Reggae through the years
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Dancehall reggae was transformed by the emergence of IRIE FM, the first 24-hour reggae radio station in Jamaica. Some critics felt that it was impossible to sustain an all-reggae station. IRIE FM, now more than 23 years old, brought reggae music into homes and increased the popularity and credibility of the Jamaican DJs (reggae artists). Some DJs even became popular internationally. This brought dancehall reggae to audiences worldwide. Yellow Man was one of the first popular dancehall artists in Europe, and Shabba Ranks was one of the first for the United States.

DJs used their music and lyrics to establish identities. Rivalry rose between the DJ that took on the “lover man” image and the DJ that took on the “bad man” image. The lover man’s lyrics usually talked about women and dating, while the bad man’s lyrics advocated gun violence and condemned homosexuality. In the early ‘90s, the biggest rivalry was between Shabba Ranks, the lover man, and Ninja Man, the bad man.

In the late ‘90s, the big rivalry changed to Beenie Man, the lover man, and Bounty Killer, the bad man. Due to commercialization the lover men were always more popular internationally, while the bad men gained more die-hard fans in Jamaica.

With the emergence of dance hall music, Jamaican dances also gained popularity. These dances became almost as important as the music itself. This led to the annual Dancehall Queen Competition, a competition to find the best female dancer in the nation. Now, there are Dancehall Queen contests all over the world. Some of the most popular reggae dances of the ‘90s were: the bogle, the butterfly and the world dance.

Listen to a dancehall clip from Mr. Loverman, by Shabba Ranks. This clip is from www.fye.com.

Copyright © 2004 Chantal A. Raymond. All rights reserved.