10 dancehall DVDs through the post (part two)

stereo mars hi-fi (1985). ‘live from skateland’, tena saw [sic] starts this one, leaping across a crowded stage; ‘you gotta be conscious…you gotta be smart’. nicodemus, super cat and burro banton, all wearing matching white shirts and suits take over, ribbiting and binging for a bit before handing back to tenor saw who sings the opening refrain from ‘ring the alarm’.
the crowd get very excited and the director cuts.
there is however, a bloke in the crowd dancing away whilst carrying a huge boom box. ‘sleng teng’ makes an appearance. selector danny dread brings to mind a healthy looking augustus pablo.
‘some girl a lesbian, but me a champion’ proclaims little john; a character out of ‘goodfellas’ mooches. he looks very relaxed and proceeds to get a fair bit of camera time- must be important.
dance gets rammed as pre-digital takes over with help from cutty ranks, among others.
a winning race-horse gets airtime and ending credits.
a massive, but less exuberant hat count.


10 dancehall DVDs through the post (part one)

whilst at atp, i received a text message from home informing me that, amongst other things my ’reggae videos’ had arrived. for a fleeting moment i thought about fucking slint off and driving the 5+ hours home immediately. but I didn’t and still haven’t watched them all (yet).

all focus on the same period- 1984 to 1986 and show the transition to the digital era, when king jammy ruled with ‘sleng teng’- first played at a jammy’s vs black scorpio dance in early 1985. the impression i get from these dvds is that it was not an immediate revolution (which i had, perhaps subliminally, assumed); even in the later films you hear pre-digital rhythms being played- mainly studio one and channel one classics- alongside ‘new’ techniques and jammy productions.

besides the actual music, they are also interesting as cultural artefacts, whilst reinforcing certain stereotypes about jamiacan dancehalls (a rude boy drives his motorbike through the crowd, a rasta wears a natty suit etc). they highlight the role of dances as centres of economic activity too, as the beer sellers, stacks of tape-decks and wires recording proceedings for sound tapes, ganja dealers, food stalls and these tapes (some of which are professionally produced and include bad 80s effects, whilst others are little more than a bloke at the front with a VHS camera) show.

in kilamanjaro at house of leo (1985), josie wales wears a don drummond album sleeve as a hat, with barely a glance from anyone else. it is a practical choice of headwear, as later on he uses it as a fan to cool himself. it also overshadows the rest of the film, which is very enjoyable: the only other things i can remember about it immediately after turning it off are a woman wearing bright yellow dungarees and that house of leo is huge, with a massive tree in the middle of it.

blackstar meets youthman productions (1986) includes live mixing action from inside a cage. for youthman, daddy freddy is immediately recognisable- ‘like christopher columbus i a great discoverer‘ (of girls it turns out), fast chatting away furiously which gets the jump-suit massive moving; a drawing of heile salassie overlooks proceedings and for no particular reason there are various clips of holiday makers windsurfing badly, wondering around aimlessly and looking hot. an avant-garde dance troupe in fancy dress have turned up, then leave. nuff hat action- pith helmets, flat caps, berets, baseball caps, straw hats, a red trilby with a white band, kangols and on. some fine stylised dancing from the audience. ‘tempo’ seems to be a rhythm of the moment.




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