jamaica

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

 

 

 

 

Workshops and Stefan Walcott

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.

Enjoy

Vybz Kartel: Musical Genius! Dancehall Mi Seh I

Vybz Kartel happens to be one of my favourite Caribbean artists of vybz Kartel

all time.

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.

Tessanne Won, Great, Now What? – Musings on Tessanne Chin on The Voice

This article was published on http://www.cwn5.com in April.

 

 

 

tessane cartoon

 

“Tessanne won the Voice!” That was what my wife screamed to me as the results from Season 5 of the American reality show, The Voice were announced.  Tessanne Chin, the Jamaican reggae-rock fusion singer who produced the wonderful album In Between Worlds, had won. Wow! I thought to myself with an unmistakable uneasiness. Why worry? Well The Voice to me has proven to be, as we say in the Caribbean, a bit of a sweet talker and like most sweet talkers, their intentions are not always the best.

The Voice, for those (un) fortunate enough to avoid this particular reality offering,
is a televised, season-long music competition which involves singers blind auditioning for coaches. If the auditions go well then the contestants get to choose which of the coach’s teams they will join, in the hope of that coach helping them facilitate their dream of mesmerizing the viewing public and winning the competition.

The benefits of winning this competition are obvious and since conquering on Season 5, Tessanne’s public profile has exploded globally. She has performed at the White House, courtesy of an invitation from the Obamas no less, signed to talent firm ICM, which deals with artists as from Al Jarreau to Pamela Anderson, and headlined more Caribbean festivals in the past year since winning The Voice than Sizzla and Machel Montano combined. In addition, she has an album coming out on Universal Republic Records with contributions from hit writers Toby Gad and Dianne Warren.

Sounds good doesn’t it, especially for an artist who has been heavily involved in the pop music business for a number of years like Tessanne was. To me, not quite and while I am hopeful, being an early Tessanne fan, I am also very wary for the following reasons:

  1. The Voice does not have such a great track record

The past winners of The Voice, and they have been a few now, have not gone on to garner much mainstream success. Unlike, American Idol, no one from The Voice — winners or otherwise — has managed to crack the Billboard pop charts. As Dave Holmes, television host and reality-TV recapper told The Daily Beast, “It’s like people win The X Factor or The Voice and enter the Witness Relocation Program.” Funny and true and only the ardent pop culture buffs can actually name all the winners from The Voice.

  1. The Contract Sucks!!!

According to Helienne Lindvall, the Voice in its Scandavaian version, makes the contestants, not only the winners, sign contracts where the production team get 50% of all their earnings. This not only relates to future earnings but past earnings including royalties and publishing. It is a 360 deal worthy of the worst gangsters of the old music industry. According to Lindvall, this is not only on the Scandanavain show and various national versions, like the American one, make the contestants sign similar contracts.  What does this possibly mean for Tessanne? This means that The Voice production team will probably get:

  • future earnings every time Tessanne performs,
  • royalties and publishing from sales of her album “In Between Worlds,” which was recorded long before her appearing on the Voice.
  • a piece of all her non-musical earnings such as sponsorship deals and endorsements.

After reading this I hope that you understand my concern. Hopefully however, it will work out for her financially and artistically, especially given the fact that her sister, Tami Chin Mitchell, who apparently has experience with the label machinery is joint managing her. So as a fan from her In Between World days with its monster track Hideaway, I wish her all the best. I sincerely hope that on this new journey the industry pitfalls will not consume her and she can buck the trend and prove there is indeed a musical pot of gold at the end of the Voice rainbow.

 

This article was published on http://www.cwn5.com in April. Since then Tessanne has released her debut album on the Universal label to a very lukewarm reception. See link below.

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/entertainment/Tough-love-for-Tessanne

This story continues to unfold.