Saturday, December 10, 2016

UK Songwriting Contest Results 2016

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We can all work in our own little world but this music business leaves plenty by the wayside. So you have to believe and test yourself against your peers. That's one reason I entered the UKSC (UK Songwriting Contest). The UK Songwriting Contest is one of the world's most popular, longest running and established songwriting events. It works with top British producers and industry professionals and was formed with the aim of "discovering and encouraging new songwriting talent and promoting the craft of songwriting". 

What I liked about this competition, compared to others, was that your song is awarded a score whether it gets through to the latter stages of the competition or not. This at least gives you some sort of benchmark to compare between songs and an idea of how close you got to the next stage. You also received a certificate no matter where your song finished. 

So this is what I decided to do. I entered a couple of MP3s in several categories as I couldn't really work out which was the best fit for reggae, but they didn't make it into the semis. I also entered songs in the 'Lyric Only' category and am pleased to say that two have reached the semi-finals and so in with a shout of the finals. 

For me, this is a great marker. It means industry experts also think I can write songs. There are plenty of other things that make you wonder whether it is worth the effort in this business. But getting your song through to the final rounds of a competition  are things you can look back on and say to yourself keep going!

Well the UK Songwriting Contest 2016 ended and my songs didn't reach the finals. However, this was my first submission to a songwriting contest and below are the certificates for my two highest placed songs. 

As an independent songwriter and producer this really gives incentive to push ahead. It puts my skills in some context. Now, the judgements are partly a matter of opinion and taste so, not achieving my goal in the contest will not diminish the determination to succeed. As we are all listeners to music, we know that musical taste is a very personal thing. 

As I mentioned above, to try and reduce some of the issues around taste, I also entered songs in the 'Lyrics Only' category. This way the judges can envision the song according to their tastes. I added no notes regarding the genre of the song. 

What I take from the outcome is that my own beliefs are not misplaced even though there is still a lot of work to do. Having the certificates also gives a little reminder, on those days where you wonder if it is worth it, that you can achieve success in this industry.

As an independent there are so many hats to wear, songwriter, musician, producer, studio engineer, business person, marketeer all needing some of your precious time. A little bit of validation from your peers goes a long way.

my song competition certificatesmy song competition certificates

Saturday, December 3, 2016

#TheBeginning - How it all Began - #TheInstigators

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There was always music at home, Country, Rock Steady, Ska and #Reggae. An uncle living with us had a #SoundSystem which gave my brothers and me exposure to all the classic #Jamaican music. We did toy with the idea of having our own Sound System but, then one day, the catalyst arrived. Mum bought an acoustic guitar from a friend and gave it to my brother.

I had just started working and I would come home and see my brother playing these melodies as he sat listening to Vinyl 45s. I thought, wow, bruv's got some real talent. The next thing I know bruv has decided we are starting a band, no instruments, no real musicianship at that time.

Over the next few months we taught ourselves rudimentary skills on DIY instruments. Speaker boxes and a mike for a drum kit. The acoustic guitar for the bass guitar. I had a guitar I was given with no strings so progress was slow. The guitar was right handed and I was left handed. I did toy with the idea of learning to play right handed but in the end nature won through.

As I was working, over the next few months I managed to save  and bought a  Fender copy Columbus bass guitar, a second hand drum kit and got a left handed guitar for myself.  A couple of school friends joined, one who could play keyboards and the other percussion and so 'The Instigators' was formed.

my picture of the instigators

The rehearsal studio was my bedroom and thankfully we had good neighbours. My brothers hawked around some rehearsal tapes and eventually a local Sound System owner 'Fatman' decided to open a few doors for us. The first thing that got us noticed was after we put down tracks for an album by two of Fatman's DJs. On hearing the Album the renowned David Rodigan refused to believe that a British reggae band had recorded the tracks. This got us some interviews by notable newspapers at the time and some much needed promotion.

We also released some singles the first called 'Let's Make Love' sung by Toyin Adekale who then went on to have a successful solo career. The follow ups were sung by the late Courtney Bartley (RIP), a great singer, who we discovered singing a tune on a bus.

my picture of courtney

Another notable step up was a residency at the 100 Club in Oxford Street. This really helped to make the band a tight unit. We started backing the touring reggae artists from Jamaica like, Delroy Wilson, John Holt, Tennor Saw, Errol Dunkley, Johnny Osbourne and more. But we still carried on producing singles.

Then the inevitable happened and the band broke up as life and commitments got in the way. I pretty much left the music industry and became an accountant (I can hardly believe it myself). However, my  brothers went on to be successful musicians and producers winning awards and creating numerous hits in the UK reggae scene.

