Don’t blame music for crime situation - Academic wants study to possibly prove a link

April 07, 2021
Stanley Niaah
Stanley Niaah

On the weekend, internationally renowned dancehall artiste Cham presented a different perspective to that of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who days before had slammed entertainers for violent lyrics.

In an Instagram post, Cham noted that music is often blamed for many of the ills facing Jamaica. But he suggested that poverty, poor leadership, illiteracy and lack of opportunity for the youth are the top four reasons behind the country's high crime rate. Cham opined that blaming music is the easy way out but it should not be used to mask the 'real issues'.

In an interview with THE STAR, Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah, director of the Institute of Caribbean Studies at The University of the West Indies, Mona, said that while she takes the matter of crime as seriously as Holness, resolution goes beyond 'talk or blame'.

No definitive study

"The seriousness of these social pathologies cannot be blamed on the music alone. While there have been some investigations, no definitive study has yet been done to ascertain whether there is a correlation between crime in Jamaica and the popular music produced and consumed," she explained. Stanley Niaah agreed that artistry in music is a reflection of the social world and can be an influencing factor, "but it can also be a deterrent".

"The prime minister must also be heard acknowledging the work needed around building confidence in the police officers and the system which has been marred by accusations around extrajudicial killings, extortion and double standards in respect of abiding by the law. There is a lot of work to be done and we are all responsible. But blaming artistes and their music is going to be far less effective than engaging them in programmes to uplift Jamaica," she said. "Music remains a scapegoat because it is easy to imagine a link based on the lyrical content which reflects the pathological reaches of our civil war against each other manifest in murder. But every single one of us has a part to play in the fight against crime."

In a recent interview with THE STAR, Professor Donna Hope said that the constant link between crime and dancehall music was like a broken record in Jamaican popular media. She said the argument is usually rehashed whenever there is a spike in crime and the powers that be can't seem to get it under control.

Stanley Niaah posited that the way to clear the air on the link between violence and the music in Jamaica is to commission a proper study.

"I have developed an instrument to be administered and there are competent researchers here in Jamaica to execute such a study. The solutions are not difficult and they most certainly do not involve a top-down approach or statements that seek to blame the very artistes who have worked very hard to put Jamaican music on the world map," she said.

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