Friday, November 30, 2018

Reggae A Global Cultural Treasure UNESCO


So, finally it's official, reggae is a global phenomenon "worthy of protecting and promoting".

UNESCO Announcement (youtube video)

Reggae has been added to a list of international cultural treasures by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) The UNESCO committees meet annually to evaluate nominations and decide whether or not to inscribe them on the list, which began in 2008.
Many of us will be wondering what took them so long as we have been preaching that reggae is the voice of the people for many years.
reggae global cultural heritage
In UNESCO's opinion reggae music's
"contribution to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual".
I think what they mean is reggae is the voice of the people and from its creation to the current day stands for inequality and injustice. Peace, love, overstanding and Jah Rastafari!

  UNESCO also added: "The basic social functions of the music - as a vehicle for social commentary, a cathartic practice, and a means of praising God - have not changed, and the music continues to act as a voice for all."

Jamaica can be truly proud of this formal recognition, Olivia Grange, Jamaica's Culture Minister said "Reggae is uniquely Jamaican," "It is a music that we have created that has penetrated all corners of the world." 
She also added "This is a historic day. We are very, very happy," "Anywhere you go and say you're from Jamaica, they answer 'Bob Marley'."

For all the praises that the Jamaican government has now showered on reggae music, I hope this also translates into tangible support for the industry and the artists themselves. Many of whom could use some funding.

Reggae global cultural treasure peace love
The music grew from the inequalities that existed in the 1960s in Jamaica and became a vehicle to express these issues. Many of the foundation reggae artists are no longer with us but their legacy truly leaves on.

Although reggae now has sub-genres like dub, dancehall and lovers rock. Conscious roots reggae is still at the heart of reggae's DNA.

This is because the world still has many issues to resolve and many people are touched by these issues one way or another. So when the lyrics and music of reggae speak to them there is a genuine connection. That is what has made reggae unique, it is GENUINE. When reggae songs of unity, equality and peace are created, people know that this is not a 'joke ting' reggae was born with the intention to be the voice of the unheard and bring these matters out into the open.

As issues of social injustice are not likely to end any time soon, conscious reggae is still relevant now and will be in the future. To me, after nearly 50 years, UNESCO's inclusion of reggae in its list is a statement that the ideals that conscious reggae supports are "worthy of protecting and promoting". I hope this is recognized globally and nationally.

BBC 1Xtra reggae presenter Dave Rodigan said "it (reggae) speaks out for the underprivileged, it speaks out against social injustice. Reggae music is the original rebels' music immortalised by Bob Marley at the Wailers."

As mentioned before, many reggae artists have left their legacy on the history of reggae music, but Bob Marley took the exposure of reggae music to another level. As both Jamaica's culture minister, Olivia Grange and David Rodigan hinted, Bob Marley is synonymous with reggae the world over.

In 2016 Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. It was awarded to Dylan for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition" If Bob Marley was alive today I think he would have also have been awarded the prize as his legacy mirrors reggae's contribution to the world.

As UNESCO stated, "The basic social functions of the music - as a vehicle for social commentary, a cathartic practice, and a means of praising God - have not changed, and the music continues to act as a voice for all."

Amen to that.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

How to be a Successful Music Maker

music maker


"Your dream of turning your lyrics, song or beat into a real product that you can unleash on the world is a reality"

Once upon a time, the title of this blog post would have been fantasy. However, technology has enabled consumers to listen to music in different ways and music makers can have direct access to their fans.

Fans want music on demand and they want good new music. There is a market out there for your musical ideas. You just need to be able to turn it from idea to a digital product. There are different skill sets required to achieve this and certain decisions need to be made but we’ll discuss this later.

We’ll discuss 5 key points that will be the foundation for your success. The takeaway from this is that your dream of turning your lyrics, song or beat into a real product that you can unleash on the world is a reality.

1. Having the Right Mindset

I am sure that you have heard the phrase ‘It’s all in the mind’ but the truth of the matter is that to be successful, it is, all about the mindset. If you read any of the ‘how to be successful’ or motivational books out there, they will all emphasise this point so I won’t dwell on the research here.

The reason why it is so important is that it will decide whether you complete your musical journey. The downside of technology removing technical obstacles is that the relevant tasks will be your responsibility to fulfil. Unless you hit the jackpot very early, the journey can be a long one. It takes determination to continue when things aren’t going your way.

quote about making music

2. Evaluate Yourself and Your Ambitions

So you know you have what it takes to see it to the end. The next step is to evaluate. The modern-day artist and producer are not only music makers but the owner of a business. Some things to evaluate are:
  • Do I have the level of skill needed 
  • How will I acquire missing skills 
  • Is there a demand for my genre/style
  • How and where will I produce my music 
  • What budget can I allocate to the project

The answers to these questions give you a picture of your undertaking, what lies ahead, who else you may need to assist you. It is important that you have this picture as this will enable you to set realistic goals. This last point is important be REALISTIC.

