Ding Dong talks about his Three Loves Dance, Music and Fashion
The year is 1985. In the streets of Nannyville, a volatile community in Kingston, Jamaica, kids are playing football, while some are dancing to the electrifying vibrations of authentic dancehall music. This is usually the pastime in most of these communities-their outlet, their happiness.
Five-year-old Kemar Christopher Dwaine Ottey lives with his extended family. A few years earlier, his father, Ferdinand, was killed. Kemar feels a great responsibility to his family, even at a young age. He would eventually find a way to contribute to his family’s finances. In Nannyville, there are often dances and at the end of the night when the last patron leaves, young Kemar would retrieve the left-over empty alcohol bottles and sell them. This would become the foundation on which he built his entrepreneurial skills and initiation into the fascinating world of dance and dancehall music.
Today, Kemar is known widely as Ding Dong- a nickname given to him by his father. Maybe his father knew he would become a star. Ding Dong has created a niche for himself along with Ravers Clavers. The group he formed solidified him as one of Dancehall’s most consistent and entertaining artistes. There is something to be said about invariably creating music and dances to keep the purveyors of dancehall happy and entertained. But to excel at anything in life, it takes mental fortitude, courage, conviction, and for Ding Dong, a strong Christian faith, which he’s had since he was a child. Along with the Higher and Supreme Being, Ding Dong draws his inspiration from the dances and parties he attends, where he started as a little boy collecting bottles. Ding said, once there is a party, he will be able to create. That is where he gets a sense of freedom. He said that he doesn’t worry about finding a new dance. It comes naturally to him. Once the dance comes, the song will come. Once the song comes, the dance will come.
Ding Dong Ravers Clavers has contributed significantly to the reignition of dancing in the industry. In the the early 2000s, Ding Dong committed to honoring his calling, which is dance. He was a member of the Flatbush Dance Crew, where he spent an exorbitant amount of time perfecting his craft. He became undeniably famous on the dancing scene after putting in hours at an event called Early Mondays and showing off some of the timeless dances created by him including, Swing Song, Part Di Crowd, Chakka Chakka, Flowers a Bloom, ‘Paranoid, and Dip again. In 2003, Ding Dong created his dancing crew, Ravers Clavers. Ironically, Ding Dong was making dances that were so complex that only he could do them. He wanted to be watched and admired. Over the years, he found a foolproof method that has allowed his songs and dances to dominate the dancehall space.
Dancing advice was also given to Ding Dong by his dancing idol, Gerald Levy aka Bogle. I had to minimize the technicalities in the dances and give people the amusement of practicing the moves, Ding Dong said. His first single “Badman Fawud,” was released in late 2005, just a few months after Bogle was shot and killed. Four years later he led the call for Jamaicans to embrace dancing again in the ultimate tribute to his idol when he became involved in making the single “Wacky Dip” performed by Voicemail. Since then, consistency has been the name of the game for the Nannyville native, reeling off hits after hits and it is evident in his craft that he has given much credit to that advice.
Though music and dance have been Ding Dong’s most notable passions, fashion has always been one of his loves. His style and trends in dancehall caught the attention of world-renowned Artiste Manager and Fashion Designer, Romeich Major of Romeich Entertainment. Ding Dong said that Romeich reached out to him and told him to come to see him at his headquarters on Waltham Park Road. He gave him a tour and showed him around the studio when he went there, which started a mutually beneficial working relationship between the two. Romeich had desired to give up on music and sell his musical equipment, but Ding Dong stepped in and encouraged him not to. The studio became a place where a lot of magic happened. That was where Shenseea recorded her early hits and where Ding Dong still records his songs.
Though Romeich and others may have seen Ding Dong’s love for fashion trends and labeled him as a fashionista, it was always Ding Dong’s dream to have that translated into a business. Little Kemar from Nannyville who sold empty bottles to make extra money has always had big aspirations for himself as a businessman and when the right time came, he made those dreams a reality. The brand which appeals to both men and women offers its signature sunglasses, jackets, hats, polos, and t-shirts. Ding Dong said that he always wanted to do fashion, but he didn’t understand how to go about it. He knocked on a couple of doors and it didn’t happen. With the help of his wife, he was able to start an amazing brand which can be found at dndgthebrand.com.
Ding Dong still harbors aspirations of creating a musical legacy by releasing his album which will be true to the playful, carefree spirit of his youth. He has come far from reselling empty glass bottles and is now one of dancehall’s most influential figures. He says he is nervous when he sees the scale of his ambitions. However, he embraces the responsibility which comes with his creativity, and his name is a reminder to answer each call.