aesthetics

3 reasons why if I were Nikita I would go into terminal depression.

Crop Over has seen its first controversy for 2017.

For those not in Barbados, it concerns the release of Nikita’s song, “Same Way,” which basically was released 2 years before by DeeVine and called “We De Same.”

Check the links below:

 

 

For any artist involved in the Carnival music industry this mix-up is pretty much as life-shattering as they come and here are 3 reasons why I would be in terminal depression if what had happened to Nikita had happened to me.

  1. I spent plenty money!

To get any song out for Crop Over is expensive. There is the song-writer, the producer, the studio time, the mixing and the mastering to pay for.  Those bills could run north of 5000 BDS easily. So to shell out all of that cash to realize my song is not the original work I intended would have put me in firm connection with the Kleenex box.

2.  I look like a thief

Stealing is reprehensible no matter how and when it happens. It is even worse when it looks like a public heist of lesser known artist. If I was made to look like a hustler at best, or a thief at worse, when I am not even close to being dishonest, then I would be completely broken.

3.  I have one shot at this.

The carnival music complex is a CRUEL model. It allows for no mistakes. So to have a single which is going to be my only major release for the YEAR caught up in plagiarism is possibly the worse thing that can happen. It can also rule me out of the lucrative lottery of the soca competitions.

PAIN!!!!

To end,

Are there other issues in the Caribbean? Yes, they are.

But do not overlook for one minute the personal and professional predicament Nikita and the other members of the production team have been placed in.  This is a serious matter of integrity that is being played out VERY PUBLICLY. So after reading this, do like me and place yourself in her position and if you come out positive, then you are as good as Nikita, Deevine and the Red Boyz.

But if you think you would be equally depressed…

You are not alone

I would feel DE SAME WAY!

 

 

 

 

 

What is the difference between Spouge and Ska?

A week and a half ago a friend of mine asked me to help him explain the difference between Spouge and Ska.

For those unfamiliar with these Caribbean music genres let me help.

Spouge is an indigenous genre of Barbados which came to regional popularity at the end of the 1960s. For a brief synopsis check my video below:

 

Ska on the other hand is a far more famous genre which came out of Jamaica in the early 1960s. It achieved much more global popularity than Spouge and is seen as the direct forefather to Reggae.

So are there any differences?

The answer is yes! And these are heard clearly in the rhythm.

Caribbean rhythms have been largely shaped by Sub-Saharan-West African approaches.

In Western Africa, much of their traditional music is based around complex rhythmic concepts, see below.

 

What keeps it all together is the key rhythm, or what is referred to in Cuba as the clave.

This CLAVE idea is found in all genres which have been influenced by West Africa.

In Ska, their clave or important rhythm came out of the shifting of the accent in Jazz guitar comping (accompaniment) to the ‘and’ or off-beat from the down-beat.

So in Jazz it sounded like below (listen closely to the guitar from 50s):

 

But it changed to this (watch from 24s)

 

Visually it looks like this,

Guitar Srum Jazz Ed.jpg

Jazz Big Band Guitar Strum

ska-rhytmic-unit-edited

Ska Clave 

Next to ackee and saltfish, Rastafarianism and Usain Bolt’s feet, the off-beat strum has been Jamaica’s biggest contribution to world culture because from that one idea came a whole host of genres including Reagge.

Spouge on the other hand has a different clave or important rhythm all-together.

In Spouge, especially that of the Draytons Two, the clave looks like below.

spouge-main-beatedit

And is played like this.

Spouge takes no prisoners when it comes to this clave either as this rhythm is sometimes played loudly on the cowbell and on the drums as well (as was the case with Six and Seven Books of Moses above).

Because the clave is the most important rhythm in a song, all the other rhythms that go with it NEED to compliment it. This means that the rhythms from the:

  • Rhythm section instruments – bass, drums, organs, keyboards, guitars
  • Vocal melodies
  • Brass lines

All phrase and accent with this CLAVE rhythm.

This means that the surrounding rhythms in Ska and in Spouge are very different!

So in short the difference between Ska and Spouge is RHYTHM and in rhythm genres, you can’t get a much bigger difference than that.

Hope that helps!

* For more explanation on clave check out my Slideshare. 

http://www.slideshare.net/stefanwalcott

 

 

 

 

Kes Wine Up, Soca or Soca Impostor?

Today, I was tagged on Facebook to give my opinion on whether the following song is a Soca song.

Now genre, as I have discussed here before, all depends on perspective and there are arguments FOR this as a SOCA song and others equally compelling AGAINST it.

So without more “long talk,” here they are:

FOR

1. The song has been released for Carnival

By placing “Wine Up”in the context of a Trinidadian carnival means that it has instantly been placed in the lineage of Carnival music of which Soca is a big part. Song released for Carnival? It must be a Soca song.

