In search of international recognition
Now that Independence is over I can truly reflect on an area that I am commissioned to contribute to as a free-lance writer of the arts. I sometimes wonder why many more of our artistes haven't gone further to make ripples in the international arena.
We have much more talent than most yet St Lucia, for example, who just can't compare with us musically, has been able to produce a Boo Hinckson, an internationally renowned guitarist. At one time our own Julie Martin was viewed as being more talented on this instrument. St Vincent has the equivalent to the Martin's of Dominica in the McIntosh's but they have gone further and have created an international hit "Turn me on" through vocalist Kevin Lyttle. We don't need to venture into Jamaica which is as global as you get musically or Trinidad with their Machal and Billy Ocean. We won't call Nicky Minaj as she was just born in T&T but really grew up in the US from the age of 12. So what about Barbados with their world acclaimed superstar Rihanna who was only signed in 2005 by American producer Evan Rogers or Crossfire's "Pump me up" which received some level of international recognition.
In 1975 Exile One became the first Creole act to sign a major recording contract with the French label Barclay, today a part of Universal. Exile One went on to sell gold having records distributed to the four corners of the globe including Europe and Africa.
Hence it is safe to say that since Exile no other group of musicians can truly claim international status or recognition in the last 50 years; that's about a decade longer than our independence.
As individuals Jeff Joseph and Ophelia went on to international acclaim especially in the Francophone islands, as Gordon Henderson states clearly in his book "A HISTORY OF CADENCE-LYPSO MUSIC: From cadence to decadence."
Today, with her professionalism in every facet of the music industry, Michele Henderson seem to be the most likely candidate to break out. However, as a nation of 40 years we must be concerned that one of the most artistically talented countries in the region and certainly in the OECS has not received international acclaim for its work.
So how do we go about achieving this? Though sometimes one out of every thousand may be discovered or stumbled upon or will be at the right place at the right time, or even as some have done, allow themselves to be used as sex objects, there are things we must put in place.
First being professional about the art form we are involved in. Being formally trained musically will only assist in this objective towards excellence. Discipline as it pertains to practice, timeliness, and dependability are areas in great need of attention.
Yes, we need technical competence and qualified individuals at our mixer boards to enhance sound quality which can make or break a live performance.
Good lyricists as in "Ani bi yo love" and "Still standing" are extremely important as this is what impacts hearts and minds; when people can internalize and identify with the emotions, story line or values expressed.
How one presents on and off stage helps. Do you make an effort to dress and groom appropriately? Presenting yourself on stage is equivalent to merchandizing an item. It is the gift wrap which makes one anticipate what's inside. Even the general layout of the band or your interaction and charisma project you as an artiste. Your interviews off stage, language and how knowledgeable and articulate you are speaks volumes; be yourself, not a Dominican trying to sound Jamaican because you play Reggae.
If you have a good composition, poor vocal execution can destroy it. Your voice must be salable and have a marketable quality. If you are up front you must be able to communicate with your audience. Not just sing your song and get out but build a relationship, converse with them. Not demanding that they move to the right or left or raise their hands when you know really there is no reason to.
The cutting of songs shouting "wheel out" may be accepted as part of the Dancehall craze but it is not for everyone. A potential promoter or patron would prefer the excellence of a Cronixx-like performance rather than that of a Movado where songs are spliced, sliced and cheapened.
Nothing wrong in doing collaborations with artistes who may further your cause and popularity.
Always bear in mind there is also a business side to music, hence, copyright, contracts and the like must become your business.
The fact that the best climate does not exist among certain musicians and bands does not mean you have to get in this polarization as it serves no purpose. Open up yourself to all sorts of music, dance, theatre or any artistic expression as it will broaden your horizons and perspective on the arts. Too many musicians ask for support and they themselves don't support theatre arts by the New Dimension Theatre and Teyat Pawol, dances staged by Waitukubuli or choral presentations by the Sisserou Singers. Charity begins at home.
Well, if you are persistent and consistent enough with all the above then you are playing your part and poised for any international opportunity that may come your way. So now it's the turn of Government and private sector to spot such talents and create an environment where someone can set the pace and act as a stimulus to those who want to pursue music as a career.