Ragashanti : Ghetto Oven
Ragashanti a.k.a. Dr. Kingsley Stewart Ragashanti, a.k.a. Dr. Kingsley Stewart is a sociocultural anthropologist who has embarked on a dancehall deejay career (Jamaicans use the term 'deejay' to refer to artistes who perform in a manner similar to that of a rapper in the US and a toaster in Britain). Ragashanti is quite known in Jamaica for his remarkable coming of age life story from living in the streets of Kingston, running afoul with the law on many occasions, placed in several boys' homes, incarcerated in several jails, to obtaining his doctorate and being a lecturer at universities. He grew up in urban, working-class areas of Kingston, including Water House, Tower Hill, Jacques Road, Southside, and August Town. After his many run-ins with the law and the subsequent incarcerations in jails, he decided to turn his life around. In May 1993, he graduated from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, with a B.A. in African Studies and Psychology. In May 1995 he completed his M.A. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Connecticut (UConn). He continued his studies at UConn and succesfully completed his doctorate (Ph.D.) in Anthropology. He was a lecturer at the University of the West Indies in the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work for three years and presently lectures a class in Anthropology at the University of Connecticut. Ragashanti started listening to Dancehall music at an early age and was introduced to his first Dancehall session around age 11 by an older friend, Weda, while they both lived in Southside, Kingston . He developed a strong affinity for Dancehall as a cultural space and believes that Dancehall (along with church) played a critical role in the development of his identity. He states: 'Dancehall has figured prominently in the construction of my identity....my present relationship to Dancehall is one of scholarship and performance. I try to better understand the complexities of Dancehall through intellectual means but I also come wid it real as an artiste. I find that when I better understand the worldview of Dancehall, I better understand the culture of Jamaica, and thus better understand myself, other Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals. I've long been a performer in several fields, for many years, but ghetto oven represents my formal entry into the reggae world as a Dancehall artiste.' Ragashanti considers his deejay style to be traditional/folk in orientation with an underlying intellectual bent. His style is highly influenced by such people as Jamaica's folk matriarch the Honorable Louise Bennett Coverly and her contemporaries. He also obtained inspiration from more contemporary artistes such as Charlie Chaplin, Lieutenant Stichie, Papa San, Louie Culture, and Professor Nuts. During his tenure at the University of the West Indies he designed and lectured the phenomenally popular class Identity and Conduct in the Dancehall Culture. He argues that 'Dancehall is an extremely complex sociocultural space that suffers from the lazy, superficial and careless analyses of the ignorant.' His present research explores the sociocultural factors that determine the behaviour, cosmology, cognitive and emotive processes of core participants in the Dancehall sociocultural system. While studying at the University of Connecticut, Ragashanti trained to become a disc jockey. After completing his training he designed and ran a reggae/dancehall show called The Jamaican Ruffnek Ride, (The J double R). It was then that he coined and adopted his deejay name Ragashanti: 'raga' from ragamuffin, a term that was popular in early dancehall, and 'shanti' from the West African ethnic group from which many Jamaicans descended, the Ashanti. The Jamaican Ruffneck Ride proved to be a popular, risque show that ran for four years until Ragashanti graduated from the University of Connecticut. Ragashanti is also known for his many appearances on Jamaican radio and television shows, including stints as co-host on the highly regarded radio news program Nationwide, a club member on the much respected Breakfast Club, co-host for Television Jamaica's (TVJ) highly popular morning show Smile Jamaica, and whenever he's in Jamaica he still co-hosts Mantalk, the very earthy and popular Sunday night talk show.