2. It uses the beat

The beat underlying “Wine Up”, which I detailed in another blog but it is worth repeating as it is found in my Composers’ Handbook on Amazon ;), is a one of the main rhythms in Soca. It was not around from the beginning but has been there since the mega-hit “Hot, Hot, Hot” by Arrow. soca drums

3. It uses the chords

Music is made up of a number of fundamentals and one of them is harmony, or the chords of a song. This song, without getting too complex, uses the ones commonly found in Soca *

AGAINST

  1. The influence is Tropical House

2015-2017 has ushered a new stage in American/United States popular music called Tropical House.  I will not try to break down what it is in detail but basically, it utilizes the sounds of house (keyboard tones/drum beats etc.) and adds Caribbean rhythms. The most famous prototype of this and prototype is what it is about when it comes to genre, is Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.”

It is clear therefore that Kes is leaning on this in his song as opposed to other Soca songs.

2. Kes does not sing in a Trinidadian accent.

While Kes is Trinidadian, his accent went through the door in this song. Trinidadian phonology is a massive part of Soca songs. It allows Carnival to rhyme with festival when in other English dialects that doesn’t happen. So a Soca song without a Trinidadian accent doesn’t sound much like Soca.

3. Kes does not use much Soca melodic syncopation.

This one is a really a musical point. But in short, Soca is descended from Calypso which uses the following rhythm plenty in its melodic line.Cinquillo.gifTake my word for it, as there is little scholarly research anyway, the reason why Calypso and Soca melodies sound the way they do, is due in large part to the use of this particular rhythm.

Kes doesn’t use this one much at all!

4. Tempo

“Wine Up” is quite a bit slower than even the slowest Ragga Soca/Sweet Soca song (which is the slower of the sub-genres on the Soca spectrum). For a comparison, “Pump Me Up”, which is the grandaddy of this form, is about 110 b.p.m. while “Wine Up” is around 90 b.p.m. Since “Pump Me Up in 1995,” Ragga/Sweet Socas have continued to increase in tempo. This makes Kes’ 2017 “Wine Up” sound even less like Soca.

5. Kes does not sing about Carnival

While tribute to  women is a tried and tested Carnival theme, “Wine Up’s” has a distinct lack of Carnival referencing. Words such as the Savannah, bacchanal and even the word carnival itself are marked absent.

These missing traditional Soca words really place this song outside of the norm.

CLOSING

To end, genre is much more than the music. Genre is a complex thing.  So I hope I have presented both sides of the argument in Kes’ “Wine Up” that shows when it comes to genre,

no side is wrong or no side is right.

Therefore,

“Wine Up”  Soca or Soca Impostor? The answer is:

BOTH!

*Many other genres use those chords but so too does Soca.

Looking Back at Bajan Party Past

Frequently in popular culture yesterday becomes the forgotten man.

Here is a video clip from Bajan pop culture past as calypsonian and I guess Soca singer, Bumba, destroys the party.

Seeing this now it is hard to imagine that guys actually played Soca without Mac Book pros and drum machines

but THEY SURE DID

It is also hard to imagine a Soca song such as this causing such HYPE

but IT SURE DID….

Congaline 94!

A throwback if there ever was one!

#RIPpartyinglikethis.

New Year? Get some Wynton Help

Happy New Year again!!

I know it might be a bit late, but I came across this great article on social media.

It is from the great Wynton Marsalis and it will help all musicians and want to be musicians sort out their new year practice resolutions.

Enjoy and work hard.

http://arbanmethod.com/wyntons-twelve-ways-to-practice/

 

From the Caribbean music man!

 

Riding Cow – Dancehall Prepared Piano

“If you can’ find horse, ride cow,” is a saying we have in Barbados. It means that if your ideal tool is not present; you have to improvise.

Teaching in a public education system in a 3rd world country means that riding cow happens regularly. Sometimes cow jockeying produces unexpected results such as in the videos below.

The videos you will see were made on the piano in the performing hall at the only tertiary level music institution in Barbados. The piano is busted and terribly out of tune.  However, because the strings in the lower register are gone, they produce a percussive sound that is very close to a prepared piano. The prepared piano sound comes from adding objects onto the strings to get different textures. For those of you unfamiliar with how that works watch and listen below:

In my videos, I played a variety of dancehall numbers as that music inspires me.

Enough program notes though, here are the videos. First up is Clarks by Vybz Kartel and the other is a Dancehall improvisation piece. Enjoy!

5 Things (I) (Musicians) HATE to hear 

Dear non-musicians,

I love you.

Because I want to keep loving you, I have compiled this short list.

In no particular order, here are 5 things I hate to hear from non-musicians (NM).

meshell angry

1. Heah, you must play a lot of instruments!

NM, playing and mastering one string is difficult enough furthermore multiple instruments. Instruments are not like like condoms, you do not burst the package and get instant gratification. When you hear someone playing, they have spent untold hours just trying to make their instrument coherent. People that readily tell you they play 5 instruments professionally are not to be trusted with your family members.

