Two cultures clash

Talk of banning the “dance of death” is still doing the rounds here in Kingston, or at least it was this morning at the hairdresser’s. The dance in question is of course the “Dutty Wine”. In a country where new dance moves pop up every week, the Dutty Wine has shown unusual endurance since its first attributed appearance in Montego Bay early this year. Its combo moves of butterfly knees, twisting neck and whirling weave is not particularly “dirty”, yet it has become the most popular dance for years. Check out some of the 2,000+ examples on YouTube.

The dance hit the mainstream, or middle class, consciousness some ten days ago when it was cited as the cause of death of a young woman.

The popular “Dutty Wine” dance is being blamed for yesterday’s death of an 18-year-old St. Catherine woman.

Tanisha Henry was attending a “school uniform” party at Beacon Hill, Thompson Pen, about four o’clock Sunday morning when, while doing the popular dance, she collapsed and was rushed to the nearby Spanish Town Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

When The Gleaner checked with the institution, a representative said persons have for some time been warned of the dangers associated with the dance, but that no one seems to have taken heed.

[…]

“If you throw the body in extreme positions, as in the case of the ‘Dutty Wine’, you could have muscle trauma, damage to your ligaments and shifting in bones,” [said] Dr. Jephthath Ford, general practitioner.

[…]

“It is a warning to young people that dem mus stop du de Dutty Wine,” said one woman who called the incident a curse on the land. “Is like a demon sen’ from de pit a hell dat is taking the lives of the youth even before dem have time to repent.”
Source: The Gleaner

My reckoning is that the woman probably hit her head on something as a result of dizziness, as seen in the above video clip, around 01:50. But who am I to argue with a doctor named “Jephthath”?

What has struck me more in the days since the death is the obvious division in cultures between the middle class, educated newspaper journalists, and the semi-literate dancehall fans. The remove is such that some were not even aware of the song and dance until the recent death. The response is suitably indignant:

[I]t is incredible how the Dutty Wine song managed to stay on top of the music charts for 13 weeks without being pulled by the broadcasting commission, or without being the subject of protest by the teachers union, the church, the prime minister’s office, the moral authority, Greg Christie [Office of the Auditor General, aka Mr Clean], the opposition, the ministry of welfare, the child care and protection agency, Jamaicans for Justice, the police commissioner’s office, the PTA of any school, any columnist or anyone else for that matter.
Source: Jamaica Observer

In terms of reference and expression, the culture clash is fascinating. In the first corner we have this type of writing:

Should Dutty Wine be banned? First of all, there needs to be some care in assessing cause and effect. A man jogs briskly down the street, collapses and dies. There may be a sense in which the jogging may be said to have caused his death, but this, by itself, would be a far too simplistic conclusion. And the mere fact that the death followed the brisk jog does not mean that the jogging had anything to do with his death: post hoc ergo propter hoc is not really helpful in this case.
Source: The Gleaner

In the other corner we have:

A DIS THIS WRIGHTER A TRY DISRESPECT JAMAICAN MEN AND WOMEN AN U CAN GET INTOUCH WITH HIM AN TELL HIM JAMAICA SAY HIM FE GO S*K HIM SELF IN AN INTELLIGENT WAY, I HATE JAMAICANS LIKE THIS PERSON U R QUOTING,THEY R LIKE THE WHITE TRASH WHITE PEOPLE IN SOCIETY WHO LIKE TO PUT PEOPLE DOWN AND THEY R NO BETTER THAN MY SHOE BOTTOM. SHOW OFF,STUSH,ACT LIKE THEY R SMARTER THAT ALL,AN SHAMEFULL OF THERE CULTURE,WE R JAMAICAN AND WE DONT DO TO PLEASE PEOPLE WE DO TO PLEASE OUR SELF, IN OTHER WORDS WE DONT WATCH FACE WE CREAT FACES TO WATCH US CUT AN GO THROUGH IN LIFE,EVERY BODY WANT A PAGE OUT OF OUR BOOKS JAMAICAN PEOPLE THAT IS, BUT OUR PAGES R NOT REMOVABLE BY PAGONS AND PARASIGHTS, LIKE THE WRIGHTER OF THIS DESRESPECTFULL ARTICLE U POST,HE TALK OF US AS IF WE R THE WORST ANIMAL LIVING ON EARTH, AND IF U CHECK HIS LIFE STYLE HE IS MOST LIKELY THE HYENA OF US ALL, AN WE ALL KNOW HOW DISGUSTING AND COWARD THE HYENA IS.
Source: Yardflex.com

Is one write and the other indubitably erroneous?

I’ll leave that for you to comment on.

For my part, I’ll leave you with an uptown contribution to a fourth verse of Tony Matterhorn’s smash version of “Dutty Wine”.

