He say mi haffi work, work, work, work, work...

By 10:03 AM

On work as a international west indian flavored song and what it means

About a month or so ago, I stumbled onto an interesting Facebook video by Mr. Vegas, speaking out on the situation with Dancehall music internationally. Up until that video from someone with personal expertise on the subject, I never realized there was "a situation."

Locally, everyone loves danchall music here. According to my Instagram timeline and Facebook, people overseas love dancehall. Even the people who don't like dancehall music have a few songs stuck in their head that they secretly tolerate. As silly as this is going to sound, I assumed everyone everywhere knew what dancehall was. It isn't exactly a type of music one island or country alone listens to... it's the type that's across a whole region, even the Spanish territories have dancehall influenced music, as well as sub-cultures in several countries.

His argument though was based upon the intrinsic of music - the stuff that it's essence is made of, and so accepted that we don't notice it but know exactly what he's speaking of when he says it. He said, to paraphrase, that most of the dancehall music produced today isn't marketable overseas. The essence of dancehall is dependent upon its rhythmic beats and sultry feel-good feels. When you hear it, the beat makes you want to groove. Hence why there's all those famous dancehall dances being created. He also noted that other types of music have started implementing dancehall rhythms into their own songs and being successful like - 'Cheerleader' by OMI, 'Sorry' by Justin Beiber and 'Lean on' by Major Lazer(but we expect that from one of his remixes.. after all, they're Jamaican). But still, all these folks have kept their pop style but borrowed the rhythm from dancehall music. The last big song that went internationally was his song, 'Bruk it down.'

While soca music has been evolving into something bigger and bigger - the essence of what makes it soca, the rhythm and the beat, remains in all of those songs that make it out of the region. The original sound and feeling that it gives you remains, but other influences step in. However, with dancehall, he says, dancehall has become more poetic and less about the rhythm and dancing, with a lot more borrowed hip hop and rap influences. It's hard for the folks who don't know or have never known or appreciated dancehall music to be able to understand it. (Click here to view the Mr. Vegas clip.)

This got me wondering, what if someone who is already popular with Caribbean roots, was to use their musical platform to produce something with strong Caribbean flavour... and along came Rihanna with "Work" this month. Of course I loved the song from the moment I heard it. Of course I understood what she was saying and easily learned the lines by ear. But this is me. I'm an island girl. I'm a Caribbean girl. This is what I know.

What I was curious about was to see the social media response to the song. I first heard it in a clip by one of my favourite Instagrammer 'OfficialBadGyalDyDy.' She's Jamaican, her fan base is a lot of Caribbean folks. Most of us, if not all, understood and appreciated the song. Go across into my American and UK timelines and there's a world of memes regarding 'WHAT is she SAYING before and after work work work work work.' It was hilarious.

Snippet from the video from (http://rapdose.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/drake-rihanna-the-real-jerk.jpg)

Then along came the first video which I loved. It felt very Caribbean and something that, although I've never seen, something that I could actually imagine easily. Especially if I had to paint a restaurant/liming spot scene and summarize Caribbean flavours. There's the simple restaurant setting, with the DJ at a table, girls all decked out hair and nails done in the strangest and/or sexiest outfits they could find, with somebody repping a flag, somebody rolling a joint in a corner and everyone just chill under some dim lights. What did I read? They thought it was soft porn. Why? How Caribbean people dance, people from other countries who don't know better, may be inclined to say just that. It looks like soft porn. But really? It's far from anything. It's really just a dance that sometimes runs like a game, and when the song ends, the game ends. What's the game? Silly little things like being able to wine good, fast, slow, outdo the other person, make them fall down because they can't handle the wine, little fun things like that. Whereas, I assume in those other countries, people may dance close but perhaps it's more expected for lovers or folks about to become lovers to dance like that.

All this to say, I love the song and I love the videos. And even if a lot of folks think she's singing in a foreign language, they love the song as well. Have you heard it as yet? What did you think?

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