As Dominica celebrates the inaugural cadence-lypso month from July 02- 30 2021, cadence legend, Gordon Henderson, has labelled the occasion as bitter-sweet, saying that while significant gains have been made with the genre, much more can be done for its promotion and preservation.
Pioneered by Henderson and his Exile One Band in the early 1970s, the music quickly gained fame both regionally and internationally, dominating the airwaves, dancehall and concert scenes for several decades.
The creation of the music reflected not only the artistic talent of that generation of musicians but also the mood and inspiration of a nation and a region that was going through turbulent political and economic challenges and moving towards independence and greater self-determination.
Referred to by Henderson as “a synthesis of Caribbean music” for its dynamic rhythmic sound and the fusion of calypso, Haitian Rampa music with Afro-American funk around 1973/74 in the French island of Guadeloupe, Cadence-lypso became one of the region’s last musical creations of the 20th century.
“After 50 years since the creation of this genre, it is sweet that some of the women and men who sacrificed so much in the ’70s did get some form of compensation and recognition,” Henderson stated. “Sweet, because in recent times, of the excellent job done by people such as Leroy Wadix Charles or institutions such as the NCCU.”
Referring to the art form as a part of our Dominica national musical patrimony, he said it was momentous that many of the musicians who contributed to the genre are still active and in demand by audiences around the world.
“Sweet because in retrospect, we now know that cadence-lypso played an important role in building Dominican pride and identity on the eve of political independence from Britain and cultural determinants from several countries,” Henderson stated. “Sweet, because cadence-lypso gave credibility to the creole language, not only in Dominica but in many other countries. sweet, because at least one of the exponents was once appointed as an official Ambassador.”
But despite the gains made within the five decades, the Cadence pioneer lamented that this genre which should be embraced by Dominicans is better known and often better appreciated outside of the island.
“I view the month as bitter because despite reaching the highest level within the global music industry and blazing the trail in changing Caribbean music from one of insularity to one of synthesis and fusion, those who can and who could never [have] felt the desire to ensure that cadence-lypso would be recognized by UNESCO as an intangible Heritage of Humanity,” he pointed out, further stressing that such would be a badge of honour for all Dominicans.
Henderson is also saddened that many of our “best historians” have not chronicled the cadence-lypso phenomenal in their books, academia has never seen it fit to include the creole music studies in their curriculum, whether in the primary secondary or tertiary level and also because of the number of times where our music are openly plagiarized in foreign countries, with nothing being done to correct those wrong.
“Export of our music should be given as much attention as other commodities or services that we export,” he recommended. “Cadence-lypso brought in an entire era of creativity and originality.”
He is hoping that his comments will not be seen as a personal attack but as identifying areas that can be improved for the betterment and the pride of the country.
By the end of the month, Henderson is also hoping that some form of discussion can be held on why many have considered cadence frozen in the ’70s, and if it can be sustained; the productions, marketing and distribution as well as whether it can be integrated into the changing music industry in Dominica.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Creole Heartbeat and mastermind behind the first-ever ‘Cadence Month’ Leroy Wadix Charles has also echoed similar sentiments and called on Dominicans to embrace the genre.
Cadence-lypso Month activities continues Friday evening (23rd July 2021) with the third panel discussion at The UWI Open campus from 8:00 pm. Presenters will be Dennis Joseph, McCarthy Marie, Julian Rogers and Brian Meade.