Thursday, December 6, 2012

The passing of a Jazz icon

Today lovers of jazz mourn the passing of a legendary jazz innovator, musician and band leader, Dave Brubeck. Gone at the ripe old age of 91, Dave has left his indelible iconic mark on jazz music, to be celebrated forever as a standard bearer of the genre. A pianist of high renown, Dave Brubeck learnt the rules of music only to break them and test their boundaries, through his relentless experiments in tone and rhythm.  

Because of his ability to boldly experiment with odd time signatures, improvised counterpoints, polyrhythm and polytonality, he was able to establish a unique jazz sound that would be the signature of his career. From the 9/8 Blue Rondo a La Turk to the 5/4 Take Five, Dave made many acquire the exotic taste of his genius. 

The Dave Brubeck Quartet ranks among the greatest jazz bands of all time. The jazz faithful will forever pay tribute to his virtuosity whenever they play or listen to Take Five. 

Jazz has been around just over a hundred years. Dave dying at 91 spent about 70 of those years immersed in the genre of jazz. Therefore, much of the legacy of jazz so far belongs to Dave who has spent if not the longest time, an extraordinarily long time as a professional jazz musician, composer and band leader in the jazz genre. 

Dave Brubeck will always be remembered as a musician committed to the advancement of the jazz art form. As a white musician rising to prominence in a genre dominated by numerous black virtuosos, Dave will forever be remembered as the humble dedicated, professional he was, as he meticulously worked his way up the very musically competitive ladder of jazz music.

Becoming the first jazz musician to be featured on the cover of Time magazine, and the first jazz artiste to sell over a million copies of a jazz album in the 60s; highlights the genius of Dave Brubeck. Dave understood the universal language of music.  In 1988, while playing for Mikhail Gorbachev, at a dinner in Moscow hosted by the then-President Ronald Reagan for the Soviet leader, Dave said: "I can't understand Russian, but I can understand body language," this was after seeing the general secretary tapping his foot to the music he (Dave) played.

Rest In Peace Dave Brubeck. You introduced us to 5/4 time through your innovative compositions. Your music will forever live on. You have gone to Taking Five in heaven now.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Some challenges facing the internationalization of reggae music

I would like to agree with Mr. Charles Campbell on all the points made in his article published in the Jamaica Observer on November 05, 2012, entitled: “Wanted – good song writers”. The observations posited in this missive have always formed the base of my many discussions on the possible ways to further internationalize reggae music.

Indeed there are very strategically important marketing mechanisms that need to be developed and utilized to ensure the music reaches its intended target audience and market. Astute management and strategic international marketing must form the key support bases upon which the reggae music industry must be developed. However, in marketing one must pay very keen attention to the product being produced to be sold.

The world is in need of good reggae music. And while good seems a very common place word, I would like to further advance that sensible lyrics, conscious themes, enlightened expressions of current affairs both at home and abroad, the revamping of the reggae balladeer, all must form the collective psyche of the modern song writer. Reggae music will not take its rightful place on the international stage if it is encumbered by murder lyrics, homophobia, graphic pornographic references and melodious odes to the use of marijuana.
While perhaps in some sections of the local industry there might be an insatiable market for what one might deem hardcore reggae; internationally however, no market will welcome it. Therefore, when writing their songs, reggae song writers must look beyond the local and regional markets and the enclaves of Diasporas and cater towards a more international audience.

Reggae is not the only Caribbean genre facing the dilemma if internationalization. Trinidad faces the same battle regarding the internationalization of Soca. And unlike the way Sean Paul and Shaggy have in recent times been the international faces of reggae music, Soca sadly only has Machel Montano.

More emphasis must be made at putting out high quality songs not only in terms of musical arrangements, but also their lyrical content. Bobby ‘Digital’ Dixon, in a recent Jamaica Observer article, made the very poignant point when he said: “Not everyone is patient enough to make lasting material that will be still fresh 20 years into the future. Now it is like operating a fast food chain...the music is too disposable."

The reggae music industry must fix its product. With a viable marketable product, it can certainly sell it where ever it chooses. There is a need for good reggae music.

Mainstream artistes continue to flirt with reggae music. Bruno Mars’s reggae influenced “Billionaire” and “Lazy Song” have sold 2.9M and 2M copies respectively to date. Alternative rock band Maroon 5’s recently released “One More Night” has already sold over a million copies to date. These are just three mainstream songs that happen to be heavily influenced by reggae music performed by non-reggae artistes. The world has shown that it would buy reggae music. Jamaica needs to ensure that it assumes the role of market leader in the market for reggae music and not the distant follower it happens to be at the moment.

Long live reggae music!