“The party has been a regular occurrence for about the last 6 years in the downtown area of Kingston, Jamaica. Founded¬†by Supa Hype and his crew, Diamond League Sound, the title Mojito Mondays is all about what it suggests: chill vibes with a little something to drink. And more.¬†Dance crews come out and show their latest choreographed moves and folks come out to ease and rock into the start of the week.” On a recent trip to the homeland of his parents, photographer Don Brodie found himself deep on the dance floor among the dancehall crews of Kingston. Travelling frequently to Jamaica from a young age to visit family and friends, his photo series is an homage to the music and dance culture of his childhood.
“The music from then reminds me of sitting in Granville, Jamaica on my uncle Donnie’s tractor with my brother as we eat coconut jelly barefoot.”
“I grew up in my dad’s basement which was a replica of a traditional dancehall. We had a DJ booth attached to a bar that was lit only by dim red light that faded the deeper you went into the basement. The space was walled by wood paneling and four 12 inch speakers in all four corners. I can’t quite recall the floors, but I do remember it was the perfect surface to spin on my knees as others eased and rocked to the vinyl my dad queued one after another. I remember watching my dad, with studio headphones barely resting on one ear, lift his hands from one of the two record players to dance.”
These photos were taken when long time friend and native¬†Jamaican,¬†Marcus Bird, took Don out to Mojito Mondays, a street party that gets going around midnight. In a seamless transition, at a certain point the party inevitably gravitates to¬†Uptown Mondays a walk away. “When we arrived, the dance crews were claiming territory and getting ready to put on a show.¬†(The Rifical Dance Team are in red and black.)¬†Most of the party is in darkness the further you are from the stage with occasional coloured lights spinning past. Everyone is at a “nice” level, mostly rum and mixed hard drinks are consumed while feeling the pulse of bass from the speakers.”
The music and scene has changed since the disco of Don’s dad’s era.¬†”The music from then reminds me of sitting in Granville, Jamaica on my uncle Donnie’s tractor with my brother as we eat coconut jelly barefoot, or cleaning the meat from a red snapper cooked escovitch at Hellshire beach with my cousin Dwight.”
“Great old school sounds from¬†Lee Perry, Barrington Levy, Super Cat, Sugar Minott, Tenor Saw, Dawn Penn, Sister Nancy, Yellowman, Eak-a-Mouse, Gregory Issacs, Alton Ellis,¬†and so many more.”
“The most popular artist (Vybz Kartel Aka Addi Innocent)¬†is rumoured to still be making top chart hits via cell phone from his jail cell.”
“There are 3 types of music these days,” Don says. “You have the reggae you hear on vacation: all the stuff that is made to sound like Bob and¬†the Wailers.¬†Roots reggae: artists like¬†Chronixx, Protoje, Jesse Royal and Gyptian. This is popular amongst many and in some ways the favourite type of music due to the comprehensive lyrics and soft subject matter. It often has the influence of traditional Studio One, yet is definitely modern.
“The last type is the modern dancehall. This is fast paced and often has multiple artists vying to make the next “Big Tune” or top-rank song. A dancehall “riddim” is made and it is almost as if the whole island takes a chance at recording the new hit with the hot new sound. The most popular artist (Vybz Kartel Aka Addi Innocent)¬†is rumoured to still be making top chart hits via cell phone from his jail cell.
“What was once a “Lean With It, Rock With It” scene is now a complex fast paced performance showcase by skilled dance squads or a hardcore close grind/”dagger” session.”
Don says that although the main industry in Jamaica is “beach vybz and tropical tourism”, the music and now the dance as well are a major export attracting people from around the world.
These photos capture the dancers in a line dance. “Teams of at least 3 start with a leader and the moves trickle on to the rest of the dance team. Individuals may follow a leader after he or she starts with a few steps or the teams are established and practice together for the next major party. If you google “Jamaican Line Dance” (due to lack of a better description), you can find many instructional videos of dances that go to particular songs and dancehall crew videos showing the latest routine.
“It’s hard to stand still when you hear [the music] but a toe tap will never cut it among the flashy, well dressed performers. Yes, you can spectate but before you know it you will find yourself trying to “Follow the Leader”.”