Dancehall Directory? New Yellow Pages cover sparks controversy in JamaicaGlobal Voices

The controversial dancehall image of artist Lennox Coke adorning the cover of the Jamaican Yellow Pages directory. Image courtesy of Joel Nomdarkham, used with permission.

Whenever a new phone book comes out, it’s usually okay. In fact, it often finds practical uses – like supporting a chair leg – because it’s now much easier to search Jamaica’s yellow pages online.

This year, however, Jamaica’s phone book (which often portrays aspects of Jamaican culture on its cover) has ruffled feathers. The Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS), a fundamentalist Christian lobby group, forced the editors of the 2017 directory for the main metropolitan area of ​​Kingston and St. Andrew, Global Directories Ltd., to come up with a brand new, alternative coverage.

Why? Because the original cover, created by a local artist, is a representation of dancehall culture, showing a typical street dance scene with men and women spinning, a DJ and other aspects of “bling” dancehall.

Alternative directory coverage which is also in circulation.  Photo courtesy of Joel Nomdarkham, used with permission.

Alternative directory coverage which is also in circulation. Photo courtesy of Joel Nomdarkham, used with permission.

After the lobby group’s protest, Global Directories quickly apologized and the company’s CEO, Ian Neita, explained the publisher’s position in an interview with the Jamaica Gleaner: “A church can be listed in the book [and] once they advertise in the book, they sort of become co-sponsors. If it was a private magazine that we put forward in the public space, I think it would be a little different… ”He noted that the“ power ”of the local religious lobby could not be ignored, acknowledging that Jamaican society is “fundamentally based on Christian principles” and so his company has “taken the high road” in giving people a choice of coverage. The alternative shows a man on a motorcycle with a mobile audio system in the back.

Neita also pointed out that while the company was sensitive to the lobby group’s concerns, its decision to provide alternative coverage was by no means an admission that the dancehall scene was inappropriate, “because it’s all about interpretation”.

Donovan Watkis, who describes himself as “the grandson of a Jamaican Pentecostal reverend,” observed caustically in a blog post:

It is a continuation of the main moral point of reference of society, which has historically marginalized certain groups of people, notably “dancehallers” and characterized each of their cultural activities as obscene and out of order. Everything from hairstyle to language and even painted artwork in dancehall culture is considered obscene… It is such an unfortunate intimidating attitude for the privileged and self-sufficient members of the noble second estate to judge and judge. exercise powers far beyond their spiritual powers. concerning a raised image of Jamaican culture represented on the cover of a telephone book.

He added that it can also be a rejection of the black physique as an expression of dancehall culture:

I believe part of the problem that exists between the church and progressive society is the continuous assumptions made when the black body is performing and excellent playing at the highest levels. In September, I wrote an article about people with a problem with Usain Bolt’s black body, which caused an uproar among senior officials over his personal life despite his great accomplishments for the country. These are some of the same people who had a problem with the erection of the Emancipation Park statues on Knutsford Boulevard in Kingston.

Glenroy Murray of Equality for All Foundation added another aspect to the argument in a letter to the editor, suggesting it was a class issue:

To those privileged Jamaicans, I ask, “How do you take advantage of a society with a large population of poor people and then tell them that their culture is not good enough to be seen?” The “ghetto people” are the consumers of your imported goods, the engines of your economy, and the people who borrow your money to achieve your life goals. These are the “dynamic people” our travel ads are talking about, not so much you. So how come photos of you are portrayed in the media, but not photos of dancehall culture?

Radio producer Patrick Lawson shared similar opinions on his blog:

The JCHS may have bit more than they could chew while attacking Dancehall. Dancehall has always had a mixed reputation in Jamaica, it’s the cousin of Reggae and a downtown-based voice that Uptown didn’t like but couldn’t help but feel drawn to.

When the JCHS attacked the Yellow Pages for their portrayal of this aspect of our culture, they didn’t just attack one genre of music… they attacked an identity, a way of life, a fighting force of the oppressed and everything. world knows that Dancehall does not take prisoners in a confrontation. Jamaican Coalition for a Healthy Society, you’ve come across the wrong sound shock. Pack your bags and go home. Ring the alarm, another church is dying.

Marketing consultant Joel Nomdarkham tweeted covers to use for residential and island repertoires, covering two other Jamaican musical genres – ska and reggae. Artist Lennox Coke created the cover for the Dancehall, Raymond Jackson painted the Ska scene and the team of Karla Gauntlett and Esther Beckford worked on the Reggae illustration:

Entertainment lawyer and music business consultant Lloyd Stanbury wryly observed on Facebook:

As Jamaicans debate, dissect, stereotype and overlook the global economic impact of the musical genre called Dancehall, foreign artists such as Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Drake, Weeknd and Major Lazer are laughing all the way to the bank presenting Dancehall music. to the world.

Many Jamaicans were not happy, noting that perhaps religious groups should focus on higher priorities, such as the soaring crime rate:

Dionne Jackson Miller, head of the Jamaican Press Association, replied:

Liberal clergyman Sean Major-Campbell commented on Facebook:

Would it have made a difference to those offended if the dancers were portrayed in winter attire?
Frankly speaking, I’m tired of people in the church arena scratching where no one itches; answer questions that no one asks; and fight for causes that make no sense for the well-being of people’s lives.
It’s a shame that Global Directories gave in to such nonsense!

As often happens, however, the Jamaican audience’s concept of “the church” is hazy and confused. Human rights activist Jaevion Nelson said:

Nelson added:

A dancehall production company humorously observed:

A young Jamaican tweeted:

Winsome Chambers summed up the general sentiment of commentators online:

And a Jamaican doctor put it all into perspective:

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Calvin W. Soper

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