It's looking like 2013 will serve as a huge test of endurance for Jamaica's Dancehall culture. This year the islands ever so popular art form has seen the likes of countless pressures from the government. What started early this year as a crackdown on… street dances, high power sound systems and late night events, has spiraled into the government’s proposals of a new bill that many feel will destroy dancehall. The bill is called the Anti-Gang Act and it calls for violators to be jailed if found guilty in a court of law.
What makes this bill so threatening to the dancehall culture is that one of its clause states that no artist, promoter, selector, producer, will be able to promote GUN LYRICS and/or big up DONS, GANGS, GANG LEADERS, etc.. It sounds simple! But it's really not simple at ALL. If an artist records a song about guns and badness, it would be consider a violation of the law and they could be sentenced to 5 - 30 years in jail. Artist such as Bounty Killa, Adiona, Kartel, and others will be forced to change the content of their songs, which many are saying is a violation of freedom of speech. Producers are not exempt from such penalties either, the penalty for producing gun and gang glorifying content, will also results in an extensive jail sentence. The act goes as far as targeting promoters who stage event that feature hardcore artist toasting gun lyrics and gang big ups. They too could also see the inside of a jail cell for many years. This may mean that Jamaica will lose great annual shows such as Sting and World Clash.
So what will the effect of this anti – gang bill mean?! Well in my opinion... the decay of dancehall! It will be the change of everything as we know it, and the start of a government "Take Over". Once they succeed at censoring dancehall via producers, artist, radio, and promoters, they will try and take it further. What is to say that they won't turn around a say.. " NO more songs about sex?" If this Act is passed... it will kill dancehall's night life, lessen the income of many artists, promoters, producers and take the joy from Jamaica's music culture.
I am NOT against drawing a line and the fight to reduce crime on the Island, but there has to be a better compromise. Jamaica's crime rate cannot be solely blamed on the music. The county's governmental parties and parents of its children have to bare some of the blame. Dancehall music should not be considered the countries source of understanding right and wrong; therefore the penalty of 5 - 30 years in jail is totally unfair. The government may be treading a thin line of hypocrisy here. There are other things in the island that one could argue contribute to the country's citizen being violent (ie. cartoons, movies, Hip Hop songs). Will these other element face the same pressure being placed on dancehall? This is a HUGE social issue which could create an up roar if the law makers don’t consider ALL possible out comes in advance. I hope the government is prepared for the back lash....