2. You don’t know that song? What kind of musician are you?

Dear NM, in case you didn’t realise, music has been around since Adam sung  Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree to Eve. This means that there are millions upon millions of songs and since musicians are not DJs, it is highly unlikely they know all of them. In fact, learning a song is once again a time consuming exercise and in the absence of eternal life, musicians only know a mere fraction of what is out there. Although, even if musicians had eternal life, many won’t dedicate their time to learning Hit Me Baby one More time the DJ Shakukzki remix.

3. Oh, you must want to be famous!

Dear NM, not necessarily. The majority of musicians are doing gigs because they enjoy what they do and they are providing a service. Many of them are as comfortable with fame as the awkward accountants at award shows.  Those musicians you see on TV are not the majority….trust me.

4. What else do you do for living?

This is perhaps the most common thing said to all artists (including me) which gets their underwear all twisted. If you admit to being a professional musician, chances are you don’t do anything else for a living because emailing, teaching, practicing, accounting, gigging and learning songs can be a little time consuming. However, I am sure NM that if most musicians gave up sleep they could fit in a medical job or two.

5. Your life must be exciting!

To end NM, let me debunk this myth. Much like the fame thing, the lives led by a few of our number distort our overall image. There are a huge number of fields within music with some being akin to sky diving off the Burj Khalifa while others are more like watching paint dry in the Arctic. So while you might be thinking sex, drugs and alcohol, most musicians are more like text, mugs and parasols.

So that is it NMs.

Avoid these 5 and let us grow old together.

Love

Caribbean Music Man

Singing – Am I Really that Bad?

Singing, as most of my friends and family will say, is not a strong suit of mine.

Singing was also not an activity I was particularly interested in either.

However, as this blog generally poses questions to accepted norms, it is only fitting that I ask, am I really that bad a singer?

Actually, I think I am not a good singer but definitely not a bad one. Here is why.

To start us off here is a clip of me singing.

 

It is obvious that I am not a technically gifted and by that I mean I don’t have the natural ability where my voice apparatus, vocal muscles etc, creates sound that matches pitches. Of course this was no big deal before the modern recording age. In fact, many communities before modernity were communal and their music activity was centred around participation, think Amazonian or West African village life, so no matter your voice, you sang!

What modernity did though was create the professional singer. And the recording of the professional singer gave value to a certain kind of singing which in some ways eroded how people considered singers globally, this ultimately made singers like me…

 

BECOME BAD!

 

Listen to the following clips, first up is Wendy Moten then Beyonce.

 

 

 

These songs are damn fricking hard to sing.They also have a certain history and tradition behind them that many people globally were not a part of. So for example, if a Tuvan tried to sing these, he might not succeed, even though he might be an excellent throat singer.

In other words, Wendy Moten and Beyonce are not only PROFESSIONALl singers, they are also showing a CERTAIN TYPE of good singing based on the values of their music culture. It does not make the Tuvan a bad singer. If you are unsure what Tuvan throat singing is let us reverse this now and take a listen to some Tuvan throat singing.

Here is a clip from American Idol where this guy was dismissed.

 

The judges and audience thought he was crap but was he? They were just using the value system from their music culture which was totally inappropriate to judge Tuvan throat singing. If I used the Tuvan method, Beyonce and Wendy Moten were rubbish because they only produced one pitch, in fact where was the drone Queen Bee!!!???

In short, there are no universal values when it comes to singing. Singing is dependent like all value systems on who makes the rules. So if I someone calls you a bad singer, just ask them if they understand the discourse of power at work in aesthetics. If the look at you blankly, continue singing just like I will now…

 

* This post does not condone karaoke. Any suggestion that it does is just a coincidence. 🙂

Those who can’t, teach. Or should that be those who can, can’t teach?

The old anecdote, those who can’t, teach, has been bandied around in music for quite a bit. 

The question I have however is, “can’t do what?”

Teaching music requires a depth of knowledge.  Another crucial skill of any music teacher, especially those in emerging areas such as Caribbean music, is the ability to TRANSLATE musical language into spoken language.

This part is quite difficult.

To demonstrate this difficulty check this clip from Sly and Robbie as they attempt to explain what they do. 

What Sly and Robbie lack here is not intelligence but instead the ability to translate the language of sound into the language of language. So while they are brilliant musicians and obviously highly intelligent, the ability to put what they do into ways people can understand is not something that comes easy. *

So remember all and sundry that because a guy is a genius musician it does not make him a genius teacher. Also music teachers remember your task is a difficult one and never feel inferior because you never graced the big stage. We are all needed to keep #musicaLive.

*What could of happened instead is these guys communicating through playing and others trying to copy them; similar to how oral cultures pass on their knowledge orally/aurally.