Computer Calypso! Replace the writer, it’s all cliche!

There is a song called “In Time to Come” by Crazy.  In it he lists numerous events that he thinks will happen.  Check it out below.

For those unfamiliar, or those that just can’t be bothered to listen, Crazy makes a number of claims. Like,

1. The coming of a black President. Which he was right about.
2. Trinidad developing a nuclear program. Which I am not sure about.
3. A computer writing calypso. Which is what this blog is all about.
Because Crazy was right. The age of the Mighty Microchip or Lord AI is definitely upon us. How may you ask?

Because modern calypso is a cliche with repeated ways of doing things. And computers love cliches.
Let me show you.

1. Horns come the same place.
Since the rise of Soca, calypso has become a very predictable form. Firstly, most of them feature horns. These horns play the same role in all the songs. So for example, all songs have band choruses, melodies and sections where horns fill the spaces. So let me demonstrate this by using what has become the template for female calypso songs, Die With My Dignity by Singing Sandra.

The band chorus here plays the melody of the chorus at the beginning of the song and after each sung chorus. Here it is separated.

The horns also play in between the vocal phrases. And believe me, the majority of the melodic verse phrases last for four beats and the horns then play for two beats. Check below:

  1. Tempos vary, but not that much.

Since the birth of Soca 40 years ago, calypso has come to live in a particular tempo range, that is 85 to 120 b.p.m.

  1. Harmony

All calypsos these days are in major or harmonic minor. In addition to this, since the Chalkdust years, a particular harmonic progression has become prominent. Of course, this is too much to explain here in this blog, but I will be releasing some videos to prove this. But trust me, the harmony is very much cliche as well.

  1. There are three main beats

Calypso uses three basic drum patterns these days.

  • Traditional calypso drum pattern.
  •  The 1980s Soca pattern.
  •  The Shango rhythm.
  1. Lyrics are clever but not original

Lyrics have been seen to be the centrepiece of the calypso. However, like all good things, they have become cliche. The majority of well-written calypsos are based on the working class point of view on politics, world events. Calypsonians these days take the topic and use everyday objects as a metaphor to frame the argument. To get what I am talking about, take the Chalkdust song Chauffeur Wanted, as he is a leading practitioner of this type of calypso.

 

The same can be said of Red Plastic Bag, a noted admirer of Chalky.

Endings

Ok, Stefan, you have identified the cliche but how do you code all of this?

By laying out the rules, of course! Check these basic functions.

  1. Use major scale
  2. A tempo of 93 BPM
  3. Use 1980s Soca beat
  4. Use melodies in verse lasting for four beats with a range, maximum 6th.
  5. Have horns play for two beats in response to verse melody.
  6. For lyrics – get a local event from the front page, get a metaphor, rhyme it using AABB lasting for 32 bars in duple time, use ballad form of three verses.
  7. Band chorus between verses.

Boom! Calypso!

Jab = possession music

One of the biggest hits for Carnival 2019 is Mr Killa’s Run Wid It.

 

For those unfamiliar with the style, it is referred to as Jab, a sub-genre of soca which I posted on before. In terms of soca, there are no better musical sub-generes suited to talk about spiritual possession more than Jab because Jab, for all intents and purposes is possession/trance music. It ticks all the boxes. For example:

  1. Jab like other possession music is all about the repetition. You need to say stuff over and over.
  2. Jab has no chords. There is also little to no harmonic movement in possession music (chords, chordal instruments like a piano or guitar), especially with possession music of the African diaspora.
  3. Jab music is rhythmic.

To see what I mean check the music from Cuban Santeria below:

 

It is obvious, Jab is meant to induce possession.

The psycho-acoustic explanation for this is that the repeated patterns lead to less distraction which in turn can manipulate the trance-like state. For the more spiritual, these rhythms carry with them certain deities and given the reaction to this song, I think the latter definitely has a point.  Check below:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fdavid.isaac.9674%2Fvideos%2F10218678247008579%2F&show_text=0&width=560

So that my friends a brief look at Jab and its relation to possession music. Whenever this song plays, just be careful, it is meant to take a HOLD of you.

 

 

Viral

I saw this video below today.

And it has gone viral.

For those who don’t know, going viral is when a lot of people watch your content, and in his case some quarter of a million shares on Facebook alone.

The fact that this video had so many views will obviously offend some artists. All the techie videos on YouTube will tell you that this track is poorly produced, not mastered, has poor editing and isn’t even in time.

But you know what, and this is what I want whoever reads here to leave with:

GOING VIRAL HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH QUALITY!

Going viral has everything to do with DIFFERENT. BEING WAY DIFFERENT! (or having millions of dollars)

For example, a cat eating a mouse will not go viral. However, a cat eating a Mouseketeer might. Similarly, a plus-sized black female singer belting Amazing Grace with all the vocal tradition that is impeccably recorded will not go viral, however, a poorly recorded Chinese child in a village singing, in the same manner, WILL definitely be shared on millions of pages.

So artists, unless you are truly willing to be odd-ball or you embody the tradition of another culture, you can give up your dreams of being shared and liked and trolled.

Just keep focussed and remember with each post what you are hoping to achieve, if it is just to let others know you still exist or to get a specific gig, then that is cool. In fact, on a personal level, I prefer just one like than to have a production like “Take you to the movies”

It is so catchy though!!! Maybe I should re-think that.

Below is a cat viral video compilation that has more views than any of my work combined x 10.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

A Waka Waka Story – From Africa to the World and back

As Cameroon plays today in the World Cup here is a story from last time around…

World Cup 2010 is remembered for many things: the first World Cup in Africa, the Spanish conquest on a continent which historically had not been that kind to them. It is also remembered for the theme song, “Waka Waka.” Waka Waka” is a fascinating song, and the interest does not come from Shakira’s stomach alone, but from the story of cross circulation it represents. But just in case we forgot, let us remind ourselves of Shakira’s version.

Firstly, “Waka Waka” is not an entirely original song, which is not that surprising given the nature of pop music; what is surprising, however, is where it comes from.

I hope you had enough patience to get to, by my count, the 8th hook and tenth section of this song because that is where Shakira’s song is taken from. Taken from, but not directly, for Shakira’s “Waka Waka,” is actually twice removed from the original. Here is the remake which I assume is the one which really inspired Shakira’s team.

So what is the big deal? Well, this song represents to me the many sides of popular music. For one, there is the global popular, which Shakira is plugged into; this beast consumes everything before it. The other two songs represent the local popular, which has its own audiences and degrees of success but is inevitably outside the huge global pop complex where the Shakiras and Rihannas of this world reside. Shakira’s “Waka Waka” then, sends a reminder to the global pop world that the rest of the world DOES indeed exist, because ultimately they were responsible, (directly so and not through ancestral influence), on the making of Shakira’s version.

Although the Shakira remake might once again seem to be exploitation of the so-called Third World, I cannot help but look at the other side. “Waka Waka” has managed to escape the Western imagination, for when we consider the Cameroon and Colombia depicted here, we see images represented in these videos that are not commonly seen of either country. In the case of Cameroon, some guys having a ball with tied on pillows, and with Colombia, a variety show. There are no jungles, no cocaine or Sylvester Stallone

In short, Shakira’s “Waka Waka,” was more of a World Cup song than people realised and can even be said to embody the made-up notions of equality which sport sometimes alludes to; see pop music is not all that bad.

Waka waka!