OECS Song-writer's & Producers Work-camp
Where else in Dominica or even the Caribbean which could be more ideally suited for an OECS song writer's work-camp but at the Atlantique Resort and Spa perched above and interwoven in the lush terrain of Anse de Mai. The amenities, accommodating staff, meals, serenity and view created the right ambience for creativity and song production.
Over 20 participants, representing some of the best songwriters, singers and music producers, all made the Atlantique their creative space for four days. The aim was to created high quality music which could represent well on the international market, songs which could be pitched to producers in the USA and Canada. The broader aim of the workshop was to enhance song writing skills and encourage greater collaboration between songwriter and producers of all musical genres in the OECS.
The organizational effort was spear-headed by Dominica's Sobers Esprit- Representative officer for the Creative Arts Sector at the OECS/ EDU and Herrick Horne, a Vincentian who served as coordinator for the event. Esteemed song writer Canada's Rupert Gayle whose attractive resume consists of six number-one hits in Canada, and who has written successfully for; Melonie Fiona, Maxi Priest, Mindless Behavior, Keshia Chante and Rex Goudie, representing just a tip of a thirty five year career.
One of his two associates, Candy Gloster, a Vincentian, who is signed on as a career song writer with Universal Canada, has also reaped some success as a talented youth in her twenties. According to her, she writes in every genre but mainly Pop and so Keshia Chante, the artist simple known as Veronica, Ish, Amber Riley and others based in Canada can testify to her exploits.
Claudia Edward, a St Lucian writer, singer and performer has performed with Freddy Jackson, Ashford and Simpson and has toured extensively to festivals as far as Thailand; she has performed at the London 2014 Olympics.
There were also other songwriters such as Antiguan attorney, Craig Christopher who has worked and produced songs for Machel Montano; Chevaughn Richards of St Kitts- singer, songwriter and TV host in her country; Randy " Lutta" Mc Intosh, a Vincy of 20 years performance and song writing experience who co- wrote the popular "Nookie" over half a decade ago; Martino Mark of the BVI who has won several music awards in his country as well as Bermuda; and the youthful Keen Cotter who is really a talented Hip-hop electronic dance artiste among so much more.
Also attending was the producer and sound engineer Mark Cyrus, a London formally trained engineer, from St Vincent who has produced for scores of international artistes and one who is exceptionally skilled at manipulating his equipment to create unique rhythmic hi tech patterns. He has been signed as a publisher to BMG and was the music engineer who produced the riddim pattern for regional Soca hit "Nookie."
Also present was Neil Bernard of TNT, one of the best in that country responsible for the 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009 Road March in Trinidad, Soca monarch in 2006 and 2009 , plus 2011 in St Vincent and has also produced for the winner of the Bajan Soca Monarch in 2006.
Well, Dominica was not to be out done as Dada Lawrence and Cornel Phillip exhibited their production quality and skill showing why they are to be considered among the best in the OECS. Together with their regional and extra-regional counterparts some 15 classy tracks were produced from which a compilation of about eight will finally be chosen and markets sourced by way of established producers, promoters and labels within the North American markets.
Top notch Dominican writers and performers Derrick " Rah " Peters, Asher Thomas, Ian Jackson, Daryl Bobb, Carlyn Xavier-Phillip and Marsha Augustine all made significant contributions not just as writers but performers/singers of the composed tracks.
The latter, the unassuming Marsha Augustine from Anse de Mai was the surprise package as she won the hearts of all, in her execution of a song entitled "You" for which she was entrusted to do the lead vocals, bringing out her range, vocal quality and power to full effect. Carlene Xavier was also soothing in "Don't wanna be blue" something that both Jackson and Xavier-Phillip are mainly accredited in writing and produced by 'Dada' Lawrence.
All the producers occupied rooms or mini camps with singers, writers, performers and assigned musicians assigned and were in the main able to complete an average of about two songs per day, for which their names were attached and signed off for copyright purposes.
This proved to be challenging for most, including myself because many times the direction you saw a song taking was in complete contrast to what you visualised. Not only this, my mode of composition and a few of the other participants, was to sit down with your instrument in some quiet spot and call down inspiration by the strumming of the guitar or fiddling with notes on the keyboards. Most of the younger song writers and producers, however, took their cue from structured rhythms created by the producer to which lyrics were strung. Consensus obviously was not always easy when some 4-5 writers are involved with one composition with their varied experiences, styles and preferences.
Nonetheless at the end of the extended weekend project all the participants were presented with the final product of 15 songs. Notwithstanding some wanted to know where do we go from here and others were a bit disappointed that the focus was not Caribbean oriented genres and Bouyon, Soca and Reggae could be experimented with. The songs also seem tailored and the agenda set on the theme of 'Romance and Party'.
It was almost ironical in a sense, when all the participants of the camp danced to and revered personalities such as Rah, Cornel, Benji and Acer Bantan, as well as regional hits "Balance Batty," "Conch Shell" "Souce" and "Wet Fete". Indeed as a participant and as a writer, on the arts, I was well placed to receive those sentiments which may have been otherwise held back in the open evaluation. Hence while Esprit and our gracious house-keeper Cecelia St Rose, could have very good intentions, there was an underlying feeling by a few, that this could be just an exploitation of the talents of the OECS for some established label and one may not hear anything more.
One thing for sure, all agreed that this exercise was well worth it, and all gained a lot particularly from mentor Rupert Gayle's timely interjections and whose experience, exuberance and knowledge benefitted all in this hands-on exercise.
So, is this another talk shop? It would be a pity because the artistes of the OECS have put so much effort into these productions. Meanwhile, we wait to see if any success will be realized from this venture, even as other similar camps are planned for Martinique in music, film and other areas of the performing arts and creative industries.