Dancehall is a genre of Jamaican popular music that originated in the late 1970s. Initially, dancehall was a more sparse version of reggae than the roots style, which had dominated much of the 1970s. In the mid-1980s, digital instrumentation became more prevalent, changing the sound considerably, with digital dancehall (or "ragga") becoming increasingly characterized by faster rhythms. Key elements of dancehall music include its extensive use of Jamaican Patois rather than Jamaican standard English and a focus on the track instrumentals (or "riddims").
Dancehall saw initial mainstream success in Jamaica in the 1980s, and by the 1990s, it became increasingly popular in Jamaican diaspora communities. In the 2000s, dancehall experienced worldwide mainstream success, and by the 2010s, it began to heavily influence the work of established Western artists and producers, which has helped to further bring the genre into the Western music mainstream.
Dancehall is named after Jamaican dance halls in which popular Jamaican recordings were played by local sound systems. They began in the late 1970s among people from the inner city of Kingston, who were not able to participate in dances uptown.
Artists like Shabba Ranks, Beenie Man, and Vybz Kartel played significant roles in popularizing Dancehall internationally with their catchy melodies and distinct lyrical styles. Today, Dancehall continues to evolve, blending elements of Hip Hop, EDM, and other genres, attracting a diverse fan base and leaving an indelible mark on global music.
Lyrically, dancehall often touches on a wide range of topics, including love, social issues, and the experiences of everyday life. Artists use vivid storytelling and clever wordplay to captivate their audience. Dancehall has also been a platform for social commentary, with artists addressing political issues, inequality, and advocating for social change.
Over the years, dancehall has seen various sub-genres and styles emerge, including ragga, reggae fusion, and even cross-genre collaborations with hip hop and pop artists. Dancehall's influence has spread globally, with artists from around the world incorporating its infectious rhythms and distinctive vocal style into their own music.