[audio:Tony Matterhorn – Dutty Wine (Smash riddim).mp3]

Attitude Gal
One of dem, two of dem
See the crew of dem, I will wine dem
Could a three a dem, could a four a dem
Even more of dem, I will grind dem
See the whole of dem, see di whole a dem … friends (whole a dem friends)
Pack up mi gyal … dutty wine … eehh
So what dem a say
All right now

Verse
Me step inna di club, a dance rub a dub
An di gyal a come wine up on me
Mi stan so tall back against the wall
And now she start climb up pon me
Its kind a likkle trickie, I’m checking out Nikki
When you know say time is up on me
The way di gyal a wine is like the breeze a blow
But it hot and the sun shine on me

Chorus
Di dutty wine, my girl, dutty wine (whoa)
Di dutty wine, my girl, dutty wine (ray)
Di dutty wine, my girl, dutty wine (lawd)
Dutty wine, my girl, mix it up now
Di dutty wuk, my girl, dutty wuk (ray)
Di dutty wuk, my girl, dutty wuk (laad)
Di dutty wuk, my girl, dutty wuk (whoa)
Watch di gyal dem a do di dutty wuk (aye)

Verse
Bend your back and lift your head up
Turn side way, lift your leg up
Bend your face and twist it up
And turn true side like you know you fed up (Whoa)
Turn roun like you know rose duck
Spin aroun cause you know how fi wuk
Lift it up back, then you breast it up
Back it up, cock it up, my girl dutty wuk

Chorus
So, do di dutty wuk, do di dutty wuk
Watch all di gal deh a do di dutty wuk (Attitude)
Di dutty wuk, do di dutty wuk
Attitude gal a do di dutty wuk

Verse
So f***in inna wata, f***in inna sea
F***in inna bushes, and f***in inna tree
If you f*** pon di bed your not f***ing me
F*** pon di floor, f*** pon di tv
F*** pon di dresser, and bruk up figurine
F*** pon di fan, no gyal no finga me
When mi see di hot gyal dem dat a trigga me
F*** any where, let f*** be free

So, could a one a dem, could a two a dem
Send the crew of dem, I will grind dem
Could a three a dem, and if a four of dem
Send more a dem, I will wine dem
Any way dem deh, any way dem deh
Any way dem deh, Mota will find dem
Just to wine up pon di gyal yah
Look at di gyal dem a wine
Sit down pon it now

Verse
Quid fit? Quid fit?
Modo fac! Modo fac!
Te audire no possum! (Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.)
Heus, hic nos omnes in agmine sunt!
Fac ut gaudeam.
Quid fit? (Osculare pultem meam!)
Quid fit? (Subucula tua apparet.)
Quid fit? (Id tibi praebet speciem lepidissimam!)
Quid fit? (Capillamentum? Haudquaquam conieci esse!)
Apudne te vel me? (Di, ecce hora! Uxor mea necabit!)

Mi a wicked! He-he-he!

7 thoughts on “Two cultures clash”

  1. Read this article a while ago, have a little blurb on my site. Feel bad for the girls family, but not 100% convinced that her death was caused by a dance. I can just image the Yute she was dancing with, walking around going, don’t make me kill ya with the dutty wine now…(I know, I know bad joke)

  2. there was a story in yesterday’s paper of a bajan girl who went to Jamaica to learn how to do the dutty wine correctly. i don’t think the story deserved 2 pages but obviously the Dutty Wine has a life and energy of it own.

  3. Hi, Michele sent me today. I chose “stet” because no-one knows what that term means and I’m such an editing nerd. Thanks for the lesson on the Dutty Wine, I had no idea of the dangerous nature of this dance!

  4. I followed the link from my posting on yours and enjoyed your story.

    What has struck me more in the days since the death is the obvious division in cultures between the middle class, educated newspaper journalists, and the semi-literate dancehall fans. The remove is such that some were not even aware of the song and dance until the recent death.

    Well, one of the reasons is practical. Middle-class people don’t go to the sorts of clubs and events where this dance happens. Not at first, anyway. For one thing, they are likely to assume that such places are dangerous.

    Street culture has been migrating upwards in Jamaica since about the 1960s. Over the years the internal barriers — prejudices, conventions, etc., — to reggae and dancehall culture and all its various forms are much more permeable than they were then. Even before I left Jamaica in my teens in the mid-late 70s I knew, and experienced, a change in Kingston speech, I was speaking a whole new middle-class slang that was full of street lamguage, to the unutterable dismay of my parents.

    But the various social stigma associated with stuff like “dutty wine” are considerably reduced, among the educated middle class, from what they would once have been.

    So now it’s pretty much just the churches that do this sort of moral policing. I don’t mean to suggest that there aren’t class barriers still, but these are much less to do with subtle things like syntax and “slackness” than they are to do with material status.

  5. I’m reluctant that the Pit bull requirements a particular type of operator…these pet dogs, no matter how ‘trusting’ still have teeth, are still creatures with out moral concepts and when they DO bite, won’t allow go. As in all creatures…some often be more suseptable to instinctual behavior and time and time again, this breed tends to do just that.

Over to you!