5 things to know about Kingston's Dancehall party scene
Updated: Oct 20, 2019
Kingston is the birthplace of dancehall music and is still it's cultural capital. It's a unique genre with its own rules and attitude. Born from sound system culture and stimulated by the African tradition of rapping, Dancehall has been influential in spawning Hip Hop and EDM among other musical genre's. To better enjoy what it offers, understand ...these things;
Don't go early
Even though sound systems start playing from earlier in the night, most good dancehall parties don't get warmed up before 2am. Most people who go to dancehall parties dont leave home before they get there and usually rest up and dress up to go. Quite often parties go on til daylight. There are exceptions where some events get going at around 12am as a warm up and usually oldies are played, including classic Reggae and dancehall music.
2. It's all about attitude
Dancehall patrons are usually dressed well and a premium is placed on having style and being different. Often women will wear risque and revealing outfits while men may wear the latest Italian inspired fashions. Nevertheless, there is no dress code stipulation and many of our guests have attended these events in t-shirts and slippers. People spend most of the night drinking, smoking listening to the music and vibing. Keeping your cool and maintaining your pride is always the posture (it's not considered cool to get drunk and lose your senses at these events) . Oftentimes our guests don't understand why "nobody is dancing", it's about vibe and attitude. The dancehall event is organic and people have to be swayed by the skill of the selector/DJ to get excited. Although it might seem boring to people who are accustomed to just go to a party and dance feverishly and go home, it can be considered exciting because the party evolves naturally rather than being a predictable ritual. Despite this, the dancehall scene is accommodating to those who wish to dance and express themselves.
3. The DJ/Selector talking alot and "pulling up" tracks is a part of dancehall and not an annoyance
Many of our guests who don't understand dancehall complain that DJ/Selector keeps stopping the music and talking. This is an integral part of original dancehall. The DJ's speak in Jamaican Patois which our guests don't understand and compounds their frustration at times. What people need to understand is the selector/DJ/MC is the star of the show and what he does is considered an art. It is exactly what inspired rapping in hip hop as a Jamaican named Cool Herc, took this to the Bronx in NY in the 70's and it became hip hop. The DJ teases the audience right through the night and takes them to the climax at the end of the night or the end of his set. Often there are various DJ's and playing through the night all competing to get the most "forwards" (crowd response).
4. Stick around for the climax
The dancehall event usually builds up to a climax where in the final hour the most popular songs are played and the crowd gets pumped. Dance crews compete for the video light in the center of the venue to outdo each other with the latest dance steps. The crowd feeds off these skilled dancers who are often the best in the world and creators of moves that have been used by the likes of Beyonce. There are segments for the ladies who perform raunchy and sexually aggressive moves gyrating while balancing on their heads and at times pairing up with male dancers performing acrobatic sexual dance moves that mimic aggressive sex, sometimes called "daggering". Dance crews from all over the world can sometimes be seen doing their moves and enjoying the vibe. If you don't stay until the climax everything before is harder to understand.
5. Don't be surprised to hear tracks by Adele and Celine Dione
Jamaicans are music lovers in general! Dancehall and Reggae music has been influenced by many genre's including, Country & Western, R&B and gospel. The dancehall first and foremost is a musical space and in this space there are segments that appeal to different elements in the audience. The ladies segment is almost routinely complimented by music from Adele and Celine Dionne who are hugely popular artists throughout Jamaica. Generally artists that can soulfully articulate a womans aspirations and pain have been popular among our women and appreciated by men. Music by Celine Dionne, Adele, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and even Barbara Streisand will have the lady's swaying and passionately mouthing the lyrics word for word.
Whether you are a Dancehall lover or not, to see a globally influential genre in it's home and at it's epicentre is truly a remarkable thing.
For the true Dancehall experience there is no where in world like Kingston City!