Jamaica split by dancehall feud

London’s Guardian newspaper reports on the war of words between Vybz Kartel and Mavado, which has drawn in Jamaica’s PM and its most famous sportsman. Here’s what they have to say:

The Jamaican music industry has always been a law unto itself. It makes stars of people who wouldn’t get past a record company reception desk elsewhere: the cross-eyed, toothless DJ King Stitt, the eccentric producer Glen Brown, famed for releasing singles with the wrong labels deliberately attached.

So it stands to reason that it should produce a feud that dwarfs all others: one that involves both the prime minister and the country’s most famous Olympian, Usain Bolt.

Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur’s war of words may have sold more records, but Bill Clinton didn’t convene a meeting involving four government ministers and a bishop. Blur and Oasis may have made the evening news, but at least Steve Redgrave managed to stay out of it.

The argument is between dancehall stars Vybz Kartel and Mavado. Kartel claims to have had sex with Mavado’s mother and once carried a coffin with his rival’s name on it onstage. Mavado claims Kartel is a closet homosexual, has had his skin bleached and doesn’t believe in God – the latter a serious slur in a country with more churches per capita than anywhere else on earth.

But what sets Kartel and Mavado’s feud apart is that it is linked to two different neighbourhoods – the Kingston neighbourhood, known as Gully, where Mavado was born, and an area of Portmore nicknamed “Gaza” by its most famous inhabitant, Kartel. Some say the row is linked to Jamaica‘s warring political parties: Gaza supports the PNP, Gully the JLP. Others say the feud has been stoked by a music industry suffering a slump in sales.

Whatever the reason, it is being blamed for fights in dancehalls, attacks on tourists and violence in prisons and schools. Usain Bolt is said to have decreed that no Gully music be played at his post-Olympic homecoming party. Finally, back in December, Prime Minister Bruce Golding called for a meeting with both artists to broker a truce.

Now, say some reports, the feud has spread to West Indian communities in New York. Meanwhile, back in Jamaica, Kartel and Mavado appear to have moved on. “Somebody tell me why Gully and Gaza fight,” pleads Mavado on a new track called Starlight, to which the obvious answer is: the fact you called Kartel a skin-bleaching atheist probably didn’t help.

The report appeared originally at http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/apr/11/rappers-feud-divides-jamaica

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