Dancehall is a music genre that originated from Jamaica in the early 1970’s. It was a sub genre of reggae music in the 1970’s and it became a genre of it’s own after it got a new sound of digital/electronic instruments used in its production. In 1980 artists such as yellow man and Eek-a-mouse transformed it through using digital instruments and increasing its tempo to form faster rhythms. The youths in Jamaica liked it as its faster tempos were good to dance too. They started playing it in the local Jamaican dance halls and that gave it the name “Dancehall”. Dancehall became popular when most Jamaican Djs/producers and artists moved away form producing and playing reggae music to playing and producing dancehall as there as was a huge demand for it. In 2000 dancehall music started crossing over out of Jamaica to the world and pulling international artist’s attention such as Rihanna and Sean Paul who made it to get recognised world wide.
Dancehall music being a genre that broke away from reggae music they do share the same characteristics with a bit of differences. What differentiates dancehall from reggae is the tempo and the of digital instruments. Dancehall tempo ranges from 80 to 120 beats per minute (bpm) and its mostly parted in a 4/4 time signature.
Below is a list of instrument commonly used in dancehall production
– Drums, bass guitar, percussions like bongos congas shakers xylophone
These are mainly used to play the rhythm of the track. The bass guitar accompanies the drum in playing the rhythm it’s always loud, repetitive and catchy
– Piano, keyboard, saxophone and guitars
The mainly plays melodic patterns and chord in dancehall music.
Arrangement of Dancehall music
Dancehall music alway seems to use the same partner in almost every song that I’ve heard. The arrangement that tend to be used most is as below
Lastly dancehall music using effects such as delay, reverb and compress as a character in the genre. compress used on snare drums to make it allowed and delays are used on vocal in most of dancehall tracks to give it space and reverb for ambiance as the music was played in dance halls so producer alway try to build/ create that dance hall fill in the production stage.
The Dancehall song i chose to analyse is a track by Damien Marley featuring Rovleta Foster and Stephen Marley.
Time signature: 4/4
Elements of the mix
In this song the drums, bass guitar and the vocals are loud strong and prominent compared to other instruments in the track. The drums play the rhythm of the song as the bass guitar accompanies them. The is repetitive and catchy as that the style/characteristic in dancehall music
The guitar seem to be lost in the mix as its hardly heard in the track.
The synth in the track is panned to the left side with a delay applied to it creating echoes which are bouncing from right to left side and vice verser.
The vocals in the last verses and the entire backing vocals are panned both hard left and hard right.
The claps are slightly panned to right side of the mix and the shakers slightly to the left.
All frequencies are represented in the mix starting with the lows that are represented by the kick drum and the bass guitar. the congas, bongos vocals play in the mid frequency ranges, the synth is harsh and it is played in the high frequency range same as the claps this allows them to cut through the mix and be heard.
In some parts of the song like in the third verse the vocals sound further away from others instruments. They have a “telephone like effect” which is created by the delay applied to them, that moves them far away in the mix The female vocals too sound bit far away compared to the male vocals that are in front of the mix. The synth plays with a movement motion moving from left side to right.
The song has a few changes in it and this happens when the bass guitar changes pattern playing a different a pattern in the verse compared to that of the chorus. some instruments are removed from the verse section giving the song a change and not to sound boring the its repetitive. There is also a change in volume in the third verse where all instruments are lowed down and raised up again in the outro section. I think this is done to pull the listen’s attention to listen clearly at the lyrics being sang as the vocals were also affected with a “telephone effect” created using delay effect.
The rhythm pattern (drums and bass guitar) is memorable to me. I love the sound of bongos and congas, they represent the culture of reggae music and its sub-genres. The first thing i always remember after listening to a track is always the drumming pattern or the rhythm section. Its what makes people dance and prefer tracks i can dance to than listen to.
The information or the message sung in the song “vocals” pulls the listeners to listen to the song lots of times to understand what is being sang about. The vocals being loud and clear indicated that the artist’s aim was to put out the message to be heard and it worked out as i read lots of comments under the track and most people were more focused on the vocal and the lyrics that were sang, i personally had to listen to the track lots of time until i got the message as i was attracted to know the all a story after i knew it was about a girl in first place.