Monday 15 July, 2019

A view from the outside: Dancehall acts could learn from Cham

Cham on stage during his performance at Reggae Sumfest at Catherine Hall on Sunday morning. (PHOTO: Marlon Reid)

Cham on stage during his performance at Reggae Sumfest at Catherine Hall on Sunday morning. (PHOTO: Marlon Reid)

                                                                 With Karyl Walker

Now that the dust has settled at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay, St James – the site of the Reggae Sumfest celebration of Jamaican culture – it is hoped that the performers in dancehall music had taken out their notepads and pens and taken the masterful lesson offered by one of their own, the talented Cham.

It is no mean feat to perform in the wake of the irrepressible crooner Beres Hammond and many artistes would quake in the boots at the prospect, but as the now veteran deejay entered the Sumfest stage, it was clear that he was undaunted. After all, many have failed to prevent a large majority of the audience from visiting the rest room or food stalls during their sets after the natural high that Beres so often takes his frenzied adorers to.

It is a formidable task.

Formerly known as Baby Cham, Cham shed any fear and stepped up to the plate with aplomb. By doing so he proved that whatever genre an entertainer chooses to earn his living, hard work and dedication, when applied, is the key to success.

It was in sharp contrast to the disappointing performances by dancehall acts the previous night at Sumfest, with many of them choosing to 'pull up' and 'wheel up' rather than sing their songs through; talking too much; and sounding off-key and off-beat.

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Cham raised the dancehall performance bar by performing on a level that would befit any top rung concert in any country on the planet and was truly a sight to behold. He firstly gave his audience a treat by performing most of his popular singles to the end and was at ease as he confidently used the stage, interacted with his audience and introduced new releases.

Another important factor was that he appeared with his own band, which must have assisted his cause of entertaining his audience and providing value for money.

Cham’s seeming dancehall heights were not attained by sudden flight as he has always been an explosive performer. However, his performance at the last edition of Sumfest is worthy of note because it was clear that the entertainer set out to stamp his class on the event and deliver a performance which would leave his fans well pleased and win over those who were not already sold on his undeniable talent.

Cham’s performance is a clear indicator that dancehall acts can and must raise the bar. The music is taking off more and more in the mainstream and the opportunities for those who shine at that art, are boundless.

Capleton ‘the Fireman’ should also be commended for not pulling up his songs

Performing for themselves and to please Jamaican-based supporters must now be thrown through the window and a new paradigm sought to be attained. With the exception of a few, dancehall artistes all hail from the poorer strata of society. They sing and chant what the masses feel on a day to day basis and are the voice of the people, especially the younger, disenfranchised ones.

Just as Reggae Music was scorned by the upper crust in the days of its infancy but persevered to become the pride and joy of Jamaica and produce its most famous son, so must dancehall music claim its place under the sun. Not just as a secular form of popular entertainment but as the music produced by a generation of Jamaicans who are determined to carry on the tradition of beating the odds and compelling the world to stare their way.

While many may be ‘rich’ in the Jamaican context, they should be made to know that they are only being fed crumbs off the table and can rise to so much more if they resist the urge to rest on their laurels and fool themselves into believing they have arrived at the corner of Easy Street and Got It Made.

Cham has thrown down the gauntlet and shown that with proper planning and dedication, a dancehall act can stand up to any test the entertainment world has to throw at them. His peers should heed advice and take a note out of Cham’s book.

Oh and thank you Capleton ‘the Fireman’ for not pulling up your songs after three or four lines and delivering the songs that we love to hear you belt out so much. Your performance too was worthy of note.

That is my view from the outside

Karyl Walker is a multi-award-winning journalist who has worked for Loop Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer, the RJR Communications Group and Nationwide Radio among other media entities. He now resides in South Florida.

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