Dancing is an art in the Caribbean. Men and women form crews, following the instruction of Merital Family or Elephant Man to showcase their dancing shoes, athleticism, and creativity.
Whining is no different. As much as Dancehall is a part of Caribbean culture, whining is as well. While many might find the up-close-and-personal, gyrating movements to carry a sexual connotation, for those in the Caribbean it is simply two people dancing.
Often times, spouses might whine together or dance with other people — feeling no element of possible infidelity due to their husband or wife “giving a little jouk” to someone else.
So the initial criticism of Bajan artist Rihanna’s recently released video for her charting single “Work” featuring Drake is bizarre in the eyes of many Caribbean people. The bashment at the Canadian Jerk House is reminiscent for many Caribbean Americans missing the island parties, ready for Carnival, or feeling nostalgic of just a few years ago on American soil where they would bring that setting right to their backyard.
Unlike popular American culture, dancing and sex are not so tightly linked. The lyrics could be raunchy and suggestive but as the director of the video, Director X, aptly puts it:
“In West Indian culture, a dance is a dance. You can have that dance. There could be a girl jumping on top of you and you’re whining up on one another. In the wrong state, you would get arrested and charged for lewd conduct or something. But you can end that dance and her boyfriend can be beside her, and you’re like, “Hi,” or you just walk away. Dancing and sex are tied together in America — if you’re dancing with somebody that means you’re sleeping with somebody. But that doesn’t mean that in our culture it’s the same. In West Indian culture, you’re dancing with someone because you’re dancing with someone.”
Rihanna is known to mesh her pop artistry with equal doses of her Caribbean heritage, often-times blending Dancehall and Reggae in pop hits like “Rude Boy” (2009). The pop songstress has whined in the past, and does not hide her joy of jumping up, whining as part of the band at Carnival or on stage — she attempts, if anything, to showcase Caribbean culture and has achieved doing so once again with her video for “Work.”
You cannot pick and choose when to love Rihanna’s genre blending — to love Rihanna is to love Caribbean culture; a culture that is firmly set in morality, religion, and discipline while finding reasons to celebrate.