Dancehall lyricist Tanya Stephens was hailed as a positive role model at the inaugural lecture at the launch of the Centre for Social Ethics held at the St Michael’s Theological College, last Saturday evening.
It was the first of a series of lectures on social ethics that are to be held at the college. Dr. Anna Perkins had the honour of making the first presentation, choosing the dancehall and one of its premiere entertainers on which to base her study. Dubbed ‘Tasting Tears and Not Admitting Defeat: Promoting Values and Attitudes through the Music of Tanya Stephens’ Perkins gave an interesting and well informed lecture basing her examples on Stephens’ last two albums: Gangsta Blues and Rebelution.
Perkins stressed Stephens’ use of tears throughout her work, which is reflective of Jamaican culture where persons cry due to sadness, pride, happiness and a variety of other emotions. According to Perkins, Tanya Stephens manages to capture a number of social, emotional and psychological issues that occur throughout society. She noted that Stephens has an agenda to “rebelutionize” the society to fight against perceptions that may prove detrimental to them and to give up the victim complex.
Like any popular music, Perkins noted that dancehall music, being a dominant form of music and culture, contributes to the moral development of society. As such dancehall artistes are role models for the youth, often being the only adults that they look up to.
While the dancehall is a space of competitiveness and aggression it is also an opportunity to bring across certain ideas as well as benefit to the economy. Tanya Stephens, Perkins asserts is a vehicle for positive moral values.
To better get the message across, Perkins played a number of songs from both albums during her lecture, such as Sound Of My Tears, Damn You, These Streets. Little White Lie, Do You Still Care?, Tek Him Back (which the audience loved) and others.
With the song Sunday Morning Perkins noted that there are “theologies of popular music” where artistes such as Tanya rip religion to shreds so as to make the church a better place. Perkins closed the lecture by admitting to be a great admirer of Tanya Stephens and asking the crowd to give her music a careful listen.
A thought-provoking lecture, there were those in the crowd of church officials that raised a few eyebrows but were obviously impressed with the topic and may be more encouraged about the dancehall.