I had to create some content for my elective course.
I thought I would share it with you guys.
I had to create some content for my elective course.
I thought I would share it with you guys.
Most people know of musicians; in fact, some even know them.
And when I speak about musicians, I am not speaking about lead singers* or DJs.
I am speaking about those who spend their days trying to manipulate sound using instruments.
But what do musicians actually do?
Here is a meme that shows what I am talking about.
This meme is funny because it is pretty much true.
So this post is going to show you where the truth lies when it comes to Caribbean musicians.
In the Caribbean, musicians do one of the following.
I know there are other careers within the wide world of music but generally speaking jobs like acoustic engineers, instrument builders are generally found elsewhere.
Musicians who perform for a living. Do the following:
Musicians and singers from Handel’s Caribbean Messiah
Teaching is a big part of musican’s income. Musicians either teach privately, as in one-on-one lessons like piano lessons or they are connected to institutions which provide them with a part-time or in other cases, a full-time salary.
Producing and arranging
Musicians can also be found in the studio where they produce music for records and public release. Given how the technology works, musicians usually produce in small bedroom studios or sometimes just using a laptop or keyboard. The same is for arrangers, who write out music on paper for bands who need a laptop and scoring program. It must be said that in the English-speaking Caribbean outside of Jamaica, most of this work is seasonal and connected to Carnivals. This means that studios are hardly sustainable unless they do commercial work which is decreasing.
In truth, to be called a musician in the Caribbean you have to do a mixture of at least 2 of the above. The economies are way too small to accommodate specialists. This means when you see a working musician; they always tell you how busy they are.
*unknown singers could enter the musician fold as well.
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 *
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.
Like most artists living in tiny countries I do many things within my discipline.
To do that I need help
So here are 10 pieces of technology/websites that I cannot live without.
I came across this website as I was doing my PhD and scouring the web for articles. After singing up for 1 article, something that I thought I would regret, I realized that this site had so MUCH more to offer than just obscure academic material. Referred to as the YouTube for text, this site has music arranging books, songbooks and more importantly, transcriptions of some very difficult songs.
When I first joined it had copyrighted material.(Illegally of course) However, like YouTube, the publishers caught up with Scribd. It remains a great resource nonetheless.
I teach popular music courses part-time at the tertiary level. The Allmusic guide is the stop I make when I am trying to work out the new artists my students are talking about. It is also a good place to fact-check some of the music of the greats.
Even though it is the most quoted website for lazy students, Wikipedia is still a good place to start when trying to learn anything. It has enough starter-up information, and in some cases quite a lot more for you to grasp any concept.
I do many things including running a rather ambitious music youth development group called the 1688 Collective. To keep my life in order, I use Evernote. This app goes across every imaginable OS and its ease of use means that I keep not only reminders, but pdfs and pictures for all the necessary activities.
5. Music Registry (Google +)
Google +, despite parent company Alphabet’s best efforts, continues to be left in the distance by Instagram and Facebook. However, on Google + I follow a fantastic blog called Music Registry. This blog posts all the latest developments within the recording industry as well as really good interviews. I don’t know how they pay themselves as the pluses never really seem to be overwhelming, but this blog is definitely one of the best.
6. WhatsApp for PC
On a tour last year one of my band mates showed me this feature of the ever popular WhatsApp. Since then I cannot describe how grateful I am to him. This feature which mirrors the mobile messaging service, has postponed my carpel tunnel syndrome.
I came up in the early days of computers with highly unstable drives and even more unstable floppy disks and I mean the 5 and 1/4 inch variety. Cloud storage for me was a dream come true where devices could be synched and you could still have your info even if your hard drive got in a fight with the motherboard. Dropbox is one of the easiest to use and is compatible with multiple apps. I store all the music from my ensemble 1688 Collective on here which puts my mind as ease.
Even though it is quickly becoming the granddaddy of the social networks, most people where I live, LIVE on Facebook. It is also the space where I communicate not only what is going on professionally with my life, but also with the over 50 plus members of 1688 Collective. Without Facebook I do not want to think about the amount of messages and calls I would have had to have made to get even one rehearsal off the ground.
9. Microsoft Office Suite
If Facebook is a grandfather, then Microsoft Office Suite is an Egyptian Pharaoh. The most dominant set of programs when it comes to productivity for PC. I obviously spend a lot of time here.
Finale is the first scoring program I learnt. As I do a lot of arranging and composition it is perhaps one of my most used programs. Frequently frustrating but indispensable, I call it my troubled partner.
*no ranking order.
