Reggae’s Voice: The Accent of Difference


In February 2018 the new Netflix-BBC TV series Collateral debuted, its tense opening scenes unfolding to the throbbing beat of dancehall. No gyal can tell me ’bout my mudda, raps Stefflon Don in impeccable Patwa. She’s a grime artiste, ‘grime’ being the unequivocal outside child of dancehall in the UK.[1]

The following month, The New Yorker ran an online article on dancehall’s global avatars, ‘HoodCelebrityy and Dancehall’s New, Global Faces’, and later that month Jamaicans were transfixed by viral images of Beyoncé and Jay-Z riding a yeng yeng, or motorbike, through Trenchtown.[2] The couple were reportedly shooting a music video in Kingston. At this moment – when Jamaican music has established its global reach – it’s hard to imagine a time when Jamaican singers were obliged to sound anything but Jamaican.

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