Going Back to the Future
I know this movie's title might sound like an oxymoron. It is intended to be as we count down the development of music and culture of our people. Firstly, one must applaud the work of the National Cooperative Credit Union (NCCU) for striving to bring back some prominence to Cadencelypso but at the same time lament the standard of compositions that are to be showcased.
Sorry, but only Harley can defeat himself not because he has presented anything new or futuristic to the beat, but because he has stood still in time and has replicated the Belles Combo- 'Simplify Yourself,' 70's well, with his ability to string rhymes, a unique vocal style and an ability to relate to local social issue such as 'beff' and rumours.
While this in itself may be a positive attribute my fears of last year are being fulfilled. Surely without workshops held weeks prior to the competition and a commitment by our local musicians to play and transform Cadence, it will remain like bele and Quadrille with some level of authenticity but lacking innovation.
The Dice –Fitzroy Williams CD recently release gave glimpses of the forward movement for Cadence; the use of saxophones, flutes and haunting tones and arrangements pointed to a direction. But in 2013 the entries of Cadence, sound like the music has just begun, a lot of rhythm, but little innovation or attempts of crossing over to other genres. The reality of today's world suggests that you can't revive a beat which is obviously in a coma without fusing some R&B, Hip Hop, Rap or Jazzy elements to make it marketable.
Then again the above may not be the objective of the NCCU; it may just be a competition for competition sake at a local level probably till next year again as is done with 'Heel and Toe' or 'Jing-Ping' at Independence. If so, they have been doing a fantastic job thus far; but if it's to revitalise the beat and make it relevant in the region once more, then more is desired in the approach and other stake-holders should be engaged to fine tune what we are hearing.
I am not just saying this to be critical, but I try to be constructive in so doing. Harley's track, for instance, has only created an initial short lived stir among older persons and not the youth because they cannot relate to the rhythm/ beat. Any beat that does not have young people's blessing is doomed for failure. That is why Bouyon is so popular amongst local youth. We recall the days when we were young and so can connect with what we hear coming out, but really it's not relevant to today's market. Have the young people considered why Bouyon bands after 25 years can only be found in Dominica? This shows a level of stagnation, even if some of the elements of the music's rhythmic patterns are used by some regional acts such as Machel Montano to name just one.
Sadly, as we celebrate 35 years of Independence every facet of our music has retarded except Calypso and the use of electronics and more up to date equipment and amplification. Even Bouyon has gone right back into the future as very few will doubt that the quality of musicianship, vocal harmonization as well as compositions, done in the late 80's and 90's with the original WCK or Serenade, cannot be compared to the plunge the music has taken.
I anticipate the coming together of the original innovators of the music will prove that point as LIME has billed them as the star act for this year's 'Creole in the Park'. Well, every dark cloud has a silver lining as it seems to me the general global melt down and the recent challenges faced by the company may be more responsible for this innovative, all local, marketing strategy.
Still, the Dominican youth must demand better quality vocals, arrangement, harmony and general professionalism from today's artists. It cannot be acceptable to have a drum machine begin a show while musician stroll in at their own pace or seek to tune their guitars- madness!
Imagine many of the Trinidadian leading Soca acts continue to do collaborations with Jamaicans, reggae and renown Hip Hop artists to become acceptable and to gain market share globally and that's the best we can do with Cadence and Bouyon in this century? I must confess, Klockers crew with Skinny and Dice exhibited some forward movement and creativity in merging Rap and Ballads with the music. Were it not for the 'bigging up of gangs' and attracting questionable behaviour, there was some scope during this short lived era. One of the reasons why Acer is popular in this genre is because of the Rap element he embraced coupled with the construction of his lyrics (not mere chants) which actually relate cohesive story lines.
Haven't we seen the innovations with the rock guitar and Blues fills on Exile's 'FRESH' or are we oblivious to the Salsa-Latin grooves in 'Rosita' or the unique bass lines of Bill o' Men's ' Africa'? This is why the blues guitar of Junior Marvin was introduced by music producer/ manager of the Wailers, Chris Blackwell, to Marley's repertoire some four decades ago, to make the raw, one-drop Reggae, more palatable to the taste buds of white audiences who can literally make or break you because they have the purchasing power. So really, if we don't get more serious and creative, our music will continue to go back...into the future.