Welcome Cadence Day
What an initiative by Manager of DBS Radio, Cecil Joseph, to declare the birth date of one of the founders of Cadence as Cadence Day, a day when the entire music programming on DBS consists of only Cadence music. Whether it was by design or accident that Day had fallen on Gordon Henderson's birthday, August 25th, even adds more significance to the observance.
I remember doing an interview with Julie Mourillon more than 15 years ago when he told me what I already knew: that "it was not solely a Gordon thing". As he explained, he and the drummer, the late Cruickshank were the ones, on whom the rhythm of the band most depended and were even more instrumental in the birth of the music genre.
That makes more sense to me and I dare say to one of Dominica's leading musicologist, author and communicologist, Steinberg Henry, that his comment made on DNO in response to a discussion on Cadence held three weeks ago at UWI that needs repeating: "Rabess gave the impression that Gordon Henderson was the founder of Cadencelypso. This might've been said for too long. Truly, could one man have founded a musical genre?"
However, it can easily be understood ( though wrong) why the leader and front man of most groups get the credit ; he is most visible, the one presenting and writing most of the material, front stage and on the recordings. Similar sentiments can be echoed about Bouyon: is it Rah's or Cornel's or an entire band's effort?
I must say that while some people were apprehensive when Cecil Joseph was handed the reins of manager of DBS radio, because of politics and his lack of academic qualifications, his ability, to me, was never questioned.
I have seen the guy operate and have had several discussions with him personally and otherwise and know enough to realize he is a visionary who likes to get things done…a trait which I also share.
DBS Radio was primarily responsible for the promotion of Cadencelypso music which has been described as a merger of Haitian Cadence Rampart, Calypso, as made popular by Trinidad and Tobago and even a dose of Funk. As Gordon himself recollects that it was also influenced by the popular music of the late Sixties and early Seventies. Hence Gordon says that it was contemporary Pop and not traditional music as in genres like Gwo-ka, Bele or Quadrille.
Gordon is adamant that that initially Cadence was not about language, though it was born in Guadeloupe, when the band was actually in exile, rather the rhythm, arrangement, topic and lyrics.
All these define the music genre.
Preceding this "Cadence Day" observance by DBS – the Nation's Station, there was a talk and panel discussion on what makes the music genre Cadence. But founder Gordon counters that though the music itself is revolutionary it has had its evolution and that will continue to allow it to be marketable. Hence we have seen innovations by Exile One and Grammax in "Fresh" and "Sweet Banana Sweet" respectively while the root creole Cadence of Midnite Groovers came out with English hits as "Milk and Honey."
"Halibut" who formally did a number of hits with the Belles Combo in English such as "Simplify Yourself" in recent times has presented a few big numbers in a similar vein as part of the NCCU Cadence competitions that aims at resuscitating the acceptance of the music in Dominica.
Yes, it is a fact that Cadence once ruled the airwaves here and in the Creole world and was pretty dominant in Martinique, France, Guadeloupe parts of Africa, Seychelles, La Reunion Island and sister island St Lucia who did a lot of work with their own Quavers Band; however, as many proponents of the genre will tell you, it is not dead. Locally one must admit that a serious injection is really needed and that's what this "Cadence Day" and the effort of the NCCU are all about. Cadence is the only music from Dominica that still holds an international audience captive.
But this is just for Dominica. In St Lucia and other Francophone countries Michele, Ophelia, Exile One, Fitzroy Williams, Fred Nicholas, Chubby and the late Jeff Joe over the past decade have played to thousands who turn out just to see them. The music is still played on these local radio stations and royalties are being collected.
Even as I you read this article, a massive gala and show is about to explode in New York on September 24th featuring the great Exile One in which Gordon Henderson is being honoured. Is this then a music genre that is dead? No wonder Wadix a major promoter of the genre and of the WCMF is flabbergasted at those comments. Spouge from Barbados or Ska from Jamaica may be dead, as they sure can't attract the thousands that Cadence still does.
It is correct to say that very few current bands play or create new Cadence compositions. But to say it's on life support or dead by its very definition means that the priest or pastor is standing by for the burial service!
This is far from the truth as Michele rightly hinted. She makes a decent living from Cadence and pioneers Fitzroy and Gordon are more than comfortable. Ophelia once admitted that her cottages has a lot to do with Cadence and continues to preach that the genre is alive and well and appreciated by millions outside of Dominica. I also agree with cadence Princess Michele, that Chubby rightfully should have millions by now if the right management was installed and the business of copyright was secured. After all, other producers have made quite a living from his music!
In conclusion, I must say Cadence Day is a wonderful initiative which other private stations and DJ's must acknowledge. I trust this annual observance will help artistes earn decent incomes, as DBS's manager hopes, and may it bring instant gratification as in American Idol, by having luxury cars and all other standards of success.
Long Live Cadence!