In the United States of America, the year 2011 started out on a high note in the field of entertainment. First it was the 53rd Grammy Awards and then the 83rd Academy Awards/Oscars. Both events proved to be an evening of splendor whether we were at the venues or watching television in our homes. The garment industry’s bevy of fashions in accordance with the various performances would later meet all the scrutiny they deserved. The Oscars delivered a memorable moment: students from PS 22 in Staten Island, New York, in a rare occasion became the show stoppers as they raised their voices and sung “Somewhere over the Rainbow”.
Overall the Grammy and the Oscar ceremonies lived up to their expectations yet the Grammy resonated with me more. I had no doubt, as I watched it unfold on the television, dousing many of us with a lot of shouldas, and couldas. It may have also left us in awe, pleased, stunned, filled with laughter or even with a pledge to enter the world of hip-hop, song writing, dancing, garment designing, and to upgrade our wardrobes. The latter would probably peak my interest. However, if I must follow the clothing designers’ trend, as expected at the Grammy, it would be necessary to reconsider my ambition because when it comes down to nitty-gritty I would be disqualified on the grounds of inadequate finance. It is also possible that I would frown at the garment industry for putting raunchy, provocative goods on the market.
The garment industry on the other hand wouldn’t be too concerned about my opinion, likes or dislikes because it knows that there is always a buyer for every line of clothing. This proved true among some of the ladies at the Grammy. They poised boldly before the cameras and sprayed smiles all over the place as they showed off dress styles which ranged from looking innocent to secular to the daring. In my mind, I would say daring to the point where Janet Jackson’s past wardrobe mal function would qualify her as a nominee to sit at the right hand of God. Less we forget, there is still a section of our society that is not yet receptive of a lady dressed in public view wearing a see-through dress, a dress with a plunging neckline, a dress with a low-cut at the back, or a dress which exposes the midriff. As the Grammy Awards got into high gear, I drew closer to the television in my living room, feeling a tinge of guilt. My thoughts rambled. Why am I so concerned about the revealing clothes some of the ladies are wearing? That should be their prerogative, not mine. They choose styles to their likeness. After all there was a segment in my life where I had indulged in mini dresses and skirts that could have easily put bending in public places on the list of crimes. I had also indulged in shoulder-less dresses much to the disgust of my elders. They had concerns about “chest-out clothes”, “naked back clothes” and “belly out clothes” because according to them it was a blatant way of catching a cold in the chest, lungs and belly.
Granny with her prim and proper self usually takes her concern to the limit. She labeled such type of clothing as vulgar, an ungodly sight, uncalled for, and not lady like. “No good man will ever court you in that kind of clothes,” she would rant. To tell the truth if my Granny should come back from where she is, even for one moment, and witness some of the modern attire in our society rest assured that she would marvel at the absence of petticoats, and high cut bras. When she was through with the sights she would put her hands on her head and bawl, wondering where her Maker is in all of the unsavory situations. On the other hand, all wouldn’t be considered a failure with Granny at such an event as the Grammys. She loved music like I do and would have gently tapped the floor with her feet while the entertainers dished out their musical talents. The presentation of the Grammy awards wasn’t as fascinating as the genres of entertainers. A walk down memory lane manifested in a tribute to Aretha Franklin which was performed by a powerhouse of sweet singing female voices: Christina Aguilera, Martina McBride, Florence Welch, Yolanda Adams, and Jennifer Hudson. In my world their rendition came within the realms of the proverbial exotic “Damn”.
