the recent hit song Clarks. As some might know, Clarks is a song paying homage to a Jamaican fashion tradition of wearing the British made Clarks shoes especially the Desert Boot and Wallabees. The song was produced by ZJ Chrome, and features Vybz Kartel, Popcaan and Gaza Slim. It continues to get major airplay on European, American and Caribbean radio stations.
Competitors Bree Wasylenko and Edgar Gilbert Reyes performed a dancehall set for the Canadian show using Clarks, to rave reviews from the judges and voting public. The video of the performance which shows the dancers beginning their routine with Edgar (toothbrush in hand) brushing off his Clarks before unleashing well choreographed authentic dancehall moves, along with behind the scenes footage of both performers trying to say the opening line, ‘wha ah gwan Popcaan’, instantly went viral on social networking sites especially Facebook.
Clarks is the third dancehall song to be performed on the Canadian dance show preceded by Erups’ Click Mi Finga and Sean Paul’s So Fine.
Dancehall producers need to take serious note of the kind of dancehall music that makes it to mainstream audiences. The lyrics are clean and all the songs are homophobia free. No dancehall song promoting murder and ‘shotta’ culture is taken seriously by mainstream audiences who possess the financial ability and influence to take the industry and the genre further.
It was just at the end of June that the UK Guardian newspaper carried an entire feature on the Clarks song entitled ‘Vybz Kartel puts Clarks footprint on Jamaica’. The writer of that article traced the over 30 year history of this Jamaican fashion staple and pointed out how the song sparked a renewed demand for the footwear brand among the young generations of dancehall. It posited that overall sales of Clarks in Jamaica, England and the US rose astronomically as the popularity of the song grew.
Dancehall reggae is a powerful genre that can directly influence the young and the young at heart. We have seen the damage that the Gully/Gaza feud recently had on the industry and the youth of the Caribbean. We have seen many instances where dancehall reggae has tarnished society through its foul, murderous and derogatory lyrics. The very Vybz Kartel who performed Clarks is guilty of spewing murderous, profane and sexually derogatory lyrics in much of his music.
I sincerely hope Kartel, his management team and rest of the dancehall administrators and producers recognize that when good quality dancehall is produced and marketed properly, the genre gets positive recognition internationally.
With recent songs like Clarks and Gyptian’s Hold Yuh, it can be emphatically stated that dancehall reggae is not dead; at least not just yet.