Who feels it, knows it. I quote this phrase today in reference to the scourge of crime and gun violence that has now invaded and taken control of the lives of many young Jamaicans. My comments are made not only as an active participant in the Jamaican music industry, but also as someone who has experienced first-hand the negative effects of gun violence, and a firm advocate against negative Dancehall lyrics for years now.
The recent shootings of top Dancehall artists Mad Cobra and O’Neil Edwards of Voice Mail have resulted in renewed calls for Jamaican artists and the nation as a whole to take a stand against the crime and violence that has overtaken the Island.
It is definitely now time for all well thinking Jamaicans and fans of Reggae and Dancehall to withdraw their support from artists and music producers who continue to produce and promote songs with lyrics that glorify guns, violence and gangsters. In my opinion there is no place in today’s Jamaica for songwriters, performers and music producers who dedicate time and resources to making and promoting such songs, and who tell their fans that “Informer fi dead”.
I am not by any means suggesting that the Dancehall artists alone are responsible for the upsurge in crime and violence in recent years. The reality is that there are many and varied reasons for the apparent lack of respect for human life among Jamaicans, and our inability to resolve issues without resort to violence. I do however subscribe to the view that recording artists have had a significant negative impact on the values and attitudes of our young people, and that a reversal of these negatives will require some positive input from our music fraternity.
Many artists contend that their musical works are merely a reflection of what they observe in our society. I do agree that some lyrics are written with that objective. It is however also abundantly clear to me that many artists have also lost their way by trying to live and portray a lifestyle that is in keeping with the crime and violence reflected in their lyrics.
Now that the guns that have been the subject of glorification in music have been turned on members of the Dancehall fraternity, the reactions so far are indeed quite interesting, and in some cases very hypocritical. Some persons who have now decided to speak out against negative Dancehall lyrics were either silent or defenders of this kind of music not too long ago while they were beneficiaries of the income generated from it.
No one, whether he or she is an artist, a five year-old child, or other law abiding citizen, deserves to be shot by a common criminal. As a member of the local music fraternity, I also join in condemning the brutal acts of violence against our colleagues. I would also however like to urge our performers, music producers, promoters and media representatives to act now and do their part to bring about a change in our attitudes towards each other by making and supporting more positive music.
We need to support music that encourages love and unity. We need to support music that brings more attention to the corruption, injustices and discrimination that have overtaken our nation.
Lloyd Stanbury is an attorney at law/arts & entertainment consultant based in Kingston