Dancehall music has often been blamed for contributing to Jamaica’s high murder rate, and entertainers are considered enablers.
And with Kartel and Ninja Man’s murder convictions coming a mere three years apart, it doesn’t paint a glowing picture of a genre already under the microscope.
However, industry insiders warned against hastening to condemn the genre and the creative minds who give it life.
Copeland Forbes, veteran artiste manager, told media reporters that it would be unreasonable and unfair to judge the genre based on recent misfortunes.
According to Forbes, the music is only a means of expression, like any other art form.
“The music has nothing to do with them being incarcerated. Whatever happened, happened of their own will, and it has nothing to do with dancehall,” Forbes said.
“I don’t think people should try to tie music to what has happened, because music is just a tool. It has no power unless it is being used by the artiste,” he added.
Forbes is also suggesting that entertainers create a catalogue of music that allows them to be their alter egos but themselves as well.
“We live in a radical world, where anything even close to radicalism is looked at very closely. When people categorise you as something because of the image you put out there, it’s hard to turn around and convince them that you are not what you sing,” Forbes expressed.
“But if you make the distinction between your stage persona and who you are as an individual, certain lines will not be blurred and there is less temptation to become what you created for the music,” he added.
Psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj argues out that these entertainers spend so much time being a Ninja Man and not Desmond Ballentine, or a Vybz Kartel instead of Adidja Palmer, that over time, their musical alter egos become the dominant one.
“Music is not neutral. Music provides entertainment, excitement, encouragement and, whatever you consume, you metabolise, and whatever you metabolise, transforms and becomes a part of you,” Dr. Semaj said.
“Adidja Palmer created Vybz Kartel, then he became Vybz Kartel, but who is in prison? Adidja Palmer is in prison while Vybz Kartel’s music is free and running the world. We’re seeing a similar thing with Desmond Ballentine. He created Ninja Man, but then, he, too, became Ninja Man. We see this in hip hop, too, where a number of the artistes whose lyrical content is extremely violent oftentimes end up taking on the persona of the music they have created,” he added.
Dr Semaj indicated that it would be unfair to ask entertainers to put a lid on their creativity because they singled out as a wrongdoer.
Therefore, he is encouraging artistes to make a clear distinction between their dancehall personas and who they are in real life.
“The fact that somebody sings about something doesn’t mean that is who they are. It is not illegal to sing or write about violence or sex, and these creative minds should be allowed the freedom to express themselves,” Dr. Semaj said.
“But with the association being made between criminality and the art form, self-editing is useful. Build a broader catalogue and do not become purely typecast,” he added.
Ninja Man, his son Janeil, and Dennis Clayton were convicted of murder by a seven-member jury. Ninja Man was also convicted of shooting with intent.
The men are set to return to court on December 15 for sentencing.
Vybz Kartel, real name Adidja Palmer, is currently serving a life sentence for a murder andwill have to serve at least 35 years before parole.
The Jamaican deejay, his protege Shawn “Storm” Campbell, and his friends Andre St John and Kahira Jones, were convicted for the killing of Clive “Lizard” Williams. Police never found Williams’ body.