Musical Performances: more quality, not quantity needed
By the looks of it we do have quantity when we speak of music. It's everywhere: shows for the Education Trust Fund, for Kubuli Beer promotional events, anytime, anywhere, it's More Sewo, as one producer captions his music video release.
The Triple Kays', WCKs', Signal Bands, Cross Vibes, the revamped 1st Serenade and a host of others keep the musical landscape bubbling, providing entertainment, which is necessary for any society. Modern society demands food, clothing, and shelter; now entertainment, in recent times, have been added as the three necessities of life. However, we can still be starved of quality meals or housing, and suffer from malnutrition or leaking roofs.
The question is, are our bands and managers satisfied with the quality of the musicianship or presentation? Well, quite a few may say yes judging from the way they respond and gyrate at blockoramas. Many of these young patrons have nothing to compare their music with because they were not exposed to the Cadence era when Dominica's music was tops in the region or even further back, the days of the Gaylords Power Union.
Who can question the vocal integrity or showmanship of Greg Breaker, Ophelia, Jeff Joseph, Ivor Rolle, Cleve Jean Jacque, Glen John, Phillip Horsford or Levi Loblack? What about the compositions of Dennis Joseph, Pat Aaron and Gordon Henderson? Then the musical execution of the Martin brothers Julie , Eddy and Arthie, also Frere Soul, Patrick Pemberton, Avril Henderson, Brian Rocque, Brian Shillingford, Baby Boy, Starret Francois, Fitzroy Williams, Bolo, Zyro, Tepam, Freddy Nicholas, Bentley James, Natty Wayne, Sty Larocque, Andrew Bellony Bird, Leroy Spikey Guiste, Armstrong James, Purcel Christian, pannists like the Andre and Jno Baptiste brothers, and the list goes on and on. Now these were quality musicians, most of whom were comparable to any in the region and could hold their own internationally.
During that period, Swinging Stars served as a rite of passage in that if you were good enough to play with the Stars, then you had some quality and could represent at the highest level.
There was also the ever-present Christian Musical Academy where everyone who wanted to play music had to attend to get the rudiments right. Now music has been relegated to a 'wash your foot and come' status or more appropriately 'strum a chord and come'. There are no set standards, not even auditions are required to join bands as the Swinging Stars did in those days and Music Lovers band, quite rightly, still insist on conducting today.
Today it would seem if you want to find musicians of quality come to the churches where a number of competent keyboard players, guitarist and an influx of singers who insist on rehearsal discipline to achieve the harmony that they are known for during worship or concerts.
Somehow, secular musicians do not find that the same commitment or skill is necessary as the vast majority of fans and party goers praise them for mediocrity because they are ignorant of what quality musicianship entails.
Maybe it's the music most youth are exposed to via the media or what they choose to listen to. However, to get a real appreciation for music one has to listen to all genres and be appreciative and/or constructively critical of what is available for consumption.
I have been out to activities where we accept as the norm that bands should start playing many hours after the advertised start, and to add insult to injury, they put on the drum machine to keep the patrons engaged while they tune, set up or await the arrival of a band member to begin .They would do well to adopt the discipline of theatrical presentations by the NDT, Tyat Pawol and the CTN at the Arawak House of Culture.
Too often the music is loud, bordering on offensive to the ear (dominated by an imbalance of drum & bass), poor quality and inaudible vocals, an over- dependence on sequencing, drum machines, auto tuning as opposed to musicianship and lyrical content and development.
What is even of graver concern, these new champions of the Dominica sound are so full of themselves. They know it all, and so, do no collaborations among themselves as the Jamaicans, who are world renowned, do. They are big one-eye giants in the land of their blind screaming, chanting fans. They don't seek advice from tried and proven writers even among younger peers such as Michele Henderson or veterans like Pat Aaron who have been tried and proven not just in Cadance or Calypso respectively, but in several genres.
So while I compliment the youth for keeping the pulse of music alive, I call for better quality, dedication and hard work, individually and as music groups so as to elevate performances to a level where they can be internationally accepted and our musicians can transfer their skills to any regional band or stage and not be found wanting.