Last month I contributed to an article written by Sharine Taylor from Noisey.
Here is the link.
Last month I contributed to an article written by Sharine Taylor from Noisey.
Here is the link.
Downtown Kingston has to be the most influential piece of musical real estate in the world.
Please note I said Kingston and not Jamaica because the majority of music which exploded globally came from inner city Kingston and not the country at large. In fact, all Jamaican music you can think of, with the possible exception of mento, has its roots firmly planted Downtown.
The impact of their artists, Rastafarianism and weed use are well-known. However, I want to look at other things.
So here are 4 not so-straightforward ways Downtown Kingston has influenced the world.
1. Showing Communities you can do it too – Reggae en Español
Many dancehall and dub producers were NEVER professionally trained and by demonstrating that technical expertise does not limit expression, Kingstonians opened the door for all with tape recorders to immortalize themselves and their neighbourhoods.
Here is a typical lo-fi example:
Reggae en Espanol from Panama*.
2. Giving people not considered singers chances to perform.
Kingston’s music gave those without access to music education a chance to participate by opening up the aesthetics of music. By using devices such as speech rhythm, it allowed many people to perform who might have never had the chance to because they thought they couldn’t sing.
Here is Rankin Taxi from Japan who clearly shows what I am talking about.
3. You could look like anything once you are unique
Reggae and dancehall have all types performing within it. Unlike other popular music, you don’t have to have a look, you just need a UNIQUE voice. To show you what I mean take a look at some big Kingston stars below.
The biggest piece of technology that Kingston has given to the world is the soundsystem. This record player hooked up to speakers created a sense of belonging for so many neighbourhoods across the world and created billions. Here is an example of one in the Philippines which obviously took the soundsystem culture and ran with it.
The 4 influences here show how much of a sledgehammer Downtown Kingston music has been on world culture.
Thank you Kingston
Can you think of anymore?
I am working on a documentary on the Bajan duo Contone and Pong along with the team from 13 Degrees North and Stuart Hall. For those who are wondering why, it is because this year marks 10 years since Contone’s mega-hit My Car Brek Down and we want to show what happened after.
Look out for a realease late in the year.
There are several Bob Marley documentaries out there. This one is the newest and unlike the others, seeks to present Marley as a complex character. However, I still recommend watching “Caribbean Nights,” which is one of the oldest, to get even more perspective on this Caribbean musical giant. However, you can’t go wrong with this one.
2. Sons of Benkos
I see the Caribbean as a cultural area and this documentary focusses on a music type, Champeta, that is not from the archipelago. Instead this popular music form is from Colombia and is a fascinating fusion of popular Western and Central African music and Colombian music. Although Champeta has changed, this documentary shows its roots as well as a fascinating examination of the Palenque region, which is seen as the heart of African culture in Colombia.
3. Made In Jamaica
Made In Jamaica is one of my favourite documentaries on Jamaican music. It does not only have the talking heads as in most documentaries but live performances as well. Each performer is backed by one of the premier rhythm sections in the genre, Sly and Robbie and the sound is fabulous. If you are one that likes more than just info and bios, this documentary is definitely one for you.
4. Routes to Rhythm
5. This PBS documentary from the 80s is one of the BEST on salsa. Everyone is in here. Like Made in Jamaica, some killer live performances are also present. Watch all of it if you have any interest in Salsa music and Cuban music in particular, REQUIRED VIEWING!
5. La Musique Antillaise
This Banyan documentary looks at French Antillean music. Zouk is here as well as older traditional forms. A short and good watch and for non-French speakers like myself, it is in English.
6. Soca Power
Soca Power is good, it could have been better, but it is good. The documentary follows monster soca artists Bunji Garlin, his spouse Fay-Ann, and Machel Montano at Carnival. While not being fly-on-the-wall, it still manages to capture some of the excitement behind Carnival performances. Worth a watch.
7. Reggae inna Babylon
Reggae inna Babylon examines the music in the Caribbean diaspora as it focusses on the work of reggae artists in the nineteen seventies in the United Kingdom. The usual suspects Aswad and Third World are here, and though the documentary itself is not quite riveting, we get to see them in action at the time of their greatest popularity – for that alone it is worth a watch.
8. Puerto Rican Bomba : A Search For Our Roots
This documentary, like Reggae inna Babylon, is partially based in the Diaspora, but then again so much of Puerto Rican culture straddles that divide between mainland and diaspora. It makes the Bomba, a traditional folk form its basis and for those interested in the sound of it, we get break downs of the indivudal parts. It is detailed and very enlightening.
9. Straight Outta Puerto Rico: Reggaeton’s Rough Road to Glory
If you want an overview of Reggaeton, this is a good place to start. Despite the gawdy ads that seem to suggest a much less mentally stimulating offereing, this documentary manages to speak to the movers and shakers and highlight the events which were important to this genre as it emerged. With plenty of loud music and imagery, this one would keep you watching for sure.
10. Calypso Dreams
Calypso Dreams is one of my favourites on this list. It has singing heads as opposed to talking heads, and manages to find many of the calypso artists in their natural environment. Due to this, we hear them without the trappings of arrangements and stage mics. They instead have guitar accompaniment most of the time. If that wasn’t enough, a history of calypso is also given. Every one is here, even Roaring Lion – this is a must see for anyone interested in Trinidadian calypso.
The best thing about being an educator is seeing your former students grow.
One of them, Randy ‘Joe’ Moore, has gone into media and is currently producing a web series on Barbadian and Caribbean artists.
I asked Randy to answer a few questions on what the series is about. His extract is below along with a clip featuring the Bajan duo Porgie and Murdah a.k.a. Lead Pipe and Saddis from the show. Enjoy!
Being Featured started in January 2014 by Randy Moore (Host) after many years of constantly watching and being blown away by many of the talk shows on the international scene. After
completing a course in mass communication at the Barbados community College, an interest also grew in videography/photography and Randy decided to put the knowledge and resources
together and start an interview series called “Being Featured”. This series is here to further highlight talented individuals in their respected field (fashion,
music , film ,sports etc) and also an alternative medium to get talent out to the world. The program seeks to ascertain from the guest, information pertaining to how they got into their
field and any information fitting to influence a young person who would be interested in that area. The show has featured many well known persons which includes; Rhaj Paul ( fashion) ,
Biggie Irie ( reggae and soca artiste) , Sherwin Gardener( Gospel singer). In the future, viewers can expect to see and hear from those people who influence each and
every one of us and hopefully it will be an inspiration for some person to start to work at living their dream.
One of the pages on this blog features words from the masters. These masters are Caribbean music practitioners who whave all contributed significantly to their respective genres. Just click on the link above. It will have constant updates.
The wide genre known as calypso has been a major part of the Crop Over festival in Barbados since its inception.
Here is part I of a video that traces its aural history in Trinidad. Unlike most Calypso history documents that I have come across, this one actually has music. Enjoy and educate yourself, in fact, enjoducate yourself!
Here it is below.
Subscribe to my channel if you like what you see so you won’t miss part II.
*Oh yeah and here is the slide presentation from it in case you want to teach this or have really great parties.
Here is another PowToon looking at how the Carnival music industry machine works this time looking at the role of music competitions.
I will be contributing some articles to this fantastic web news site, http://www.cwn5.com. It is a new great resource for Caribbean news and opinion. Here is the link to the article I have written there about Tessanne Chin and her The Voice win. Check it Out!
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.