Blackgold’s Hanna Herbertson recently spoke with Robin Clare ahead of her Australian tour.
You’re originally from Korea but grew up in Sweden and you’re now living in New York. With all that multi cultural excitement already going on what drew you to Jamaican culture?
Growing up in Sweden I was brought up on Pop, Hip Hop and RnB. It was in the early 90’s around the time when Chaka Demus & Pliers dropped their “All She Wrote” album that I fell in love with the Dancehall rhythm. I don’t know why but the drum patterns and the way the DeeJays flowed on the riddims mesmerized me and got me hooked. Remember trying to program the Bam Bam Riddim on my old Nokia phone. That was long before one could download ringtones.
Was there much of a reggae/dancehall scene when you were growing up in Sweden?
On the tiny island where I grew up there was not much of a scene. Reggae had been pretty big in Sweden but Dancehall was not happening at that time.
Dance wise Hip Hop dance was growing and was the craze when I grew up. It was when I started traveling to Belgium and France in the early 2000’s that I found “Ragga” classes. A mix of Afro-French-Caribbean vibes.
I brought that vibe to Sweden along with moves I learned from ordering DVDs from Jamaican parties like Passa Passa. Loved watching Bogle, Ice, John Hype, Keiva and many more dancers mash up the parties.
With the large Caribbean population in New York there must be a great vibe and some massive sounds to carry the vibe. How do you find the dancehall scene?
When I first came to NYC in 2005 I found out that big clubs in Manhattan that used to have Dancehall DJs closed down. I had to venture out to deep Brooklyn and the Bronx to find real Dancehall parties.
Discovering that although NYC is such a melting pot of nationalities and cultures, under the surface it’s very polarized.
People where shocked to hear that I did Dancehall dance and taught classes. It was not common at that time for Americans and Caribbean people to see Europeans being into the Dancehall culture like it is today.
I’m currently living in an area of Brooklyn that has a strong Caribbean connection and I can hear Reggae and Dancehall walking down the street.
Hoping that gentrification won’t change that too soon…
Party wise it’s good now, there are Dancehall parties in the city (Manhattan) and of course in the boroughs. It’s far from the scene in Jamaica though where there are plenty of parties every night of the week.
You’re a dancehall dancer and choreographer and you’ve learnt from and performed with some of Ja’s best dancehall talent as well as shared the stage with some of Ja’s biggest dancehall stars. Do you have any advice for young dancers wanting to get into the industry?
Educate yourself in different types of dance and study the entertainment business. Dancers, especially in urban dance styles, are often the ones that get paid the least for videos and live shows. It’s a constant fight to get proper compensation as a dancer so you have to be smart and always act in a professional manner. Be on time for rehearsals, have your headshot and resume updated at all time and network, not only on Facebook and Yotube but in real life as well. Avoid doing gigs for free as much as possible! As a new face on the scene you might have to do some unpaid gigs but if you’re serious, put in work and invest in classes after a short while you will have to say no because if you continue dancing for no pay you will not progress and at the same time keep everybody else’s salary down as well.
You’re part of dance crew BLACKGOLD Dancers with Korie “Genius” & Kendell “History” Hinds, how long have you been dancing together? How did the group form?
This is our 5th year together as a crew. We met dancing in the Hip Hop industry but discovered that we all had a strong love for Dancehall. We did a show case together that was supposed to be just a one off but we ended up starting a weekly class together and do more shows. It’s rare to find people you click with and can work together with on a long term basis, especially in a fast moving city like NYC. Happy to have met Genius and History because we all have different styles but at the same time we compliment each other very well.
You’re passionate about dancehall but also have an arsenal of dance and choreo experience in other styles. You still manage to maintain a great raw dancehall feel in your choreography while injecting elements of other styles, Do you find it quite easy to create the fusion?
I think being a “culturally mixed mutt” helps and I have tried different kinds of dance from early in my career. Always strived to learn foundations in the styles I’ve done and learn from “purists” and teachers that have been doing their styles for a long time.
To differentiate myself from other choreo-graphers I push myself to create new material all the time but still stay true to the foundations I’ve learnt.
You’re a lady with many talents. You recently formed SweJam Productions with your partner DJ Autograph, offering full artist development and management services. Can you share any exciting insider news on things to look out for from the SweJam in the future?
YES! SweJam is exploring new genres of music and working with different kinds of artists/creatives. We recently started working with a super talented singer named Rue Brown for example. A Brooklyn based RnB singer/songwriter that’s also an elite Modern and Ballet dancer.
I’m currently working on show choreography for artist Zuzuka Poderosa, originally from Brazil. She does a fusion of Brazilian Baile Funk, Dancehall and Electro.
We have other projects in the works as well but cannot announce them quite yet.
Expect to see more of my DJ persona, “DJ Golden” as well.
—- This interview is taken from Rice and Peas publication Vol 4 .
Take a listen to the latest mad dancehall selections from DJ Golden
DJ GOLDEN FI DI SUMMA DANCEHALL MIX DANCERS EDITION II