Top 10: Best dance songs in Dancehall history

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Elephant Man Signal Di Plane

BY: Jodee Brown

There are many valid reasons music lovers can point to regarding the slow decline of Dancehall in recent years. One such reason that has not been talked about enough is the lack of dance songs in the genre.

One of the main reasons for Dancehall’s popularity skyrocketing during the 90s and the turn of the millennium was the emergence of dance moves and crazes that added a feel good element to the music; where people of all ages could go to events and just let loose. In the last two decades, people such as Elephant Man, Beenie Man and Voicemail helped draw international attention to the craft showcased by many of Jamaica’s top dancers, including Ding Dong, Global Bob, Mystic Davis, John Hype, Carlene the Dancehall Queen and the late great Bogle. These dancers and others helped make the Dancehall arena a more fun and relaxing place to be around thanks to the unique dance crazes they created.

Since the end of the last decade, such songs have been a rarity, but are slowly starting to pop up again, including Ding Dong’s recently created Sivva dance. Through Dancehall history, he and others have made songs that we still dance to in sessions today. Here’s a list of 10 songs that started crazes and added new elements and leases of life to the ever-changing genre.

Honourable Mentions:

Voicemail/Bogle/Ding Dong/Delly Ranks  – Ready To Party

RDX – Dancer’s Anthem

Mr. Vegas – Tek Weh Yuhself, Hot Wuk and Bruk It Dung

QQ – Stukie

Ding Dong & Tornado – Killa Swing

Ding Dong – Bad Man Forward, Bad Man Pull Up

Macka Diamond – Hula Hoop

Elephant Man – Log On/Online/Higher Level


10. Beenie Man: Row Like a Boat – We start this list going back a decade with this classic pairing one of Dancehall’s greatest artists with one of the greatest dancers to come out of Jamaica.

Beenie Man recruited Bogle for the hit single, Row Like a Boat featuring Bogle, who had created the dance – moving your hands in a rowing motion while also including foot and hip movements – and it soon swept the nation like a tidal wave.

The song was a hit on the charts and TV/radio stations and was one of a flurry of dance songs Beenie came out with in the mid-2000s: Chaka Chaka, Swing It Weh and more. This also continued the strong momentum for Bogle, who was enjoying his most successful year in the spotlight after featuring in countless videos and songs, some of which you’ll see on this list.

9. Elephant Man: Blasé/Krazy Hype/Keeping It Jiggy – I remember being a 11th grade student at Ardenne High School when these dance crazes were at their peak; a few friends and I doing the Blasé during an impromptu sports day party in the rain, hundreds in the school auditorium doing the mad run when Krazy Hype started playing during a school session and guys Keeping It Jiggy with the ladies when Ele himself showed up to said party and performed.

That’s how popular these three dance crazes were in 2003, when Elephant Man ascended to international superstardom and the dances crafted by Bogle and John Hype respectively were, these dances added that extra excitement to parties across the country and, from personal experience, allowed me to truly enjoy the essence of Dancehall for the first time.

Each of these dances were showcased in a medley video by the ‘Energy God’ and helped attract more positive universal attention for the genre, which was experiencing its biggest boom period internationally in the early 2000s when he, Sean Paul, Beenie Man and others were successfully crossing over into the American mainstream market.

8. Voicemail, Delly Ranks and Bogle: Jiggy Time – Let’s keep it jiggy with this hot number in 2004 in which Bogle not only showcased his catchy Keeping It Jiggy creation, but got on the mic and taught us ‘We don’t tek press, we judge we own concept,’  among other things.

Bogle introduced this single featuring fast-rising group, Voicemail, who would go one to make very good livings off making dance-themed songs and Delly Ranks, who gave us those famous lines, :Get Jiggy gal, get jiggy gal, get Jiggy gal, get Jiggy gal, Weddy weddy weddy weddy weddy weddy gal, Mi ready when yu ready when yu ready when yu ready gal.”

Not only did we learn how to keep it jiggy, a move where one moves his or her arms while bending his or her knees, but this quintet of entertainers got us to ‘Bus di place,’ ‘Shankle Dip’ ‘Summer Bounce’ and ‘Walk wid di Bounce,’ on top of it. If you were at a party or simply looking to exercise, this song was the perfect background music. Voicemail topped charts with this effort while Bogle added to the aura he long presented internationally.

7. Tony Matterhorn: Dutty Wine – Fast forward to 2006 and few sound system selectors had as much popularity and notoriety as Tony Matterhorn, having won countless sound clashes around the world while never being afraid to speak his mind on and off stage.

But Matterhorn was not satisfied and decided to take the ever-risky crossover into deejaying. His first song became a global phenomenon as he recorded Dutty Wine, paying homage to a new style of dancing popularized by former Dancehall queen, Michelle ‘Mad Michelle’ McKoy in which women wildly rotated their necks and bottoms simultaneously.

The song was a major hit, topping several charts locally and earning regular rotations on stations in the U.S. and U.K. while the Dutty Wine dance itself became arguably the most controversial craze of the 2000s, with injuries and even death blamed on the dance. Nevertheless, Matterhorn’s song started a movement whereby artists such as Vybz Kartel, Mr. Vegas and others implemented elements of the dance in their songs. The dance craze and Matterhorn’s song remain fixtures across sessions today.

