When you talk about dancehall from the last 10 years, you have to mention Serani. As the leader of the production crew Daseca, he helped launch Mavado’s career, soundtracking early Gully Gad anthems like “Real McKoy,” as well as big hits by Sean Paul (“We Be Burnin”) and Tony Matterhorn (“Dutty Wine”). Stepping out as an artist a few years later, he struck big with 2009’s “No Games.” One of dancehall’s last truly massive crossover hits, it’s one of those tunes that must play anytime a hip-hop or big-room club DJ plunges into dancehall.
Things have been quiet for Serani in the last few years–or so it might seem.
“I have been recording and releasing a few songs over the last few years, but technology has made everyone a producer and payola is a reality, so is friend-bias and side-taking in the biz, so there are more hurdles than ever before,” Serani told us recently, speaking on his perceived absence. “Its hard even for established artists and even tougher for young acts trying to break through.”
With the dancehall industry in Jamaica in flux, the keyboardist-turned-singer has focused on overseas markets, playing over 70 shows in Europe last year alone. “I tour pretty much constantly, so a perceived lack of recent local hits hasn’t slowed me down career-wise. Its crucial to have your live show together—Chronixx is the perfect example of the importance of that, as your fanbase will always want to see you perform, whether you have a hot song or not.”
Recent dancehall cycles that have focused on trends and shock tactics have also left him underwhelmed. “I am a musician and producer as well as an artist, so I can’t just jump on anybody’s rhythm to try and get myself hot,” Serani says. “I’m not going to jump on a bandwagon or go for shock value or style over substance in the hope of getting a local hit record.”
All of which brings us to “In My Arms.” Serani’s newest single revisits some familiar territory. “As usual, I was trying to vibe with the ladies,” he says of the track, voiced on Starstruck Records’ Spitfire riddim. Less familiar (to dancehall fans, at least) is the look of the song’s video, specifically the dancing contained within it. There’s no wining or kotching; instead, a ballet troupe interprets the song’s movements. Watch it here: