Sly Dunbar Says ‘Hype’ Is Killing Jamaica’s Reggae And Dancehall Industry

Sly & Robbie

Veteran drummer Sly Dunbar, of the Grammy Award-winning production duo Sly & Robbie, believes ‘hype’ is killing Jamaican Reggae and Dancehall music.

During In The Reggae Studio, a Reggae Month feature aired on the Ministry of Entertainment’s Facebook page on Saturday, Dunbar also declared that “the current state of the music is both good and bad” with the advent of digital production.

The Bam Bam and Murder She Wrote co-producer and innovator said the industry has developed but “I think we have lost some points…like alot of people depend on the computer and the digital stuff to do the work. But the work has to be done manually, get into the computer, for the computer to operate. So, I think alot of people has misread the line.”

“I think [the music] can get better if the artist will apply themself and check sometime what the people want to hear,” he said. “We should look at it by saying ‘I wonder if the people gonna like the record?’ because most of the time when Robbie and myself were making a record, we always think of the public. We never did satisfied with ourselves with the record; we try to carry it cause we might feel good about the record but the guy in the streets seh, ‘Bwoy we nuh like it enuh’.”

“But then again..the artists probably need somebody to guide them,” Dunbar added.

“Just like Motown was like a general school that people would sit with the artist and show him wrong from right, what you shouldn’t do, what you shouldn’t say and such, but I think there’s a hype factor in Jamaica which everybody is hype. I think this is killing the whole industry.”

Sly Dunbar, whose real name is Lowell Fillmore Dunbar has been kicking it with bassist Robert ‘Robbie’ Shakespeare for over four decades, earning them the legendary status as the most innovative rhythm section in Reggae and Dancehall history.

Affectionately known by their fans as the Rhythm Kings, Sly & Robbie have been nominated 11 times for the Best Reggae Album Grammy Award, winning once in 1998 for their album, Friends. They were also once nominated for a Best R&B Instrumental Performance at the coveted awards.

But Shakespeare says their most prized accolade was the Order Of Distinction which they received from the Jamaican Government.

The legendary duo attributed their enduring partnership to humility and respect for each other.

“There’s a lot of respect fi each other, we never forget where we come from,” said Dunbar. “We always respect people around us and we try to understand the whole industry and what it’s all about and what it takes for someone to survive in this crazy music world.”

Shakespeare added, “We meet pon good terms and it was always music and we still have that… If we come een and Sly a play a drum pattern and I playing bass line and him seh, ‘Change dah line to so and so’, mi nah seh, ‘No mi nah change it cause a dis me a feel’. Likewise if I tell him change a pattern and give him an idea him will try it. We have that mutual respect for one another throughout the years and it nah go change.”

In addition to prominent Jamaican artists such as Beenie Man, Sean Paul, Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Chaka Demus & Pliers, and Dennis Brown, Sly & Robbie have worked with and produced for international artists such as Madonna, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones, Grace Jones, Sting, Khaled, Doug E. Fresh, Carlos Santana, Sinéad O’Connor, No Doubt and many others.