6. Ding Dong feat Chevaughn: Holiday – By 2009, Ding Dong and the Ravers Clavers dance crew were at the peak of their powers. Citing Bogle as his biggest influence, Ding Dong went on to become one of the best and most popular dancers of the 2000s, creating Bad Man Forward, Bad Man Pull Up, Killa Swing and countless others, which he showcased in his songs dedicated to the dancers.

But the acclaimed dancer struck gold in the booth with his chart-topping single, Holiday, which became the most popular song that year. In that song, Ding Dong and his crew introduced us to dance moves such as Skip To My Lou and the Summer Swingwhile offering ideal descriptives that not only made the song a hit during the summer, but for any holiday period. Add a well sung chorus from then newcomer, Chevaughn and the perfect formula for a hit song was created.

To this day, the song remains a party favourite.

5. Elephant Man: Willie Bounce – It’s that man again, Elephant Man, this time with a strong tribute to his late friend, Bogle, who was fatally shot at a gas station in Kingston in 2005.

The news rocked Ele to the core, but he kept on dancing and creating happy music for his fans and duly did so on this single showcasing a dance Bogle had done in honour of former Black Roses crew leader, Willie Haggart, who was killed four years earlier.

The Willie Bounce was one of the most popular dances of the 2000s and this song was a fitting soundtrack to it, with Ele and the featured dancers doing movements Bogle was known for doing, like his signature pose. The song was another chart-topper added to his growing list and forever kept Bogle’s memory going strong.

4. Voicemail feat. Ding Dong – Wacky Dip– At number four is an even more fitting dedication to Dancehall’s greatest ever dancer.

The January 2005 shooting death of Bogle, real name Gerald Levy rocked the Dancehall fraternity, especially considering the dancer’s popularity was at its peak by that time. His death inspired this heartfelt tribute from Voicemail, who long considered him a friend and pioneer. Their song, Wacky Dip drew attention to the popular dance done by the man affectionately called ‘Mr. Wacky.’

The dance itself involves a forward movement of the arms, then dipping your hand and making a sweeping motion to the right. Other dances illustrated in the video include Out and Bad andthe Willie Bounce as well as variations of the dip. It was a perfect tribute to arguably the most innovative dancer to come out of Jamaica.

3. Elephant Man: Nuh Linga/Sweep/Gully Creeper – Much like an earlier Elephant Man entry, this one is bunched together for a couple reasons.

In 2008, Elephant Man could do no wrong during yet another boom period for Dancehall. While so many were captivate by the ferocity of the feud between Vybz Kartel and Mavado, the ‘Energy God’ stayed positive with his lyrics and delivered three songs that dominated the local TV/radio airwaves. First Ele devised yet another chart-topper, Nuh Linga drawing attention to the popular dance created by Ovamarz which involved lots of upper body movement and quick feet. He then recorded Sweep, a song illustrating the popular dance which was a simple foot sweep and is often merged with the Nuh Linga during moves.

Then, he helped push the popular Gully Creeper dance, created by the late David Alexander Smith, more popularly known as Ice, in part thanks to a creative video where he dressed up as a gully creature to illustrate the dance.

All three songs were just as popular and all crazes were equally as hot during this period after being popularized within a few months of each other. Furthermore, the dances gained more international credence when sprint legend, Usain Bolt did these dances as part of his post gold-medal-winning celebration at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and also featured in the Sweep video. Not a bad person to help endorse a dance craze.

2. Elephant Man: Pon Di River – As many hits as the ‘Energy God’ has crafted, this arguably remains his biggest hit to date and is credited as the song that made him a household name internationally.

The song initially was a local hit that soon garnered the attention of overseas radio stations. Despite having already done a video for the song by a local river bank, the song’s growing momentum had Elephant Man shooting a second video overseas which featured a cameo from Bonecrusher, Wyclef Jean and a series of dancers. That second video was fixture on countdown shows and allowed Ele to not only garner attention to John Hype’s dance – stooping each foot forward without touching the ground before being followed in sequence by Down Di Flank (hopping on one foot side to side)and Gi Dem A Run – but gave shoutouts to dancers like Keiva, Labba Labba, Bubbla and many more.

Now the world was familiar with the pool of dancing Jamaica possessed and help open doors for them as a result. It is a song and dance craze that had Americans and Europeans hooked just as much, if not more than Jamaicans.

1. Beenie Man: World Dance/Buju Banton: Bogle – As much as Elephant Man did to popularize dancing in the genre, these songs jointly top the list is the song that really started it all for exposing dance in Dancehall.

In 1992, Buju Banton was breaking records in Dancehall with his slew of chart-toppers, including this classic, Bogle Dance, an ode to the popular dance created by Bogle during that time period. It was the first true popular dance song within the Dancehall and gave exposure to a phenomenon that would soon gain momentum internationally.

World Dance was a song feature on Beenie’s 1995 studio album, Blessed. By that time, he had established himself as arguably Jamaica’s hottest deejay and was also making waves performing alongside another dance pioneer, the aforementioned Carlene who showcased some of her own state of the art dance moves, including the Butterfly dance, popularized in song by soca legends, Byron Lee and the Dragonnaires.

The video for World Dance however, was even more crucial to the song’s popularity as it exposed the world to the likes of Bogle, Ice and other dancers in the Black Roses crew. They made it cool to dance at session and Beenie’s song exposed the many dance styles they had created at the time including Bogle’s self-named dance, which was a major hit throughout the 90s.

Without these two songs, few would have known the man who would go on to become the inspiration to so many Jamaican dancers and deejays today and thus, inspiring many of the dance moves, dancers and songs that gave the genre such life over the last two decades.

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