Which brings us to the present day. I always knew that I had unfinished business and the time was right to continue chasing the dream. So  I am back in the music business, songwriting and producing my songs. Collaborating when I choose to and glad to be doing something I really love.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Akala Roots Reggae and Rebellion

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I watched the Akala documentary on BBC4 'Roots Reggae and Rebellion'. A lot of the footage, if you are of a certain age,  would be familiar but, it was good to see a program that showed the struggle the music itself has had to overcome and also the impact it has made worldwide.

There have been a few previous documentaries. every now and then, it seems a production company reels out the same old footage with a few current clips. I may sound a bit cynical, but like I said, even in this documentary many of the clips I had seen before. Even so, when a documentary like this is aired there is still a strong urge to make sure you see it as before social media these documentaries were the only time you may glimpse your reggae heroes on TV.

Now we have YouTube, VEVO etc where there are hundreds of channels where you can see your favorite artists in action, listen to interviews and make your own social comment. But not back in the day solet's return to the documentary.

For the millenniums among you reggae music became popular due to the social comment that it made possible. This was brought to life by the footage of the events that lead to the rise of the music in Jamaica, that is, life in the ghettos.

In the UK, at the time, reggae music was a unifying force and voice to communicate the inequalities felt at that time. It was a time of tension with, among other things the growth of far right groups. Around this was my initial excursion into the music business, starting a band with my brothers and friends. Roots and Culture was the main driving force behind reggae and this message of struggle and inequality in the music gave us somewhere to voice our feelings

Reggae was adopted by the youth from black and white communities where there was a feeling of injustice and the music could be heard at rallies. It was a voice for the people and the Rastafarian ideas and look were adopted by many following reggae. Dreadlocks became the outwardly badge of a reggae fan, this was before dreadlocks became just a another hairstyle. The other reggae statement was wearing the colours of Red, Gold and Green which has become synonymous with reggae and are known as the reggae colours.

roots rock reggae

What the documentary also showed was that reggae spawned many other genres of music that have fared better. There are many genres today that are doing well off the initial creativity of the reggae musicians and mixing engineers of the time. The foundation was drum and bass and from rap, hip-hop to EDM (Electronic Dance Music) they all took ideas from reggae.

Reggae is still regarded as niche but it has many sub-genres like roots and culture, dancehall, lovers rock and dub. This is extending the reach and popularity of reggae and I have no doubt that the fans will drive reggae forward.

One thing is still true, reggae is a genre that allows strong social comment riding on the foundation of a 'riddim' built on drum n bass. That's why I love this music.

Friday, November 11, 2016

#Conscious Music and the Age of Aquarius

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Music has always been a medium to enable topics on social change and worldly events to be heard. 2017 with its natural disasters, 2016 with Brexit, the US election and the conflicts throughout the world sure suggests that #change is coming.

Apparently, we are now in the 'Age of Aquarius'.This is an astrological age that represents rapid change and awakening. There sure has been a lot of change in recent years both socially and technologically. On the internet there are thousands of videos questioning the 'facts' we believed to be true. There is definitely an increase in 'consciousness' and the impact of this will be felt by all of us. The effects will depend on how each of us handles this change.

my quote

However, the Age of Aquarius is also a period of love, brotherhood and unity. So, from a music and songwriting perspective we have the chance to influence change with the messages that our music and lyrics portray. Artists like #Jah9 , #Chronixx have tapped into this greater awareness or awakening and are rapidly gaining an army of fans.

Reggae has sub-genres like, roots an culture, dub, danceheall and lovers rock. Personally, I have felt over the last few years that reggae is being revitalized because of the turmoil that exists in many places. Reggae has always been a music that is never afraid to express difficult topics as from its very beginning it was a vehicle to express inequality and social injustice. Because of this, I feel people are finding a home in reggae where they can express these types of topics. Change is coming and people feel reggae embraces change.

I remember Peter Tosh's great song 'Legalize It' referring to the legalization of marijuana. I have to admit thinking that will never happen. If we can barely get any reggae music played on the radio then nobody is going to pay any mind to what one of the original Wailers is preaching.  But here we are with the USA and Canada proposing the legalization of marijuana and it can even be prescribed on medical grounds. Something is definitely happening.

change is coming to music

Some are pointing to the 'Quickening' the speeding up of time as one of the reasons for this increased consciousness. For example, the effects of the decisions of others e.g. governments and corporations took more time for people to become aware of it say 20 years ago. However, the internet has cut the time between action and awareness, a message sent and the message received. Because of this the power of  'Conscious Music' is even greater.

If you look on social media there are more and more quotes of an enlightening type. Offsetting some of the negative elements of the internet. People are finding their voice, urging people to become aware and be more conscious of things like fake news and what is put in front of them. This awareness is putting pressure on the social media platforms themselves to be more transparent about how they control what we see. Consciousness is definitely rising.

So let's use the power of music to send positive messages and raise awareness and make the most of the Age of Aquarius.

Dingazz Music Website