No violent songs in May Pen - Kurt Riley changes format in Clarendon capital

October 23, 2017
Kurt Riley
Kurt Riley


DJ Kurt Riley has told The STAR that he was at an event in May Pen, Clarendon, last weekend and could not bring himself to play songs that promote violence in any way. Riley still does not understand what came over him, but he followed his heart and does not have any regrets.

"Me build two crates and say me a go shell dung di party wicked, prepare myself and everything wid some high-energy songs. But, when I got to the event, a feeling came over me and me just couldn't play some of the songs," he said. "Me a map out the place and is like me get a vibe and a feeling say 'Kurt' jus low out certain songs'. All I was thinking of was the people dem weh a dead a May Pen."

Riley, who made his decision public via social media, has been receiving strong support in that forum.

May Pen is the capital of Clarendon, one of the island's major crime hotspots. The Gleaner reported on August 28 that murders in the parish for this year went into triple figures, with 10 killings in the previous week.

Riley did not get into name calling but says the music he avoided came from the "usual suspects" - the individuals currently at the forefront of dancehall. While admitting that music from previous dancehall eras also has violent tendencies, Riley said things in the dance were less likely to escalate.

"Of course music from the veterans dem did violent too, but the difference was dat dem man deh never have 300 or 400 man round dem whe wi bruck fight and look trouble," he said. "Look how much selector unu hear inna recent time get beat up fi play certain songs and how much time fight bruck against people supporting different artistes."

Selector Tony Matterhorn has had similar encounters and explains it's all based on "that feeling" one gets on a particular night. "Just about every real selector go through dat. Unlike the likkle club deejay dem weh play from a playlist, a real authentic selector will experience that from time to time. Once dem feel a certain vibe or yuh see certain crew come inna di dance and yuh know dem a troublemaker, selectors just normally buil and clutch back," he said.

"A di likkle selector dem weh a look a likkle hype will see all the signs and still wah force it. Wise decisions are made by great selectors."


Avoid certain songs


Riley told The STAR that this isn't the first time he got the vibe to avoid certain songs and always obeys his spirit. "A nuff people inna pain and come a dance y'nuh, a nuh everybody come fi enjoy demself," he said recounting an experience he had some years ago.

"Something similar happened to me some years ago where I got a vibe not to go down a certain route and to just keep things positive. I didn't feed into any negative energy with the music and after the session a girl come to me and say, she was thinking about killing herself and was out to party one last time. She tell me say the music help to open her eyes and re-think her decision. As selectors, we need to be mindful of this because the things we say and the music we play can save somebody life."

While his decision to avoid certain songs is not permanent, Riley will be feeding into violently charged songs a lot less. "Me nah go say me nah play dem again, but me affi strike a balance. Me know me nuh affi rely pan certain songs fi get a forward and playing them a little less will challenge me fi do more," he said.

While he cannot urge other selectors to also "cut back" on the gun songs, Riley encourages them to follow their intuition if they are at an event and get that feeling to avoid those types of songs.

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