Dancehall in the UK: Is it getting the recognition it deserves?

Chukky and Sean PaulImage copyright
BBC/Getty Images

Image caption

Chukky (left) is a dancehall choreographer – it’s a genre which Sean Paul (right) has helped popularise

“I used to be in the back of my yard in Jamaica dancing barefoot for hours in the sun, waiting for days like this,” says dancehall choreographer Chukky.

He’s just been part of the choreography team for a big Christmas advert.

In the ad, for M&S, people’s jumpers make them dance – and a lot of the moves come from the Jamaican genre of dancehall.

But there was a bit of backlash as some people felt the advert was co-opting a genre to sell jumpers, without giving credit to its Jamaican origins.

BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ Seani B – who plays a lot of Caribbean music on his show – posted on Instagram: “People in the mainstream need to know where this… comes from.”

He put up a video of the ad but replaced the original track (House of Pain’s Jump Around) with dancehall song Flair is in the Air by Ding Dong.

But once he realised that Chukky and other Jamaican dancehall choreographers were involved, he posted another video giving them props: “I’m smiling, I’m happy… but we gotta gatekeep the culture,” he said.

However, Chukky – real name Keyama Cammock – is happy to share the style of dance with whoever wants to be involved.

He teaches classes in London, where he says “everyone is welcome.”

And he says he borrows from other genres such as Afrobeat when he’s creating steps.

The signature move of the M&S advert is a shoulder roll – not a dancehall move – but Chukky says he was happy to incorporate it into the choreography.

Image copyright

Image caption

M&S’s festive clothing ad features people in Christmas jumpers dancing to the song Jump Around by House of Pain

Chukky’s been dancing professionally for over 10 years – but since he moved to the UK two years ago, he’s seen the genre grow in popularity.

“When I first came in, there was no real scene for dancers like that.”

Now, he says: “Everyone comes because it’s knowledge. It’s fun. It’s a vibe. And people crave for these things.”

Along with dancehall moves being more popular, the music has also made its way into mainstream pop.

Rihanna’s Work, Drake’s Controlla and Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber’s I Don’t Care are some examples of this.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Drake, Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran have used dancehall influences in their music

A few acts – such as Sean Paul – successfully move between dancehall and pop music.

But he’s called out Drake in the past for not “giving more accolades” towards the Jamaican influence on songs such as One Dance.

He told Newsbeat earlier this year that a “language barrier” might put people off the more hardcore dancehall music, but over time he thinks the genre will be better recognised.

“One day we are going to get people logging on back to what we do,” he said.

“We just feel proud of that fact and we humbly wait for our turn to make the city burn again.”

Image caption

Chukky with the Bulletproof 876 crew

Chukky thinks the dancers do get credit from the outside – and he feels dancehall is having its moment now.

“I’ve been preparing myself for this for many years,” he says.

“Big up to every dancer in Jamaica that creates their steps.”

He adds: “We all aim to be choreographers… that would be shown on big international TV someday and we’ve managed to do that.”

Chukky and his dance crew Bulletproof 876 have also worked on a Levi’s advert and the music video for Nafe Smallz and Tory Lanez’s track Good Love.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Chukky worked with Nafe Smallz and Tory Lanez in their music video

Rather than trying to block others from being influenced by dancehall, Chukky wants to see more unity within the community.

For him, it starts with more mutual respect between dancers and musicians.

“Remember, dancers [in dancehall] have bigger fan bases than a lot artists. So if we dance to your song, and it goes viral, and then everyone starts listening, it’s only right for you to give that credit.”

He says it’s something the Afrobeats community is good at doing.

He adds: “There’s no specific way – even sometimes just through posting on your Instagram as an artist can mean a lot to a dancer.”

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

Leave a Comment