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Gospel From The Dancehall

Gospel artists such as Stitchie, Junior Tucker, DJ Nicholas, Blessed, Cheville Franklyn, and London based - King Arthur, George Banton, George Nooks, Carlene Davis, Robert and Jeneve and Papa San represent a new clear approach to gospel music. These resilient singers and songwriters have demonstrated their abilities to deliver both cutting-edge reggae, dancehall and soul stirring songs, most of which have changed the lives of people, who have been exposed to their heartfelt music, both secular and gospel.

Their music has also impacted on our rhythm driven youths, this is no ordinary achievement, considering the fact that their musical cathedrals dubbed "Dancehalls," attracts every imaginable character in our society bar none. The dancehall also caters to every aspect of music including gospel, of which the big gospel hits such as Marvia Providence “Its Raining” are usually introduced to the people by the dancehall fraternity, long before radio and television airs it.

Despite the derogatory remarks that have been hurled at dancehall supporters by some of our churches, the dancehall fraternities stand in solidarity. They are resolute that the dancehall is a mirror, a true reflection of the inner whims and fancies of the society they live in. The fraternity express themselves through their dance, music and through fashion.

Amidst all the comments for and against dancehall culture, it is interesting to note that it is corporate Jamaica especially the print media, that appears to embrace the so-called decadent lifestyles. They give in-depth coverage and sponsorship to the dare as you bare sessions, making sure that the pictures are in vivid color and as risque as possible.

This ensures good sales for the respective products. As a result the coverage of less exciting events such as gospel shows, important “Health Fairs” and community events are literally regulated to mainly black and white pages of our newspapers, magazines and periodicals.

The big contradiction is that dancehall, Soca, Passa-Passa, Bling-Bling culture and the decadent lifestyles that are associated with these uninhibited pastimes, are indeed accurate testimonies of what is embraced, encouraged, and promoted in most instances by corporate Jamaica.

The church on the other hand has been hesitant, and even reluctant, to accept that these events are now firmly established as part and parcel of a generation’s culture. Its indeed a bitter pill to swallow, however its a harsh reality of life. The churches must now question the reasons why corporate Jamaica is hell bent on embracing this culture, is there no other way of selling it's products than to devalue the moral fiber of our society?

In order to address the situation squarely, the church must project itself as an institution whose outreach programmes are not biased, and do not alienate anyone. However it must also be clearly understood by all and sundry, that the church stands for unconditional change - morally and spiritually. The real church stands by the principles of the all-mighty God, thus there are no options for compromise, thus can not be converted to the immoral and gay as a lark institutions, that some have bowed to, and has finally embraced.

Some churches sees the dancehall fraternity as unreachable, irredeemable and as lost souls. Those who embrace that culture are seen as a deadly virus that should be avoided and shunned like the plague.

However, let's not forget the outstanding contributions that these musical cathedrals have made in the form of converted evangelist. Stitchie, Papa San, Gody Gody, Judy Mowatt, Ziggy Soul, Jerry Thompson, Tommy Cowan, Carlene Davis, Junior Tucker, D.J. Nicholas, King Arthur and Cheville Franklyn have all made outstanding contributions, in bringing about a better understanding between the church, and the culture of dancehall. These gospel ambassadors have successfully transcended the stigmas and cultural differences, that has paralyzed the church and it's administrators for years.

They are now the new evangelists and Pastors to be, who are reaching out not only to an obviously misunderstood generation, but also to their adamant church elders who are asking the same questions of old - can anything good come out of nazareth, or in this case the dancehall?

This new generation of evangelists believe the message of deliverance must reach every man, woman, and especially the youths. They stand out as a visionaries who are intent on delivering the teachings of Jesus Christ to a generation who in their opinion are distracted, dazzled, and dizzy from the ever present hype, bashment and Passa-Passa that makes up their world.

Their “Reggae Gospel” gives everyone the opportunity to have a good time, while lifting up profound praises to Jah-almighty. Their music represents benedictions for their brothers and sisters, who would not meet under normal circumstances in a church of any denomination.

They were brought together by a music they know so well, a music free from the straight jacket of colonial harmonic structure. A sound that has surpressed their gut feelings, thus preventing them from expressing the inexpressible, in their own unique way.

Evangelism today represents new, relevant, and committed voices, who challenges the old order of condemnation and abandonment, of those most in need of our assistance. A number of these new born again Christians are graduates from these musical cathedrals known as Dancehall's. They are not to be ignored, despised or condemned because they are different, they know that the dancehall fraternity is no longer a parochial entity, but a popular culture that is embraced by millions internationally.

They have a powerful congregation of their own, and are aware of the problems that plague their fraternity, as well as the problems that confronts Christian congregations. These new evangelists are also aware of the task that confronts them as revolutionary ministers. It would appear that they are the ones who have been chosen to save the lost sheep, the established church and its ineffective administrators, appears to be too arrogant, proud, self-righteous, money orientated and downright ignorant of the times and challenges that confronts us.

Thus its not only the dancehall fraternity that appears to have lost its way,!! some of our own Pastors, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, elders and holier than Dou church members, are no better in thoughts, words and deeds than any of our bashment, dancehall, Passa-Passa, Soca and Carnival revelers. The only difference would be in their deceptive dressing of next to-nothing attire, and the other in long sleeves, long dresses and hypocritical plastic smiles.

We can't deny the fact that our brothers and sisters have fallen pray to the hype, Bashment, Weddy Weddy and Passa-Passa promotions that have become the order of the day. As a result the challenge of liberating these musical cathedrals are in the hands of those that knows them so well.

The liberated messengers, the despised unrepentant musical ministers whose messages have at times been despised, ignored and not played on even the radio stations that have programmes assigned to gospel music. They are back to lead their dancehall brothers and sisters to the most high God.



Extract from forthcoming book by T."Boots" Harris. © 2006.

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