Dancehall Autopsy

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
Fuck it. May as well go all in.

Digital laid the ground for a break from the studio system that had been in place since the late 60's by stripping away barriers to entry. Once you could lay down a riddim on a $50 keyboard the jig was up. Its no coincidence that Jammy's was the last big studio to have an overarching dominance. So what happens then is that you have assistants, engineers & musicians who take the opportunity to set up on their own. Bobby Digital was one of Jammy's guys, Steelie & Cleevie were his house band, Collin 'Bulbie' York started at Roy Francis' Mixing Lab label, Tony Kelly was an assistant engineer at Tuff Gong, Dave Kelly was a producer at Penthouse for Germain before setting up madhouse. You even get deejays and singers producing tunes, Ninjaman & Tiger both broke through with self produced records, 'protection' and 'no wanga gut'. Low costs also led to a proliferation of new operations, Patrick Roberts' Shocking Vibes, Lloyd Dennis' Pickout, Crat Recordings (reportedly financed by the Gullyman Posse), and dozens, maybe hundreds more...

So, only a couple of years after Sleng Teng you suddenly have a ton of new studios & new producers who can put out tunes with just drum machines, synths and keyboards. You have people experimenting with different rhythms and styles; there's the pocomania craze of '89 based on the tresillo with Gregory Peck's pocoman jam leading to a mini trend, there's the bhangra influence, and then there's the son clave which (via mento) is more or less the basis for the riddim that led to ragga & the dancehall bum-bum-tisch - 88's Punaany. Punaany changed the game completely, it reduced the bass to individual pulses rather than full basslines & had a sparser, more predictable (and easily replicated) drum pattern which gave more space to the deejay. Even though this became the dominant rhythm in dancehall from the mid 90's on, perhaps the most important aspect of Punaany was its minimalism - strip out the marimba sound and you basically have just kick, bass and snare - and this sparseness was exploited brilliantly by Dave Kelly in the early 90s.

WRT deejays, I dont think you can overestimate the influence Shabba had, not lyrically, but in terms of success. Suddenly you could win Grammys and be a huge star by deejaying about guns & girls. Shabba was the template for almost everyone that came after and his achievements became the benchmark at a time when US labels were hoovering up Jamaican talent, Supercat, General trees, Patra, Tiger, Lieutenant Stitchie, Capleton, Mad Cobra - all got deals with US majors. This coincided with demographic, socio-economic and political factors. The birth rate in Jamaica peaked around '68-'69 and stayed high until the mid 70's, so by the late 80's there would have been a peak in the number of 18-25 year olds. In 1983 commonwealth immigration into Britain was basically stopped dead. Around the same time there was a crackdown on gangs in JA after a decade of political sponsored violence and CIA and World Bank interference. There was already high immigration to the US in the 60's and 70's but in the 80's about 210,000 Jamaicans travelled to the US (and presumably many more illegals), the vast majority to New york and the East Coast, and a significant number of these were political gunmen and gang members who become involved in the drug trade, using political and gangland contacts in Jamaica to establish new cocaine shipping routes into the US. With a new, ready made audience, the New York dancehall scene blossoms providing a new avenue to success for dancehall artists. NY based Addies, along with Jaro and Saxon become one of the most successful soundsystems of the late 80s and early-mid 90s, shifting away from the predominant mode of 80s soundclash (live deejays and singers over 45's) to international juggling and dubplate based clashes. The dubplate economy quickly becomes one of the most lucrative sources of income for deejays, who now have the prospect of making thousands of dollars in a single dub cutting session.

Dubplate money, stageshow bookings, access to the US, potential stardom, no real musical skill required... All in all, this makes for a very attractive proposition for young Jamaican men. Deejays flood the market, slackness becomes mainstream, every lyrical niche is filled and within three or four years the face of dancehall has changed dramatically...

Obv there's much more to all this, and one thing I would stress is that there were many overlapping and contradictory currents, in fact one of the best things about the period is the fact that Conroy Smith, Major Mackerel and Buju could all have hits at the same time, or that Dennis Brown and Sleepy Wonder could share a riddim (in fact that lack of diversity is the biggest hole in modern dancehall) but the trends are there and we all know where they led.
is this the stuff that's covered in that lloyd bradley book? my mate lent me a copy about 4 years ago, made it sound really interesting, but i havent got round to reading it yet. said it talks a lot about social, economic and political background.
 

droid

Beast of Burden
Haven't read it in over a decade but the one impression that sticks is the almost total lack of coverage or interest in digital, dancehall or the 80s-90s other than a cursory mention of sleng teng.
 

Slothrop

Tight but Polite
Yeah, I thought it was seriously on point up until dancehall gets going, but he pretty obviously just isn't into the music from then on. It'd have been a much better book without the last couple of chapters.

Don't get me started on his London thing, either.
 

john eden

male pale and stale
Steve Barker played Shabba's "Dem Bow" last night on On The Wire.

