Close Menu

Dub Versioning Equal Rights and Justice

Dub Versioning Equal Rights and Justice

Dr. Isis Semaj-Hall
Faculty of Humanities and Education
Literatures in English
Cultural, creative and sports industries

For forty years the pairing of “equal rights” and “Jamaica” was synonymous with Peter Tosh and human rights until female dancehall deejay Ishawna released her version of “Equal Rights” in April of 2017.

Outrageously, she revised or remixed “equal rights” to be about equal sexual pleasure. Voicing over a familiar rhythm, Ishawna rallied the dancehall against her as she sang-out for a woman’s right to receive what is socially understood as the taboo act of oral sex. But little attention hasbeen paid to the timing of Ishawna's song release, as it arrivedon the heels of the Tambourine Army’s “louding out” of rapists.

Therefore, this poster forces us to think abouthow the lyrics of Ishawna’s “Equal Rights” penetrate the dancehall space in a particularly gendered and activist way. Furthermore, listening to the rhythm behind her “Equal Rights,” we should consider how Ishawna effectively and outrageously, re-locates Ed Sheeran’s electronically created “tropical house” rhythm into a Jamaican dancehall space.

Because of how Ishawna’s “Equal Rights” record has exposed the gender injustice and selective humanitarianism at work in Peter Tosh’s classic recording and in Jamaica overall, I argue that female dancehall artiste Ishawna has identified the possibility of a new, gendered threat to Jamaica’s colonial legacy that may be more dangerous than the messages of reggae’s male and Rasta singers. This Ishawna/Tosh example is just one example of the kind of critical, comparative analysis that we should be giving to our contemporary musicians.


Article reference:

Semaj-Hall, Isis. “Dub Versioning Ishawna’s ‘Equal Rights’: From Chanting Down to Louding Out” (Jamaica Journal, Vol 37, nos 1-2, May 2018)

Top of Page