Thursday, January 23, 2014

Guyana must urgently raise the standard of its recorded music

Once again it is the season of Soca music. In Guyana, we have our Mashramani celebrations fast approaching, and in neighboring Trinidad and Tobago, Carnival 2014 beckons. As is the norm, lots of pulsating Soca music is released during this period, so that persons can familiarize themselves with the sounds of the season. Here in Guyana, many of our local artistes have unleashed their Mashramani ‘Soca’ fare on the nation, as some prepare for the various competitions and the much anticipated and coveted Road March title. 

However, while there is a fair amount of quantity coming from our local artistes, I am afraid that there is not much quality prevailing. In 2014, much of our ‘Soca’ productions lack creative lyricism, musicality, and sound mastery. I am eager to know when our artistes and producers will get it right musically and create high quality world class sounding Guyanese music. 

This is not to say that there have not been some productions of good quality emanating from studios in Guyana over the years, but there is also an obvious lack of consistency regarding the quality of productions. 

Our attempts at creating ‘Dancehall’ music have been satisfactory in some instances; save for the pseudo Jamaica accent with which some of our artistes struggle. Some of the ‘Dancehall’ and ‘Reggae’ riddims produced in Guyana can stand up to regional scrutiny. But again much work still needs to be done by all parties concerned if they intend to make profitable music.

Guyana once boasted a viable and competitive music industry in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Numerous string bands dominated the dance spectrum in Guyana in those days. Many Guyanese artistes recorded great songs of high quality that were sold in the regional and international markets. Guyana produced renowned musicians of regional and international repute. So it bothers me that most of what we have today in the local music industry comprises notorious mediocrity. 

We need to establish recording standards and rigorously enforce them. Not because a person can pay for studio time should he or she be allowed to permanently place the toneless sound of their voice on a recording and think it is a great sound/song. At some point, producers must determine what is good sound and what is unwanted sound. More importantly, producers must be professional musicians who can advise persons who over sing and who do not pitch properly. Moreover, producers also need to address lyrical content and song structure. Musical arrangements must be thoroughly assessed and reassessed for the best quality sound. We need to stop producing tracks that sound hollow and empty.

A lot of work needs to be done locally to significantly enhance the sound quality, lyrical content, tone and structure of the music we produce in Guyana, particularly our attempts at ‘Soca’. Perhaps Guyana needs to reestablish its own sound instead of trying to make ‘Soca’, ‘Dancehall’ and ‘Reggae’ music.

Whatever happened to the sound of Shanto? Can it be modernized?

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