Reminded me that this one tune from 1990 spawned an entire new genre - Reggaeton. I think that definitely gels with what Droid is saying about 1985-1995 being an incredibly febrile and seminal period in JA music.
 

sadmanbarty

Well-known member
First wave of dancehall 1978-1985: Roots radics, Junjo, Echo, Yellowman slackness, rise of the deejay etc.
Second wave 1984-1988: Tempo, Sleng Teng, Digikal, Firehouse, Jammy's, Steelie & Cleevie, digital roots, golden age of live soundsystem - singers alongside deejays etc.
Third wave 1989-1995: Ragga! Punanny, Ninja, Shabba, Butterfly, Bogle, Madhouse, Minimal 808 heavy production style, US penetration, Golden age of soundclash, runs alongside roots revival, Silk, Rebel, Luciano Sizzla, Digital B, ends with Pepperseed
4th Wave 1995-2003: Baritone ascendent, slicker less ramshackle production, Ward 21, Bounty, Beenie, Rise of the deejay crew, ends with Kartel/Ninja clash
i like how droid's arguing that dancehall's not dead, but ends his history of it in 2003
 

continuum

smugpolice
Everyone's got a grasp on why the hardcore continuum pegged it
Do they? What is it?

For me its currently: Acid House > Hardcore > Jungle > UK Garage > Grime > Dubstep > Bassline / UK Funky > Jackin' > Deep Tech

Deep Tech is basically Acid House reimagined so we've come full circle if that is what you mean by pegged it?
 

thirdform

Well-known member
Do they? What is it?

For me its currently: Acid House > Hardcore > Jungle > UK Garage > Grime > Dubstep > Bassline / UK Funky > Jackin' > Deep Tech

Deep Tech is basically Acid House reimagined so we've come full circle if that is what you mean by pegged it?

No it isn't, and it isn't even bleep n bass reimagined either. it's shite tech house, just4u london version.

Acid has always been around in the techno scene.
 

thirdform

Well-known member
i think id like deep tech more if it didn't sound so clean. not lo fi like bandcamp house but more raw chi jamal mosse steve poindexter type feels. some strange static stuff is ok but I can't bring myself to be a believer like jungle garage grime early dubstep.

Also there's only so much four-on-the-floor i can take from following techno anyway. (not that ive been following much new dance music for a year...) guilty as charged on that one... but I think thats for more ethnic/cultural reasons, basically the continued lack of ME/asian influences (still) in the nuum and regular dance musics. I mean I'm more excited w whats going on in cairo and kampala these days. hmm.

just taste i guess.
 

continuum

smugpolice
No it isn't, and it isn't even bleep n bass reimagined either. it's shite tech house, just4u london version.

Acid has always been around in the techno scene.

It's definitely not shite tech house. The following Jack n Danny set from a few months ago proves this:

Jack n Danny 3am-4am @ Audiowhore

I've listened to the above about 40 times since discovering it.

My current new favourite is the following from last month:

Lee Edwards 4am-5am @ House of Silk

Edwards very much has his own distinct sound compared to other DJs on the same night.

I don't know anything about Techno so will take your word for it that Acid House has always been around there. It's its reemergence in the continuum which is interesting to me though. House music split off from Acid House and Hardcore back in the day and has always run kind of parallel but in opposition to the continuum up till Deep Tech.
 

baboon2004

Darned cockwombles.
everything i've seen of his has been brilliant, and that mix is one of the best.did he ever post on Dissensus?

@Corpsey - I'm expecting Zhao back any day now
 

droid

Beast of Burden
Yeah, of course. I dragged him back here recently for some reason, but aint seen him on in a while.
 

CORP$EY

no mickey mouse ting
Someone send up the ZHAO signal

(e.g. start a thread about how african rhythms are boring and house beats are the best)
 

sadmanbarty

Well-known member
Love this Barty, keep going please.
In most music that we're exposed to snare drums land on the 2 and 4 of a bar and the beat as a whole is mainly based around 8ths (2 squares of the barty-graph). This is true of things like sleng teng and tempo. punnany is based on tresillo rhythms which divides beats by 3 quarter notes (3 barty-graph squares). As such the rhythm is asymmetric and angular and the snares land on the off beats of 2 and 4 rather than on the beats themselves. droid may correct me but i believe punnany either introduced that to dancehall or at least popularised it.

tresillo rhythms don't naturally resolve inside a bar of 4 beats (16 quarter notes don't divide by 3), so you have to force a resolution. on punnany that happens when the kick following the snare happens 2 quarter notes afterwards and not 3. the reason i included the kartel one is because it takes longer to resolve the rhythm. if you listen to 7.43 of mccoy tyner's passion dance you can hear what happens when elvin's kick drum keeps the tressillo going and doesn't resolve it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvmJHprG_Fg

This Wayne and Wax blogariddims post on 3:2 patterns was always one of my favourite things on the internet: http://wayneandwax.com/?p=52
luka sent that to me the other day. i think droid might have posted it as well during one of our sprawling 'are-the-tresillo-rhythms-in-jungle-derived-from-dancehall' debates. if i didn't have the attention span of a monkey i would read it.
 
Top