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Ryan crime report: Soca music breeding criminals

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Selwyn Ryan

Soca, dancehall and hip-hop music are said to be influencing youths into criminal behaviour. This is according to a report by the Ryan Committee on Youth at Risk. The report was laid in Parliament by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Friday. The committee’s report said while it was impossible to draw a definitive correlation between violence or explicitness of lyrics and the level of criminality among youth, the lyrics of 2012 soca hits “tend to support the idea of a contemporary youth culture that is very consistent with the rebellious behaviour of previous generations of youth.”



It added “There is little doubt that American (hip-hop) and dancehall music have been having their impact on Trinidad’s young black males.” The report said a survey of 50 students in two schools revealed that 81 per cent of the students preferred dancehall and hip-hop music. The author of the survey, Marc Jackman, believes the statistics “confirm the powerful effects of dancehall and hip hop music on perceptions of sexuality and an association of violent behaviour in Trinidad.” The 436-page report said there was a need to examine the relationship between the current musical culture of youth and its relationship to violence and criminality. It also pointed out that the alcohol or rum themes in chutney songs in the past decade had “been seen as responsible for the perpetuation of crime in the society, more so, domestic violence in the Indian home and community.” 


In its recommendations the Ryan Committee said the media should become a major partner in a “music for change” campaign, adding that the media have a crucial role to play as an influential institution on the young people.  It said the media should be invited to provide suggestions and interventions. Another recommendation was that the Pan in School Co-ordinating Council should be encouraged to pursue the use of panyards as extension of schools and community-based centres to learn steelband music, especially in disadvantaged communities. Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Dr Lincoln Douglas was unavailable for comment when the T&T Guardian attempted to reach him yesterday. 



But 50th Anniversary of Independence Calypso Monarch Roderick “Chucky” Gordon said: “I would agree with the point of dancehall and hip-hop music. A lot of the topics and areas dealt with in dancehall and hip-hop speak to the objectification of women, the value of money and materialism. Crime is a by-product of the love of money so these music forms tend to influence the psyche of the young people listening to them— topics based on sex, money, clothes, cars and women. “I disagree, though, that soca music falls within this ambit as this music deals primarily with the festival that is Carnival. You may have songs with sexual connotations, but that is what we’ve always had in calypso music. So, would you say as well that calypso of the 60s-80s influenced crime?


“If one wishes to find a link between music and crime, one needs to look at the development of the popular urban market, from the early 90s. The advent of the urban music caused young people to be influenced by hip-hop and rap music. Youth was also exposed to, and influenced by cable television. It was from there one saw the lack of love and depreciation of soca and calypso music.” National Calypso Monarch 2011 Duane O’Connor said: “I wouldn’t say calypso or soca influences criminal behaviour in young people. Most of the soca music speaks about love and relationships. It is a totally out of place, and an erroneous statement to link the message of soca music to that expressed in dancehall and rap music, and the music influencing criminal behaviour. 


“In the old days, people like Sparrow and Duke would sing spicy calypsoes, cleverly using double entendre. Artistes like SuperBlue, Machel (Montano), Destra and Denise Belfon have all only sung about love. Look at SuperBlue this year. His song is a sweet party song that has nothing to do with violence. For Carnival I watched my son and about 300 children under 11 years old just jumping and screaming, and enjoying Fantastic Friday. You tell me what part of that is encouraging violence.
“Other music genres like rap or hip-hop do induce violent thoughts and action, and we definitely don’t have none of that in our soca music.” —With reporting by Peter Ray Blood


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