top of page

Jamaica's Dancehall Music - From Inner City Kingston to the Countries of the World Stage

Jamaican Experience; Jamaican Culture; Jamaican Music; Jamaican Dancehall; Jamaica Attractions; Jamaican People; Famous Jamaicans

Jamaica Dancehall Artist Jada Kingdom (aka Twinkle)


The music of Jamaica includes Jamaican folk music and popular genres, such as mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub music, dancehall, reggae fusion and related styles.

Reggae is especially popular through the international fame of Bob Marley. Jamaican music's influence on music styles in other countries includes the practice of toasting, which was brought to New York City and evolved into rapping. British genres such as lovers rock, jungle music and grime are also influenced by Jamaican music.

Often referred to as reggae's rebellious cousin, Dancehall music emerged as an under-ground genre in the late 1970s. Sound systems began stringing up on street corners attracting large crowds of locals, resembling a dance hall, hence its name. Artistes would toast (like rap) over digital riddims (rhythms) as opposed to the usual playing of pre-recorded music.

Dancehall is one of eight musical genres created in Jamaica and, in the past two decades, it has become one of the most influential Jamaican cultural exports since reggae. The impact of dancehall extends far beyond Jamaica and is evident in music genres (such as hip hop, trip hop, jungle, reggaeton, South African kwaito, Nigerian Afrobeats), and international fashion, film, and dance.

Beenie Man - King of the Dancehall (Official Music Video)

One of Jamaica's biggest exports, Beenie Man's recording career stretches back to 1981.

Early Developments

Dancehall combines elements of American gangster materialism and stories of hardships of Kingston, Jamaica. Three major elements of Jamaican dancehall music are the use of digital instruments, the use of riddims, instrumentals to which lyrics are added, resulting in an unusual process of creating songs from separate components.

Jamaica's street dance culture dates back to the late 1950s early 1960s. Social and political changes in late-1970s Jamaica, were reflected in the shift away from the more internationally oriented roots reggae towards a style in tune with the music that Jamaicans had experienced when sound systems performed live. Themes of social injustice, repatriation, and the Rastafari movement were overtaken by lyrics about dancing, violence, and sexuality. Though the revolutionary spirit was present in Jamaica due to this social upheaval, the radio was very conservative and failed to play the people’s music. It was this gap that the sound system was able to fill with music that the average Jamaican was interested in.

The music needed to "get where the radio didn't reach" because Jamaicans oftentimes were outside without radios. Especially because the audience of dancehall sessions were lower-class people, it was extremely important that they be able to hear music. Sound systems allowed people to listen to music without having to buy a radio. Therefore, the dancehall culture grew as the use of technology and sound systems got better.

Boysie Roses - Dancehall, Old School

The Legendary Dancehall dancer Boysie Roses, member of the Black Roses Crew, once led by the famous dancer, Bogle. He is featured dancing at the Black Roses Corner, Kingston, Jamaica.

Dancehall Culture

Dancehall combines elements of American gangster materialism and stories of hardships of Kingston, Jamaica. In Dancehall, artists sometimes do things to stand out, such as putting on a synthetic cartoonish voice.

An aspect of dancehall culture is the focus on materialism as prominent males in the dancehall scene are expected to dress in very expensive casual wear that suggest wealth and status. Since the late 1990s, males in the dancehall culture have rivalled their female counterparts to look fashioned and styled. The female dancehall divas are all scantily clad or dressed in spandex outfits that accentuate the shape of the body. In the documentary It's All About Dancing, prominent dancehall artist Beenie Man argues that one could be the best DJ or the smoothest dancer, but if one wears ordinary clothing of the masses, one will be ignored.

Born out of the late 1970s in the urban communities of Kingston Jamaica, Dancehall music became the social and political voice for the historically marginalized people of the ghetto. Through this music, a whole culture developed - everything from the latest trends to the latest dance moves. Dancehall dictated popular culture in Jamaica and popular culture in Jamaica dictated Dancehall. It wasn’t too long until this fashionable new art form became an international phenomenon, with followings as far as Canada, England, and Japan, to name a few. Dancehall set the trends and ideas for the lower economical class of urban Kingston, Hip-Hop did the same for the inner-city youth of the South Bronx. Nonetheless, just like Hip-Hop evolved, so did Dancehall, some thinking that as it became more materialistic and braggadocio, it moved further away from its message.

