Some soca and chutney songs degrade women

Dear Editor,

Guyana is home. It will always be my home even though I have spent over twenty-five years away from its homely embrace. I have made, nonetheless, regular annual and bi-annual visits since departing its well trodden soil and I am extremely frightened by its fall from grace with respect to its social and moral decay.

Economically, it seems to be doing well, but socially and morally, there has been a downward spiral, leaving much to be desired.

There is a relationship between social and moral decadence, and domestic violence and the type of music that our youths listen to. Many of the songs do not specifically instruct us to be violent to women but they serve to degrade their status. This, of course, leads to disrespect, dishonour, and a total disregard for women, which contributes to their abuse. What makes it worse is the fact that many of these songs are sung by women, as if inviting behaviour which could violate them physically and emotionally.

Two very popular artists, Shelly G and De Hitman, have a sexy, explicitly suggestive song and video titled ‘Iron’ that could be heard and seen by all and sundry, and is easily accessible. The musical arrangement is great and the soca beat is superb; you just want to dance and gyrate to the pounding beat, but in this song Shelly G is chipping away at the woman’s strength and defence. Could it be that they are singing about the steel pan, or something else? Maybe, but listen to this song and look at the video, and there is no doubt in the mind of the listener that it’s all about the woman.

The following songs are on the lips of everyone – man, woman and child:  Ravi B –‘ Rum is meh Lover’; – ‘Ah Drinka’; – ‘De Hammer’l;  Ki – ‘Single Forever’; Jumo – ‘Push Dat Bumper’; Fiona and De Hitman – ‘Strongman.’

The above listed songs are all fodder for the man to use in the emotional arsenal imbedded in his psyche, to give support to the subservience of the woman. These soca and chutney artists will argue that their lyrics are misinterpreted, and that they are only suggestive. However, there is a thin line between suggestiveness and reality when it comes to our new chutney and soca art forms. The listener feels that he/she knows what the singer is saying and these songs are interpreted by many as reality.

Furthermore, the videos to these songs are very clear and suggestion does not even enter the mind of the viewer, since they are like manuals serving to denigrate the woman as a sex machine.

Our own Guyana Baboo, Terry Gajraj, who has been keeping his music clean and family oriented, has gone astray with his ‘Grease Gun.’ The words of this song are definitely suggestive, and the video is outrageously vulgar and debases the woman. I know Terry personally and appeal to him not to get carried away with the trend of our singers and dancers who seem determined to use their talent to attack the integrity of our women.

These songs and videos are fed to an eager market of listeners on a daily basis, young and old, male and female, reinforcing the belief that the woman is, and must always be, subservient to the man, who can use and abuse her at his convenience and pleasure.

It is surprising and rather strange to see officials, television personalities and promoters rallying behind these artists who have gone astray with their distasteful productions. Maybe, in the case of promoters, this could be justified, since they could argue that it brings in more money. However, I think government and non-government officials, and TV and radio personalities must be selective in who they have on their shows. This will serve to awaken these artists and force them to give their listeners and audience better lyrics and videos.

Incentives must be given to our artists to excel in forms of musical expression which are morally and socially sound, and could contribute to a strengthening of the woman’s role and status, instead of offering them rewards for the type of songs they have produced for this competitive season. A woman’s integrity and her awareness of the role that she has in society are important attributes in the fight against disrespect and abuse. In addition, our female singers must respect themselves and strive to avoid productions that contribute to their subservience.

Yours faithfully,
Harry Bissoon

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