*special mention to YouTube and Google Chrome.
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….
A throwback if there ever was one!
Crop Over, Barbados’ major festival, has not been a place of musical surprises for some time now.
However, 2016 has produced a big one for me in the complete re-definition of the Bashment Soca genre.
In a previous blog post, I identified the common use of the term in Barbadian music circles and gave musical examples for the uninitiated. For those who missed it the link is below.
Here also is soca artist Gorg speaking on Bashment Soca back in 2011.
The conversation is about the song below.
From the interview, we can hear Gorg reference Bashment throughout as this was the common term used to talk about the variant of Soca heard above.
However, this is not so anymore.
This year, a Bashment Soca competition has started which has music not sounding like the above, but as below.
The examples above I considered to be Bajan Dub, a genre that I posted about with a Top 10.
Bajan Dub has its routes/roots planted in the early 80s and had a resurgence post 2010. But this year it seems that is ALL now BASHMENT SOCA!
What the Bashment Soca/Bajan Dub has shown therefore is that genre is a very FLUID thing. Despite what many think, one cannot proclaim a genre and expect it to stay the same. It also shows that the creation of a genre comes from different places including sponsors!!! So despite what I say here, the fact that a lucrative competition has come about means that those that said Bajan Dub before will definitely be singing Bashment Soca now.
So to answer the title:
Question: Just so Bajan Dub become Bashment Soca???!!!!
I love doing workshops.
Here I am at Edna Manley College in Jamaica speaking to how Dancehall music can be used as melodic and harmonic material for Jazz large ensemble.
The case study here is Summertime, the Vybz Kartel composition mixed with the more well known Gershwin one. The students are using the fused melody to go through various Caribbean styles as well.
Due to the fact there is so little literature on Caribbean music (I have contributed however with my book, Caribbean Composers’ Handbook, shameless plug) and it is not taught with the biblical authority as with some other subjects within our school system, there is always debate as to what makes up a Caribbean genre.
This post cannot detail how genre works in the ENTIRE Caribbean, that would be 3 books and a thesis, however, what it can do, and is going to do, is show that a song does not belong to a Caribbean genre because of its music alone.* To prove this, here is a YouTube collection of some songs, which while having certain “Caribbean” rhythms, are certainly not seen to be part of any Caribbean genre.
Exhibit one, Artic Monkeys, “Do Me A Favour”
From a brief first listen, one could hear the distinct rhythmic pattern pictured below (taken from my book Caribbean Composers’ Handbook). This pattern is of course common within the Classic Soca Sound. However, I don’t, and not many others would consider “Do Me a Favour” a Soca song.
The same can also be said of the next song by Heather Myles which I don’t think was released for any Carnival.
Then of course there is the South Mediterranean and North African traditions, which use the main Classic Soca sound drum beat. Take a listen to traditional ballos from Greece.
Here also is Sam Bass from the Alan Lomax Collection doing a song that is certainly not from Trenchtown, although it has a reggae strum.
It is clear from these examples that music is not the only thing which defines a genre. So whenever you hear someone saying, “Listen to this, you heard this record of an American playing reggae?” remember that it is not only the music that makes a song fall into a genre but a whole bunch of other stuff too.
* check Fabian Holt’s, “Genre in Popular Music” or any discussion on this subject by David Brackett for greater understanding (Questions of genre in Black Popular Music).
The Caribbean is a cosmopolitan space.
The music known both internally and externally from it is generally based on indigenous rhythms.
However, there are some artists who do not use local sounds.
These artists are usually part of the Underground…
So let me present the Caribbean Underground scenes I, GRENADA
1. Here is a charming little group called Sabrina and the Navigators who have digested the current popular style – check the “indie/jazz” voice. The quality of the recording and the video are quite good as well.
Here is their Facebook link.
2. Here are some gospel guys, called Soul Deep, who are bringing an American style with a hint of Jamaica.
3. Finally on my Grenada underground list is Tammy Baldeo, who too has internalised what is up and current. Enjoy.
Her Google link:
So guys, that has been a quick look at the Underground in Grenada. Special thanks to my researcher and former student, Renee Plenty who hit me up with these links. Feel free to send me some links of other Grenadian Underground artists.
Be sure also to look out for II, Trinidad and Tobago.
Hello guys and Happy New Year,
I love transparency and here I am being transparent.
Here are my global stats for 2014. Thanks to all those who came through to check out something over the last year. Please come back because I have some more stuff to talk about. I will also be including a new drop-down menu where you will hear my voice!
See you all in 2015!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,900 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.