‘Zesser’ music should not be encouraged

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Akilah Holder is an author and social commentator who resides in Trinidad and Tobago. She is a former journalist and a former adjunct lecturer of political science. She also has a blog which can be read at akilahholder.blogspot.com

By Akilah Holder

“Give the young people a chance and stop “fighting down” up-and-coming artists …

That’s no zesser movement. It’s just what people are adapting to. Music is a cycle. Back then it had passa passa and all these things die out after a while. There’s nothing like zesser music…These youths who are singing dancehall are from the ghetto, so people are labelling it as zesser music. But it is not zesser music, it’s music.”

The above is the view of  Trinidadian dancehall singer, Kern Joseph, on the disapproval of some in the public over this genre of music, as reported recently in the Trinidad Newsday. Joseph was commenting on the inclusion of a “zesser” segment in this year’s International Soca Monarch.

I doubt very much that those of us who disapprove of “zesser” music, disapprove because we are “trying to keep black people down,” as the expression goes. Joseph’s assertion that public disapproval of dancehall is a result of it coming from the ghetto is misguided.

I believe that it has more to do with the values that “zesser” or dancehall music promotes; for “zesser” or dancehall music is violent and lascivious in nature.

Take, for instance, Joseph’s “Gunman in Yuh Hole.” This song glorifies gangsters and the gang lifestyle. It praises those who engage in violence; when this type of behavior has to be shunned.

Consider some of the lyrics:

“Gun man in she hole, she like that/Gunman in she hole, she like that/…Punch her hot/Jump off back/Mi say she jump off back/She say it too hot/F&*k hot you, doh/Punch her hot.”

You see the concern?  Even the act of sex is spoken of violently in this song.

  • Why, then, should this type of music be accepted and normalized?
  • It must be shunned. Why should music with salacious and violent content be encouraged?
  • Doesn’t this country have enough problems?

A song like this one, and others with similar content, send the subliminal messages that one should aspire to be a gunman; since gunmen are revered and one should aspire to have a relationship with a gunman since they are revered.

Secondly, just because this music has started infiltrating Trinidad and Tobago’s culture, doesn’t mean it must be accepted. If a song or a certain genre of music glorifies bad behavior, it cannot be accepted on the grounds that it is fashionable, or because some people enjoy it. That is foolish. If the popularity of something is grounds for its acceptance, whether it is wrong or right, then God help us.

It cannot just be about music. It must also be about the type of music.  There is music that edifies, and there is music that misguides or misinforms.

Moreover, this is not about “what people are adapting to,” for people can adapt to the wrong thing. In fact, I hope this nation never fully adapts to this type of music.

A conversation like this one (and on other moral issues affecting this nation for that matter), cannot be discussed according to what’s en vogue or not, to what is modern or not, to what was allowed in colonial times or not. A discussion like this one must revolve around what is the right behavior, and what is the wrong behavior. It must revolve around what is acceptable and what is not.

Quite frankly, I am disappointed at the inclusion of a “zesser” segment in this year’s International Soca Monarch.

This type of music and the behavior it sanctions, wittingly or unwittingly, ought not to be entertained. Instead of encouraging people in their misguided thoughts and actions, why not discourage them from it? Help them out of it?

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