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IN THE JAMAICAN DANCEHALL – CHAPTER 2 – Money Pullups & Monitor Speakers

            Whenever Jamaicans speak about the Dancehall, they most likely refer to the times way back when Dancehall included three or more huge racks of speaker boxes, spread out strategically in equally huge open-spaced venues, where small admissions were paid and full to maximum capacity of mature patrons, who were all dressed to impress, buying out the bar, having a grand old time and hoping to witness the baddest clash in history. Nowadays, we are seeing a much younger crowd, with scantily clad females and tight pants on the males, using a smaller setup of a few monitor speakers, placed at the four corners of an even smaller venue, with several persons begging a “bligh” to enter for free and avoid the ridiculously high admission prices, to “par” with celebrities and “sponge off” from the top shelf liquor on their table, female cliques off to the side on their cellphones while their male counterparts are hiding in the darkest corners they can find and the middle of the dance is empty, just to hear the same songs being played over and over again. There is less talking, less dubs because the prices have increased so much in recent years and even fewer clashes due to its violent appeal.

            Gone are the days when promoters could spend on an event and make at least two times the profit from liquor sales and admission. The Dancehall is not making the money it used to. Venues are smaller but more expensive, hence the increase in admission fees. Liquor prices have gone up significantly and the now imposed alcohol tax have severely impacted the way how we party here in Jamaica. Not to mention the fight the culture gets from its own government, the high cost of living with fewer jobs provided and the negative press, or the lack thereof, most events get.

            Gone are the days when clashes used to be the highlight of the dance. From the greater sound systems like Bass Odyssey, Stone Love, Metro Media, Body Guard and Killamanjaro to the lesser giant killers like Travellers and Pieces, it was a sight to see the many clashes and dances that used to be held across the country on any given night. These younger generations know nothing of dub plates, the actual, physical dub plate and the art of cutting a proper dub plate at Arrows or Exodus studios, lay-waiting the best sound system killers in artists such as Supercat, Ninja Man, Bounty Killa or Beenie Man as well as many others who had the hottest songs running the streets with perfect aim when needed to take lyrical shots at another, having the last sound standing and bragging rights until whenever next they meet again. Celebrities and millionaires were made back then, with money and respect reigning supreme in the 80s and 90s.

            Since the start of the millennium and with the dawn of the computer age, Dancehall has changed. Fans have gotten older and the music has become less interesting; venues smaller, clashes outdated, prices of everything are sky high and violence has increased both locally and internationally. A money pullup helps to get DJs more money in their pockets to bring home especially when the promoter refuses to or didn’t make enough profit to pay the balance owed. In many instances, it directly helps to promote the artists and their music, as well as their team if the road manager, aka “Roadie”, and promo girls are present. It also makes the DJs or sound systems look bigger and gain popularity whenever they make the most money pullup, especially if they help to “buss” whatever song they got the money pullup for. It is all in the name of making the patrons happy, the very same ones who tend to go out usually to show off and insist on doing the money pullups anyway.

            As for the usage of monitor speakers, they are more cost efficient. The prices to hire the bigger sound systems have increased significantly with many not able to pull large crowds anymore in order to cover the promoter’s expenses and make a profit all at the same time. Less talking, more music has also become the general consensus at various events nowadays and often required in many cases. Not to mention the prices to rent a sound system that uses monitor speakers is far more affordable in this economy. Such sound systems have been making a name for themselves lately but would still see to it that they have enough equipment for a bigger setup, which would cost more of course. In the event that one is required, at least they can offer this services as well.

            Sound systems like Mixplosion, known mostly in the uptown circles, provides several monitor speakers and bass boxes. They are probably the most popular sound system with the largest set up of monitor speakers, who have also played alongside the likes of Stone Love and have done many corporate events, school functions, sweet sixteen parties, country dances and international tours. And they are just as capable to match up to any large setup of any old school sound system, in the world.

            Others, like 007 Mobile Sound, opted for another category, the car sound, as their main setup with standard sized speaker boxes as well as monitor speakers in order to cater to a wider variety of events and clientele as well. With the introduction of the Noise Abatement Act a few years ago, plus the increase in violence and cost of living, you will find that many street dances have also been canceled like Passa Passa Wednesdays and Dutty Fridaze. Staples like Weddy Weddy Wednesdays and Uptown Mondays continue on but have grown so much that they have begun to charge an admission fee. Even so, monitor speakers are being used with no apparent deterrents, as many annual events, other weekly events and party series are still being held that alternates the usage of both setups in almost all cases.

            As long as the Dancehall still exists, there is no need to worry about the simple matters of money pullups and the usage of monitor speakers. The only thing we should complain about is that our government isn’t doing enough to make Dancehall a precious commodity that could be an economy booster and a real value to our country.

            Is the money pullup and trend of hiring monitor speakers rather than the traditional sound system killing off the authentic Dancehall vibes? Do these trends mean that no one cares about quality and sound systems anymore? Wouldn’t you rather spend money on high quality than some low-quality monitor speaker? Or it doesn’t matter either way?

            Weigh in your thoughts.

             Written by: Ms. Lesley Hayles

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