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.
I am very proud to announce that Handel’s Caribbean Messiah has been selected for the Handel-Festspiele in Halle Germany for 2021.
The Handel-Festspiele is an annual festival celebrating Handel’s music in his birthplace by local German and international acts.
I am incredibly moved by this selection as we were chosen based on my re-imagining, orchestrations and in some cases compositions, with the performances executed by a 100% Barbadian cast.
The fact that this was done by a panel of Handel experts makes the achievement even more rewarding. Also, the fact that the negotiations began through my completion of the Caribbean Export process, which involved some sacrifice, made me more reassured in my music business decisions.
Handel’s Caribbean Messiah is one of the only locally created indigenous works that brings the strands of Caribbean culture together and even though we might not make the last financial hurdle to reach Halle, the fact that it has been looked at as having international quality by unbiased experts shows how we should rely on our own confidence as Caribbean cultural practitioners in what we do.
I encourage all who are in Barbados this week, December 20-22nd, to come out to the Frank Collymore Hall and see this production that will soon be leaving these shores by the 100% Bajan ORIGINAL cast.
Thanks to my team who supported the dream and to Fran Wickham and Ronald Grant whose support allowed for the first staging of the production in 2017. Also to Carol Roberts who was enthusiastic about it when it was only an idea and suggested the use of a Bajan nation language narrator who is now Jabari Prince Browne.
Jab Jab is a certified sub-genre of modern Soca
The Jab character is a staple of J’ouvert carnival celebrations and looks like the guy below.
The music itself is characterised by melodies with small ranges usually in minor with little harmonic movement. Check a Jab classic by the Grenadan boss Tall Pree below which explains the whole thing.
When it comes to Jab Jab tunes, the certified capital of the world is Grenada. and no one does Jab Jab like them.
So here are some of my favourite Jab Jab tunes from Grenada carnival 2017. ENJOY!
It is carnival season in the Catholic Caribbean.
And in the English-speaking areas,
the music of choice will be soca.
It wasn’t always this way
40 years ago it was all calypso.
In fact, many today still tend to refer to all singers at carnival time as calypsonians whether they do calypso or soca. But the difference between the two genres could not be more distinct.
And just to help out those that are still confused, here are the differences between soca and calypso.
Soca music has and always will be a party music. As a result, it keeps the beats heavy and the words light. Calypso, on the other hand, is the old guy who use to party but spends his time philosophizing about life.
If it says “Jump, wine , wave,bacchanal, carnival, jump” it is Soca.
If it says “existential threats to the diaspora need a panacea,” then chances are you are listening to a calypso. See Chalkdust singing a calypso below.
2. Hook line and sinker
If you missed the hook you definitely do not have a soca stream on. Soca repeats itself.
Even though there is repetition in calypso, it does not even come close to soca’s jump and wave stammering. Hear this classic repetition by Barbadian soca star Blood.
3. Brass less – drum machine more
Calypso songs generally have different instrumentation to soca, especially post 90s soca. Calypso songs are generally more organic (although not all the time) and usually feature a brass section of some type.
Here is calypso plus brass plus Singing Sandra.
Soca, on the other hand, is minimalist (not many instruments) with the drum machine, and laptops running Ableton, prominent. They also tend to be more synthesized.
Take “Advantage” of what I mean below ;).
Since the 90s, soca has been in two different time zones, mid-tempo and break-your-neck speed. An example of break-your-neck speed is Advantage above.
Calypsos NEVER EVER REACH these tempos.
So if you hear a song over 150 b.p.m. then it is CERTAINLY a SOCA song. Anything under 130 b.p.m, then it at least has a chance of being a calypso.
(Then you have to go from #1-3 to see if it actually is of course.)
5. Beats (Check out my book Caribbean Composers Handbook on Amazon for more)
Soca uses a number of beats and these have changed over the years. However, if you hear the following beats then you are dealing with a soca song.
Calypso is more than comfortable to maintain the beat like the one below and it has done so for many a year.
So wherever you are from, enjoy the carnival in the Catholic Caribbean but whatever you do, don’t call the soca a calypso.
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,
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.
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:
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.
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.