Busy Signal: Violence and Feuds in Jamaican Dancehall

| 10/7/2008 11:37:12 AM

In Jamaica, “where music saturates everything like fluoride in tap water, the water these days has a new bitterness to it,” Edwin “Stats” Houghton writes for the Fader. That bitterness is embodied in the musician Busy Signal, part of a wave of Jamaican dancehall that has garnered worldwide attention, but has been unable to transcend the feuds endemic in the lyrics and origins of the music.

A general angst permeates the Jamaican dancehall scene, according to Houghton, with feuds breaking out between musicians. And some of the fights have translated into real violence in the streets. Many believe the petty fights between the stars of Jamaican dancehall have held the music back from achieving its full potential. An industry professional confided in Houghton, off the record, that the music has, “Too much war and bun chi-chi man. Nobody outside Jamaica wan hear that!”

Busy Signal began at the center of the musical feuds, trading violent lyrics and allegedly pulling a knife on stage in 2006. He then took a hiatus from the scene in a an attempt to transcend the fights between his fellow Jamaican musicians. His new music still addresses violent themes, but he now emphasizes a unity among his fellow dancehall luminaries, choosing instead to focus on the music. He told Houghton:

Sundays to Sundays, music. By the sweat of your brow, you eat. Me wan build a museum, an me nuh want no museum built after me dead. We wan do these things before man, so if death come, whatever. Keep Drilling.

The problem, Houghton writes, is that “His voice has become so synonymous with the dark pulse of runnings in Kingston that it seems legitimate to wonder if he is part of the curse or the disease.”

Watch a video of Busy Signal’s song Nah Go a Jail Again  below:

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