An impressive song writer's workshop
Yes, it concluded last weekend, that is a song writer's workshop organized by the Association of Music Producers (AMP) in association with the Government of Dominica and the Dominica State College where the workshop was held. Musicians and song-writers were exposed, over four intense days, to the fundamentals of what has the potential to be a lucrative occupation, as it has been for so many, including workshop–presenter Aleena Gibson, an acclaimed Swedish song-writer who has placed among the top ten song-writers.
Why Sweden we asked but we were quickly reminded that this country of eight million is third after the USA and Britain, two countries that dominate the arena; but quite a few songs sung by American and British artistes are written or co -written by Swedes.
Most people may be familiar with the famous rock group ABBA and Reggae band Ace of Base from that country but it's the song-writers who have really impacted the music art form and Aleena is just one of those. Sweden has a serious music programme from pre-school right up to university where the country exposes students to music and writing at the highest level, thus offering them a career choice in the arts.
Aleena has, to her credit, several hits in her country and she is one of the fortunate and, as she emphasizes, persistent individuals who have been living off her music comfortably for over two decades. She sings with a progressive rock band Kaipa and is probably best known for the composition "Empty Room" which topped the charts in 2008 in Sweden for well over 30 weeks. She is now engaged in work with Jennifer Lopez who is expected to release at least one of her songs sometime this summer.
The facilitator emphasized communication, repetition, mood, melody and hook as some of the techniques she recommends in well-written compositions. Pre-choruses to lead one into the chorus is another technique one could apply to prepare one for the repetitive hook lines. The economy of words, use of symbolism and being lyrically fresh instead of abusing clichés were also prescribed.
Song writing can be a lucrative business, she emphasized, drawing on her own experiences and that of her daughter who in recent times has been reaping some success herself. While some of the participants were unsure as to how well their talents can blossom in a land of less than 80,000 (Sweden has 8 million) Aleena says the internet makes it easier to identify and pitch our songs. However, to do this our craft must be perfected and one must continue to write and write almost every day; she has written probably thousands of songs.
She advised us to: form writers groups and pitch our songs to friends, family and others and gauge their feedback and don't be afraid of unsavory comments, just get back to the drawing board. Every song, she said, must have a cause-and-effect element hence the communicative value which can be picked up by the reaction of the audience by way of shouts, applause, silence, facial or body language; this must not be underestimated.
During the workshop, Aleena placed participants into seven groups and assigned or in some cases chose an artiste whom they would like to write for. Some of the artistes were Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake. Interesting names such as Bobbs, the Beehives, Unity, U 4 Me and the Tim-buzzs for the groups also came up because they had to present the works to participants and a few supporters who took time off to witness what was going on.
Strangely out of the over 20 participants at the workshop none represented our current leading recording bands; rather, it was seasoned calypsonians and Calypso writers such as Tim Durand and veteran performers Ophelia, King Hunter, Atunyah and even Dr. Alwin Bully and veteran music tutor Mrs St Hilliare in their twilight years attributed importance and relevance to the workshop through their participation.
Nonetheless, it was refreshing that young talents such as Jenny Richards, Adrien Francis (a rapper who also creates beats), singer and composer Ayeola George and Joy Stoute and singers Richie Ferrol ,Beno, Jerd Dorsette and talented rapper Looney, must be commended. All had good reviews of the exercise.
The organizers and AMP executive members, Mark Marie and Daryl Bobb, hope to present part two in a couple weeks geared towards producers of music. It is hoped that a few of the eight great composition which came out from the writer's workshop will be used by the producers to actually create salable material which could be sent out to publishers and to Aleena Gibson herself, with the view to having someone notice and possible contract one or more of the participants.