Thoughts on the NCCU Cadence competitions
A wonderful idea is again being threatened to become just a staged event for tourist and visiting Dominicans.
What a fantastic idea by members of the NCCU including Dexter Ducreay, Harrigan and Aylmer Irish, and all those involved in the programme. However, I ask, what is the focus? Well, as I understand it it is not just the entertainment aspect rather it is about bringing back Cadence to the prominence it once enjoyed among our people and by so doing catapulting it to a new level which can be appreciated by this generation by infusing the music with Pop, Jazz, Soca, Hip-Hop, Dancehall, Rap, Blues and other such elements. I believe that the genre never really died when we witness the current exploits and sold out concerts in the Francophone world, staged by Ophelia, Fitzroy Williams, Michele Henderson, and Gordon Henderson and, to a lesser extent, Chubby and the Grovers.
This music is still loved by millions in La Reunion, parts of Africa, France, Martinique, Guadeloupe and even St Lucia. Notwithstanding, a new generation has come and presently cadence must evolve with the times. In fact one can count on one hand any new Cadence compositions that have made any inroad in the Francophone world.
Michele, Gordon and the late Jeff Joseph will tell you they have a few numbers that have caused a stir in these island and countries but mainly it's because these artist have stamped their authority for some time now and so can still hold sell out concerts as Jeff did singing the 40 year old Mi Debar or Soucouyant, just as Exile and Gordon can still achieve with Frais or Traville pou un yen. It is not the recent songs of Kassav that Dominicans want to hear it is their 30 year old hits of 'Sewo' and 'Zuke la' and so they continue to thrive.
Therefore, we can safely conclude that this music has nostalgic appeal and will be appreciated more to a certain age group. There is nothing wrong with this. What we need to understand is that my generation and those who preceded me are quickly aging and are not the ones who spend the money on attending shows, downloading music. It a 'Popcorn' generation and so approaches have to be different.
If so happens that the judging of the Cadence shows do not reflect what the NCCU desires and I am now wondering that a workshop is certainly required to direct the judges as to what is the vision. The vision as the judges' criterion indicates is creativeness and innovation which accounts for two thirds of the points allotted.
I will be very blunt in saying that the winner of the Cadence individual section though deserving of a place could not have won this year again because his compositions do not reflect the marketability and innovativeness required to move the song to another level.
Mark you I have nothing against the individual who is an exciting performer but the arrangement of his music for all three years seemed repetitive and one can sing several bars of his songs interchangeably. Last year a particular Chubby's melody was given great prominence in his compositions and the judges never took note!
Compositions in future NCCU song contest must have innovative elements that would lend to the marketability of the song; it is more than just Calypso styled lyrics or messages. The instrumentation must surpass the Liquid Ice's, the Grovers or the Belles Combo's of the 70's (an area where Halibut, I think, can improve despite his strong melodies and interesting ability to string words together).
One can't be stuck in an era; songs must have some crossover element of Rap, Hip Hop, Rock, Blues, Funk, Soca, Dancehall etc. aimed to capture the attention of such a market. Still I must admit it must be done well and not just brought in just because it's a requirement.
Janet 'Angel' Shillingford is one we should study re her work with Dada Lawrence as of the competitors who have presented the most salable material in the history of the competition.
By the similar yardstick, Breve in the band section was most professional and marketable with what they did with the test pieces and the two original pieces which were the main compositions being judged during their allotted 45 minute presentation. Still Ti Okest did enough overall, I think, to retain their title. However, many did not understand the criteria and were wondering why Breve placed second. They were the most technically sound in terms of arrangement and what they tried to do with the music, though they got the worst out of the sound system, though I must say they were found wanting in appropriate song selection. The entertainment value for patrons still must not be overlooked.