At the end of their singing Aretha appeared via satellite, looking like an Angel in her radiant white attire as she gave a speech of gratitude. Mick Jagger appeared on the stage in all his glory and carried out his performance like a whip in action. Ahahaha, I laughed, high-fiving the television screen. I felt liberty in my living room. “Do your thing, Mr. Long Legs. Yeah baby, this is what I am talking about,” I screamed, amazed at his agility as he moved about and sang. My excitement grew as I watched him with an old saying in mind: “A dog of his age is no pup.” I could not contain myself so I picked up my phone and called one of my London friends, now living in Queens, to join in the entertainment. She answered her phone on the first ring as if she was expecting me to call. “Girl you watching the Grammys,” I asked, breathlessly. “Yes child,” she answered with a chuckle. “How do you like your boy,” I asked. “Woooo hoooo!” she screamed. “This must be a nostalgic sweep for you,” I commented. “Child, don’t even speak,” she responded, while I held a steady gaze at the television. “Kiss me neck,” I yelled unable to control the Jamaican in me as Mick cranked up his skinny body into what appeared to have been a skipping mode. “Girl,” I said to my friend. “Enjoy the rest of the show I will talk to you later.”
I then hung up the phone and watched Mick’s remaining performance in utter silence. He took my breath away. I was stunned. Mick Jagger showed the world that he was still in peak shape and that full blown stamina does not define age. As for Justin Bieber’s performance, I have to admit that for the sake of my grandchildren I came down with a bit of the Bieber fever. “You go boy with your baby, baby thing,” I shouted. Then there was Barbara Streisand. Her superb performance had me reminiscing. She took me back to two segments in my life: the years of subtle romance, and St. Peter Claver, the first church I attended in Kingston after leaving rural Jamaica to enter the work force. Lady Gaga was the most intriguing performer of the night. She arrived at the Gammy Awards in an egg which was hoisted on a stretcher, carried by Samson’s little helpers. She is absolutely positively a woman with a creative mind. The gods of the arts should be delighted with her. The idea of arriving in an egg was brilliant I concluded after hearing the name of the song that she would sing, “Born This Way”. The stage became alive with her attire, dance moves and singing. Lady Gaga did her moves with zest and style. She patted her vagina and whipped her hair on a few occasions which were enough for me to take note that those moves can be seen in Jamaican dance halls. Girls in the dance hall have no fear when it comes to expressing themselves through dancing or even attire. In the throes of music they would grab their crotch or pat their vagina and move their hips in a very systematic, interesting, and gallivanting manner. To make sure that some of Lady Gaga’s dance moves weren’t a figment of my imagination, I picked up the telephone and called my younger daughter and a friend, to identify the moves as they too were watching the Grammy. Sure enough they agreed that to pat the vagina and whip the hair moves are traits within Jamaican dancehall. The whipping of hair, neck movements among other moves can be seen in the dance called “Dutty Whine” which had surged in popularity in Jamaica and around the world. The conversation with my friend and daughter then diverted from Lady Gaga at the Grammys to Willow Smith’s new song “Whip My Hair”.
Again most of the dance moves to this song resemble those in “Dutty Whine”. It is amazing to see how popular the whip my hair and pat vagina dance moves have become. My Granny would have summed it up with the popular saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s riches.” To be honest Jamaica dancehall crowd have shared some interesting and creative dance moves over many years. However, they seldom get the praise or the credit that they deserve. Some of these dance moves are catchy whereas others are so daring that they can become catastrophic. While Dutty Whine was in its glory days, it was rumored that the dance moves hadn’t been too user friendly to some of its clients. Many took trips to the doctors to see if repairs could be done to their damaged ligaments and muscles. On the good side though, watching a performance of Dutty Whine is a great treat. It takes good skills to be in its league. Rihanna also brought her skills and Caribbean flavor to the Grammys. Hips gyrating! She stood like a stallion, beautiful and young, and worked her body across the stage as she sang. As I watched her performance I created in my mind the colorful scene of the West Indian Labor Day Parade on Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn.
Influenced by this, I took to the floors of my living room in a pair of high-heeled shoes, dancing. I took advantage of many moves: pat vagina, hands in the air, gyrate hips, and rotate the head. I danced until I broke out in beads of sweat. “Grammy to Granny”, I giggled, taking note of the dancing Granny I had become. There was no denying that dancing is a good form of exercise. Good for the heart, a substitute for my baby aspirin. The dancehall moves in me are unleashed forever. Natural and easy!
Tah-tah! Art comes in all forms. Life is an art. Treat it with dignity.
Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2011