*Nah Going Home is actually 11 years old but born after the school year…;)
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.
- 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.
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!
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:
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.
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 *
- 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.Take 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!
“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.
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.
“Wine Up” Soca or Soca Impostor? The answer is:
*Many other genres use those chords but so too does Soca.
Since 2005, and the explosion of Rihanna, Barbados has had its fair share of showcases.
Since the economic slowdown these have thankfully slowed down but they still do occasionally turn up with talking heads with American accents saying the same thing.
As I have been to a few of these and done a fair bit of reading on the American industry scene, I consider it my civic duty to tell you why these showcases make no sense and will make no difference to your career unless you require 1 hr of free air conditioning.
It is hoped that those that read this save themselves the trouble, including the suits with the government checkbooks.
So check this list as to why these Showminars make no sense.
They are not going to sign you.
Listen up artist, some might say this directly but they are not going to sign you. So ladies save your short skirts and designer hair for another occasion,
the guys that come here seldom have the power to sign unilaterally.
In fact, they are not going to take a risk on an unknown artist with no following from a tiny island, Rihanna is there already, see # 2.
Rihanna is there already
There is no next Rihanna, she is there already. The industry has changed so much in 12 years and they certainly do not need another unknown Caribbeanish artist who does hip-hopish, rapish, EDMish, and whatever ish Rihanna cares to dabble with. They certainly do not want to take that risk and expense, especially given the corporitization of the American music industry complex.
You know what they will say already.
They are going to tell you build a fan base and they are NOT going to help you do it!
By the way, this is a favourite workshop topic so let me break down what they will/wouldn’t say and then what you should do.
(a) What they will say –
Go online! Post, tag, share then post agian. Do it like Justin Beiber and this indie group or that indie group on YouTube/Vimeo/Mashable and hashtags.
What they didn’t tell you –
(b) Content creation is expensive and time consuming. No rich uncle? Forget it.
What you should do – Read this Kindle book instead.
They are not going to network with you. GET LOST!
These ‘execs’ do not want to hear from you. They do not want to hear from your manager either. They already have their artist stable and are currently hustling any which way to survive in the new music territory they are now in. So guys, they definitely do not want another email clogging up their inbox or another CD or poster to recycle. You are merely networking with their spam folder.
You are not going to get the acclaim for the next Rihanna (governments only).
These execs are not going to sign anyone, see #1. Therefore, in your report to the boss government official, while you may highlight the promise the exec said local artists have, that is all you will be able to write.
And if by pig flight they did sign an artist, that artist will be relocated with the maximum benefit going to L.A or New York.
So that my friends is the 5 point list as to why the exec showcase seminar or Showminats make no sense.
The only worthy showcses are those with a direct objective, that is those which are looking for talent for specific events/shows etc. So a NACA and cruise ship audition make far more sense for everyone than sitting with a guitar and an uncomfortable musician playing a cajon in front of A & R from Atalanta/MotownWhatever records.
You are welcome
Caribbean Music Man
* NACA is the National Association of College Activities
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?
- *The influence of Jamaican genres has been particularly strong in areas with similar ethnic or economic circumstances to Downtown Kingston. So far example in the barrios of Panama, where there are large Afro communities, reggae music has a strong following. See the story of reggae-en-espanol.
“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!
“It is the same, it isn’t the same, yes it is…” Round and around we go.
Since the Blurred Lines verdict for the Gaye family the above argument has been dominating my social media pages. For those of you unfamiliar with what this whole thing is all about see below.
So Did Williams and Thicke steal from Gaye? Is Blurred Lines a smokescreen for Got to Give it Up?
Well once again, as outlined in my last blog post, it depends on WHO is doing the listening.
To show you this, let us take a look at one of my global blogging colleagues, Joe Bennett who did a fantastic breakdown of the nuts and bolts from both songs. Here is the link below:
So I believe that Joe shows conclusively that the songs are indeed different given his expert musical analysis. However, Joe’s expert ears were not part of the jury, instead the panel was probably made up of non-musicians whose opinions were ultimately similar to those expressed below:
“Not understanding the anger about this expected Blurred Lines ruling. Don’t blatantly copy songs, & if you do, get it cleared beforehand.” – Michonne
“‘Got To Give It Up’ is one of my all time favs, had no idea these fools claimed original production and didn’t share royalties.” J Vincennes
The two Tweeters here are absolutely convinced Blurred Lines stole from Got to Give it Up, so why the discrepancy?
Once again, as in my other post, it is because musicians listen differently. So while Joe can analyse the chord changes and bass lines to the cheques come home, to others that stuff was not even THERE! In other words, to many non-musicians the aural similarities between the two tracks are blatant, while to musicians, the songs are obviously quite different. Who is right? Apparently the musicians are NOT, at least for now. So once again, let me repeat my summary from the last time, musicians listen differently.
I therefore hereby decree an end to all social media arguments.
At the Barbados Community College I teach Caribbean music. In class, in keeping with my creative-centric approach, which like the Americans I have give a name, creativincism, I try to get the students to write in the styles taught. Given the fact that Soca has become confined to such a limited range of compositional choices, I provide my students with the necessary ones and see what they come up with. Of course this stuff is graded, how else would they participate? First up are two groups composing in the style of Destra circa early 2000s. I call this Power Soca (which of course puts me in contradiction with others but I grade the papers right?).
Here is another one. By the way, Lennox seen here is not a Soca/Calypso practitioner by any stretch of the imagination.
In my view, even though the audio and video are quite rough, they manage to at least provide you with a good understanding of the style the students are working with. The same could also be said of the next two videos which are written in the Bashment Soca style.
I have chosen the last two guys, Kevin and David, because they are as far removed from this music in terms of what they do regularly as any two musicians could be. However, given the guidelines and the space, they too managed to create something that is cool.
To end, I think that creativity lies in many humans. It just shows that once given the boundaries within style and a bit of space, what can be accomplished. It also shows that Soca can have new writers, just that the closed nature of the Caribbean media limit this.
Anyway, let me end with Lennox, “your Rum is my Rum, and my Rum…”
Some might be shocked by this, but by growing up with the pounding modality of Dancehall, I was brainwashed into appreciating rhythm and a good hook.
What really gets me about Vybz is his creativity.
One must remember that Dancehall artists do not have the same musical vocabulary to rely on as other composers and improvisers in other types of genres. So one does not learn “Dancehall licks,” as in Jazz, where improvisers learn phrases they KNOW will work.
Dancehall is naked (pun intended). A dancehall performer has a ‘riddim’ (a beat with some chords at times) and they create entire songs using just that. The imagination and skills required to do this are therefore quite different than in other types of music (Rap of course being the exception). Some performers are rather good at creating songs from beats, others not so much. Vybz is a BOSS. Here is one of my favourites, “Realest Thing,” which testifies to this.
Of course that is not all; check this, one of his more famous works, “Clarks.”
What I like about Vybz is his:
- ability to create sections, where melody as well as rhythmic attacks change.
- thorough understanding of time and rhythm.
- talent at placing an accent.
- melodic variations in order to achieve sections. He does this so the riddim doesn’t get boring.
To end, it is obvious I am using mostly rhythmic criteria to judge Vybz. I feel fully justified in doing this because rhythm is one of the main things Dancehall is about. So it makes no sense judging Vybz Kartel by how many high notes he can sing or how many chords are in his songs.
It is all about the rhythm and Vybz is the drumming master!
* Yes, I just musically analysed Vybz.
** Yes, I did an article on Vybz unrelated to his murder conviction.
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.