First, I will tell you why I love rivers. I was born by one – the Roseau River when it was a real heavy gloriously flowing spectacle; to me the sound of the river flowing to the sea is music; nature’s chorus line and if you listen carefully you will hear. An island boasting of 365 rivers without an officially recognised Rivers Day is ingratitude to our God.
The river bank was a mud platform when I was a boy and leaving your footprints in the sand was easy in those days except that it was footprints in the mud. Yet from that platform like a desert that springs roses some great music emerged. The river bank was the main home of the fledging steel band and many nights I would lay awake just listening to my musical heroes make the heavens sing. River flows and steel band music made the poverty of the river bank seem like a magical place to be. I was also raised at a time when music made you think deeply and a love song was a gem of truly poetic writings. The artistes who wrote and sang songs in the fifties, sixties and seventies never received the millions that present-day artistes do, but their work lives on. They belong to a class that created stuff to outlive their earthly lives by centuries. Their candles have blown out long before their legend ever will, to borrow a line from Elton John.
Some will tell me that the quality of music has dropped and in today’s world it is mostly chants and rap that stirs the fans, but it was not long ago I felt like a thrillionaire taking in the thrilling persistent and percussive reggae sounds with lyrics that went straight to the heart and mind. When Marley sang, “We refuse to be what they wanted us to be, we are what we are” or “I feel like bombing a church now that I know the preacher was lying, talking blues,” and Peter Tosh sang “ I doh want no peace I want equal rights and justice.” It helped shape our independent thinking as young people. It gave us a sense of our value and a reason why we were here and what we could do to change things. Yes, music is a powerful communicator.
Even to Adolph Hitler, music was the drug that calmed his restlessly evil spirit He confessed that listening to Wagner (Vagner) sent him into a trance. Hitler’s love for Wagner places his musical tastes in common with so many millions, because it is Wagner in one of his 19th century opera pieces who wrote The Wedding March also known as Here comes the Bride. Music serves the good people as well as the horribly bad ones and that is why the market for music is universal and infinitely large.
With such a large market and its universal acceptance I wonder why governments in our region have paid so little attention to exploring the potential of our music. They seek tourism for development but in our case the development authorities are still stuck in the howling first gear of the last century. Are we not at the next level? National budgets do not reflect any serious recognition of our cultural industry, but in a land with few saleable resources our future lies in the power of our natural environment and in the natural resource of our people and what collectively we all can bring to the table. We have the example right under our noses of the financial returns of such an investment. We see what has happened with reggae music from Jamaica and how it caused the name of Marley to be legend. Even Kassav modified our Cadence music to an appealing beat called Zook and became huge.
A Caribbean girl Rihanna just 16 years of age at the time performed an audition before an American producer visiting Barbados and 8 years later she is Forbes magazine’s third highest grossing artiste after Taylor Swift and Justin Beiber with a take in 12 months of US53 million about the same in ECC as our 12 month take in Waitikubuli for VAT. She is Barbados’ biggest single export. When JayZ first heard and saw her he recognized her star quality as well and told her that there were only two ways she would get away from him through the door which he had firmly shut or by jumping the window. The window was 29 floors from the ground. The producer said that though her voice then was somewhat edgy and not the best of the three other Bajan girls auditioning with her, he was impressed by her star quality even when she walked into the room.
Star quality will again be discussed as we move through this series. One successful artiste can do more for promoting Waitikubuli than all this Discover this and Discover that organizations we set up.
Let me acknowledge the effort of the UWP to introduce the World Creole Music Festival with the idea of promoting our music and our land as a premiere music place. Since then in the last few years, the thing has been brought down to a kind of “Let’s hope it works this year,” affair and the organizers are into verbal acrobatics about why reggae artistes have become the big thing skirting around the real truth that this is merely a gate receipts matter.
In my life time I have seen some amazing talent not only onstage but off. I have seen the rise of good prospects and the meltdown of so many who have had the ambition to do well with the God given talent but gave up. In just 5 months the journey to Calypso Finals begins and will end on Final night on February 9th 2013 that is if we get past 12/21/12 the arguable date for the end of days. Year after year wonderful calypsoes are written by incredible talent and with quality performers causing the people to scream and shout. But therein lies the rub according to the bard. Where do we go from there?
Just some short years ago on invitation of the Minister responsible I presented a fully laid out plan for the music industry in Dominica. This was after a two hour long discussion with that Minister at which Michele Henderson, her husband and others were present. The Minister promised warp speed action saying, “I do not like long delays, I am a person of action.”
TO BE CONTINUED
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