Serani: Dancehall Was Never Nice


Consumers of dancehall music would have been listening to Serani long before he emerged as one of Jamaica’s biggest new stars in 2008. As one third of production team DASECA, Craig “Serani” Marsh has produced hits for Sean Paul, Mavado and Elephant Man before becoming an artist in his own right.

Serani segues perfectly between hardcore dancehall and melodic vocal reggae, describing his sound as R&D – ‘rhythm and dancehall’. Described by many as dancehall’s T-Pain (sans the auto-tune), Serani sings love songs on dancehall riddims usually reserved for hard-core emcees, gaining him a strong female AND male following. A prime example of this is his breakthrough hit “No Games,” which has been in regular rotation in clubs, cars and radios since summer 2008.

While preparing for the release of his debut album, No Games, Serani chats with SoulCulture about DASECA Productions, the transition from producer to artist and the current state of music in Jamaica.

SoulCulture: Before we talk about the waves you’re making as a solo artist in dancehall now, let’s talk about DASECA , how did it start?

Serani: DASECA is made up of me and two brothers, David and Craig [Harrisingh]. I’ve known them from when I was like 9 years old but we went to different schools after that and split up, and then we really became friends was around ‘98 or ‘99. I loved music, I knew I wanted to do it, but I didn’t have any idea how [to get into it]. So at that time when I met up back with them I kind of drew them into it; not intentionally, but I knew they loved music too. That’s when David actually started playing the piano and he’s actually one of the best producers out in Jamaica right now.

SoulCulture: You had to grind for quite a while before your major breakthrough as a production team, right?

Serani: Yeah, I mean, that’s natural, you know, we started a studio in 2001 and really started taking it seriously and then um, we used to play instruments for other producers, I joined a band playing for Wayne Marshall and started playing for Bounty Killer in 2005. We had hits before [such as] “Chaka Chaka” and “Steps,” and we used to do work with Elephant Man; we did a lot of things working for other producers. So yeah, we had to do our grind first. But we kicked off with the Anger Management riddim in 2005, that our first hit under our label.

SoulCulture: What are some of the most internationally popular DASECA riddims?

Serani: Sean Paul’s “We’ll Be Burning,” Mavado featuring myself on “Dying,” Tony Matterhorn with “Dutty Wine” & now there’s “No Games.”

SoulCulture: So when and why did you decide, “right, I’m going to step out from behind the mixing desk and become an artist in my own right?”

Serani: [I decided] in 2007. I wasn’t really trying to become an artist, the artist was trying to come out of me, in terms of, I’d be making beats all the time, and somehow I ended up just getting up from the keyboard and singing something that came to my head, you know? It’s not like I was thinking about it, it just happened. One day I got up and I started singing [bursts into song] “I got money in the bank, so my mama don’t worry no more…” and I was like ‘damn, that’s a hit!’ I knew it was a hit. The concept was the hit, the melody was a hit, so I was like damn, the following day, the song that broke me out.

photo_no-games_1_300cmykSoulCulture: Lyrically, as well as the love songs that the girls like, you also commentate on what’s happening on the streets – however, you’re not negative at all. Do you think it’s important to be positive with the climate as it is right now in Jamaica?

Serani: Well we have a big responsibility and a duty towards the kids, you know, we have to be very careful with what we’re saying to them. They have a lot of negative influence so I just feel like I need to throw the balance and sing something positive to them, because they are easily led astray. They need something positive.

SoulCulture: Do you feel that Dancehall has slightly lost it’s way with all of the explicit lyrics?

Serani: No, I think dancehall was always hardcore, I wouldn’t say dancehall lost it’s way. It is what it is, you know what I mean? It’s an expression of reality. Dancehall was never “nice.”

SoulCulture: What do you think about the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica’s response to it, the banning of explicit music from television and radio in Jamaica?

Serani: I think it’s unnecessary. It’s over-done. They’re banning conscious songs too. That’s stupid.

SoulCulture: Plans for the future?

Serani: I intend to become a superstar. I want to have a career that spans internationally and I wanna bring other artists to the forefront intentionally.

SoulCulture: That’s the producer in you coming out.

Serani: Definitely! Eventually I’m going to skip being a performer and go back to mainly producing and I’ll stick to dancehall because Jamaica needs it.

The single “No Games” is currently available on iTunes.

By Tahirah Edwards Byfield