Dance Hall (Caribbean)

Dance Hall (Caribbean)

The dance halls of Jamaica in the 1950s and 1960s were home to public dances usually targeted at younger patrons.

Sound System operators had big home-made audio systems (often housed in the flat bed of a pickup truck), spinning records from popular American rhythm and blues musicians and Jamaican ska and rocksteady performers. The term "dancehall" has also come to refer to a subgenre of reggae that originated around 1980.


Dance hall owners and sound system operators often competed fiercely with other owners/operators to capture the attention of their young clientele. This competition often led to the hiring of Rude Boys to break up a competitors dance, which fostered the growth and violent tendencies of this particular sub-culture. In addition to these "rudies", dance halls also contributed to the rise of ska as the predominant form of popular music on the island during this time, fostered the development of early ska culture, and gave rise to a new social power in the form of major Sound System operators like Duke Reid the Trojan, and Sir Coxsone Dodd. It was in the Dance halls that ska dancing first originated.

Caribbean dance halls of today still bear strong resemblance to the days when Sir Coxsone Dodd was spinning the latest release out of Studio One. Though the music has shifted quite a bit, the same energy and spirit can be felt. Dance hall's today often serve as competition grounds for DJs, just like they did in the early days, though today's competitions end less often in the dance being broken up by rude boys.

Dancehall DJs

Coxsone Dodd was born on January 26 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica. Dodd received his nickname because of his batting ability in the sport of cricket. He began at a young age playing bebop and jazz records in his parent's liquor store for their customers in the late 1940s. He then moved to U.S. to work as a cane cutter where he began to listen to R&B. After a short period of time he moved back to the island of Jamaica with his own PA system, turntable, and box of records. Dodd set up his first sound system, the DownBeat, in 1954 playing boogie-woogie, jazz, and R&B.

Prince Buster, "The Prophet", was born Cecil Campbell in1938 also in Kingston, Jamaica. After working for Coxson Sound System, he created his own sound system in 1962 by the name of "The Voice of the People". Campbell, as the name on his sound system implied, dedicated himself to providing a voice for the African diaspora. He proclaimed himself a representative of the people and his voice was heard through the sound system he created.

Dancehall DJ influence on hip hop

According to many music historians hip hop began with a Jamaican by the name of DJ Kool Herc in the urban neighborhoods of New York City. DJ Kool Herc arrived in the United States at the age of 12, according to him breakbeats were created out of his understanding or belief that the bass and the drum were the elements of music that moved people to dance. In an interview in 1989 with Davey D, DJ Kool Herc says "Hip hop, the whole chemistry of that came from Jamaica".

Kool Herc was known in the Bronx for his sound system the Herculoids, which was a huge, heavy, and loud speaker system. He traveled around playing his "sound" for free outside in the neighborhoods and parks of New York City. However, this new American phenomenon was not just common in New York. Between the 1940s and 1960s in Jamaica, DJ's would make enormous sound systems or truck-fitted sound equipment and play American R&B, jazz, and the blues for their neighborhoods in Kingston, Jamaica.

The areas of the neighborhoods of Kingston that these sound systems provided entertainment for were referred to as dancehalls. However, the name dancehall is somewhat misleading because a dancehall was not a building. It was an open space. This is a direct parallel to the type of parties thrown in New York by Kool Herc and the Herculoid Sound System in the late 1970s. Now international dance culture including hip hop has now incorporated this practice which was once a uniquely Jamaican form of entertainment (Barrow 1997).

ee also

*Reggae sound system
*Rude Boy
*Skank (dance)
*Studio One
*Trojan Records


* Stolzoff, Norman C. Wake the Town and Tell the People: Dancehall Culture in Jamaica ISBN 0-8223-2514-4
*Chang, Jeff (2005). Can't Stop, Won't Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-30143-X.
*Barrow, Steve. Peter Dalton (1997). Reggae: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-247-0.

External links

* [ Kool Herc interview]
* [ Profile of Prince Buster]
* [ Profile of Coxsone Dodd]

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