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The Dancehall Icons Dilemma: Balancing Legacy and Evolution

Experienced Dancehall icons are facing a challenging path as they strive to balance staying loyal to their core fan base with the need for musical evolution. The Dancehall genre has witnessed the ascent of legendary artists who have left an enduring mark on its landscape. Buju Banton, undoubtedly one of these luminaries, recently released his 13th studio album, “Born for Greatness.” Although the album has garnered mixed reviews, it has ignited a crucial, yet often overlooked, discussion about the struggles encountered by aging Dancehall artists in finding their artistic identity in later stages of their careers, and why some of them might find it beneficial to enlist the services of songwriters.

This debate was sparked by a tweet that appeared on my timeline, suggesting that Buju Banton could draw inspiration from younger artists like Nation Boss and Yaksta.

Buju Banton’s influence on Dancehall is undeniable, having achieved remarkable success over the years. His album “Til Shiloh” is hailed as a masterpiece. However, the shadow of his earlier triumphs has proven to be both a blessing and a burden throughout his illustrious journey. Buju’s musical odyssey, akin to that of many established artists, has been marked by periods of self-discovery and transformation. “Born for Greatness” sets the tone for this exploration, diverging from his previous album and offering a glimpse of a sound reminiscent of “Til Shiloh.” Buju’s delivery remains as potent as ever, affirming that he can still measure up to his younger self.

While “Born for Greatness” boasts moments of brilliance, it also encounters instances of inconsistency. The title track, for instance, takes a detour that feels scripted and out of sync with Buju’s authentic style. Similarly, some other tracks dilute profound insights with generic lyrics, underscoring the challenge of harmonizing relevance with authenticity.

Buju Banton

A pivotal lesson from Buju’s artistic journey is the significance of evolution while remaining true to oneself. The elder statesmen of Dancehall should take inspiration from artists like Jay-Z, who underwent a transformative reinvention with “4:44.” Jay-Z collaborated with a key producer to craft a sound that enabled him to address topics pertinent to his life at that moment, such as marriage, fatherhood, and generational legacy. The essence lies in creating music that resonates with one’s current reality and experiences. Seasoned Dancehall acts must strike a delicate equilibrium between staying authentic and evolving.

Cham, Bounty Killer, Dexta Daps, © WMV

Buju is not alone, as the same can be said for Bounty Killer and Cham‘s “Time Bomb” EP produced by Davie Kelly. Instead of chasing trends or emulating styles mastered by the younger artists, they should craft music that mirrors their present circumstances and resonates with their loyal fan base who are now more mature. Buju’s journey, epitomized by “Born for Greatness,” serves as a reminder that while the past provides a foundation, the future hinges on staying genuine and discovering a fresh sound that authentically reflects their journey.

Dancehall veterans possess the potential to continue making meaningful contributions to the genre by embracing their maturity, life encounters, and personal growth. In doing so, they can create music that not only speaks to their devoted fans but also resonates with a new generation of listeners who hold authenticity in high regard.

The post The Dancehall Icons Dilemma: Balancing Legacy and Evolution appeared first on World Music Views.



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