For some, however, Dancehall has become very lucrative and a means of financial upward mobility. It is this sort of economic opportunity that Dancehall has been able to bring to the forefront for many Artists and inner-city youth with talent seeking a way out of the harsh realities of the ghetto. Since its beginning, Dancehall parties have allowed many investors and supporters to profit from its existence. In Jamaica and in the Jamaican diaspora, promoters, media, Deejays, Sound systems, hairdressers, dressmakers, restaurants, and politicians… have all benefitted from some level of participation in the Dancehall Culture.

The popularity of Dancehall has spawned dance moves that help to make parties and stage performances more energetic and entertaining. Dancehall has changed the face of music; it is one of the most versatile genres and many artists all over the world collaborate on tracks that feature Dancehall riddims. With world-renowned artists such as Beenie Man, Mavado, Vybz Kartel, Busy Signal, Aidonia, and Konshens, Dancehall music has produced some of the most charismatic artists.

Beenie Man, Dancehall Videos in Jamaica, 2022 Dancehall Videos


So, in essence, the term Dancehall doesn’t only adhere to the definition of a genre of reggae music, but symbolizes an institution of culture, dance, music, media, community, and politics woven into the social fabric of its global arena.

Jamaican music over the years, has moved from the reality of social and political commentary to the façade of power featuring sexuality and violence. Perhaps not being able to bring about lasting change through earlier genres of music, Jamaicans have adopted the Dancehall culture to cope with the realities of life. This has brought positive economic change for Jamaica, but also a deterioration in values which could be the catalyst for the evolution of a new music genre.

Kimiko, a recognised dancehall dance ambassador. Her work as a dancer, and choreographer is featured in numerous music videos, as well as in the Netflix docuseries, Move. Her passion for dance has taken her across the globe where she instructs others on dancehall routines while sharing the Jamaican culture.
Kimiko Miller, Dancer and Choregrapher

Enter the Jamaica So Nice Dance Contest

Please submit a short video dancing your favorite dance from this Latonya Style video, "22 Bogle Steps (Authentic Dancehall)," - the best videos will be featured on the “Jamaica So Nice” website. The best of the best videos will win a cash prize of US$50.00 and an interview, with numbers 2 and 3 of the best videos securing Jamaica So Nice products.

Submit your dancehall videos according to the following guidelines/requirements:

· Your Name

· The Town and Country that you live in

· Subscribe to the Jamaica So Nice VIP Group on the Home Page –

· Identify which Bogle dance you are doing?

· The Video should be no longer than 1 minute

· Submit your Video by March 31, 2022

· The Best of the Best dancers will be featured on the Jamaica So Nice website by April 9, 2022 for judging

· The Winners will be announced on April 30, 2022.

22 Bogle Steps (Authentic Dancehall)


#Jamaica #Jamaicasonice #JamaicaSoNiceShop #JamaicanCulture #JamaicanMusic #JamaicanFolkMusic #Mento #Ska #Rocksteady #Dubmusic #Reggae #ReggaeFusion #Dancehall #JamaicaAttractions #JamaicanPeople #FamousJamaicans #BobMarley #Spice #Shaggy #BeenieMan #BoysieRoses #BlackRosesCrew #LatonyaStyle #Mavado #VybzKartel, #BusySignal #Aidonia #Konshens,#JamaicanDance #Visitors #Travelers #Tourists #JamaicanDiaspora #Fun #Onelove

Join the Jamaica So Nice communities on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Please like and share this story.

If you liked this story, join our email list to have the blog and fun notifications delivered to your inbox weekly.

Jacqueline Cameron

An entrepreneur with years of writing experience running the gamut from blogging to project reporting. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica and is the chief writer/editor for the Jamaica So Nice Blog. Jackie represents an e-commerce business called "Jamaica So Nice" which offers authentic Jamaican products. She speaks about it with animation, "I love the experience of living in Jamaica, and I introduce Jamaica to the world through the "Jamaican experience," which is captured in our people, culture, products and attractions."

97 views0 comments