3. Start Improving Your Skill Set and Knowledge

Now that you have your goals set this is the time to do some research. None of us has the answers to everything (if you do you are wasting your time reading this post). Your goals could be achieved in different ways so this is the time to find out your options.

Whatever your goals it is highly unlikely that you are the first person to try, so put in some research.
  • Join Facebook groups and Google+ communities of your niche
  • Reach out to fellow artists and producers that may already have travelled your road (but be mindful their experience does not mean the same experience for you, positive or negative)
  • What skills do I improve and what do I outsource e.g. mix and mastering.
It is important to evaluate your options as the wrong option could incur you needless expense.

4. Create and Implement your Plan

Planning to make a song

This is the key to delivering the goals you previously set out. This doesn’t have to be on a special app or in a special format, a spreadsheet will do or a word document or even post-it notes. It is the content that matters. It should contain: 
  • A list of activities and tasks, 
  • Each activity is given a completion date
  • Each activity is assigned to someone (in many cases yourself), 
  • Estimated costs for each activity.
The key here is to stick to the plan. When you devise it make the dates and costs realistic. Don’t make the tasks large, make them small. It is amazing the lift it gives when you can tick off tasks as complete. It is the best motivator.

5. Get your Music Out There

To build your reputation, brand and following, your music needs to be out there. Don’t take yourself too seriously because at the start no one else is. If you try and create perfection and take two years to fix that last 2% you may well be pleased but, your journey is going to be very long.

crowd waiting for the music maker

Do the best you can with the resources you have but get your music out there! You must mix and master your track to compete and also for submission to radio stations, but regular output is the key to gaining a following. A quote that's worth remembering:

quote about being  music maker

Good luck with your project.


Sunday, November 18, 2018

David Rodigan Reggae Fever BBCFour

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Firstly, I 'd like to congratulate David Rodigan on 40 years in the business. That is some achievement in the fast changing world that we live in. For most reggae lovers living through the period, David Rodigan would definitely have played a part in your journey.

Reggae Fever Back in the Day 

The film and the commentators definitely gave a feel of what it was like at the time being young and black and even David Rodigan's re-telling of his interview for BBC Radio London gave an indication of the political and social environment at the time. 

Let me explain, I have no doubt David Rodigan's knowledge of reggae was deep but, the fact that he got the job when the station was specifically looking for a black presenter, says more about the parlous state of the black community, confidence was low, especially among young blacks, but this was about to change (I'll come back to this later). However, thanks to David Rodigan's drive to play the latest reggae his weekly show was a highlight of the week.

This period was also the time that my love for reggae moved into something more tangible with the forming of a band with my brothers and friends called The Instigators.

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Exert from Black Echoes Newspaper
We had a strict Jamaican upbringing. However, our father always instilled in us a pride in our Jamaican heritage and a confidence to succeed. My brothers Leroy and Dave had no doubt that we would be successful, though being the eldest I had my doubts.

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The Instigators

Homegrown British reggae, at the time, was still finding its feet and was looked down upon as not being authentic, even by the British reggae media. 

This is where David Rodigan first made an impact on our future. As David Rodigan mentioned, one of the big sound systems at the time that he followed was 'Fatman' sound system. It was Fatman who took us under his wing and brought us to the studio to record.

We laid down the rhythm tracks for Fatman's album 'Late Night Session' with two DJs from Fatman's sound Roy Ranking and Raymond Naptali. As the press cutting shows, no-one believed the tracks were laid down by a British band even the renowned David Rodigan.

This reticence to believe by David Rodigan raised awareness of the band. This was his influence in the British reggae arena and as the film showed he was not afraid to enter the Jamaican reggae arena to make his mark. That takes courage and confidence I can assure you.

Roots Reggae - Rise in Consciousness and Confidence

As mentioned before, the film showed some of the social background during the rise of British reggae. There were periods of rebellion but a growing identity which increased confidence and was being reflected in the music by bands such as Aswad and Steel Pulse. As the film stated, this was accompanied by the rise of Rastafari in Jamaica and the influence this had on the music with the emergence of 'Roots Reggae'  or 'Conscious Reggae'.

This confidence in taking on the system and the demand to hear reggae music led to the emergence of 'pirate' radio stations. These were unofficial radio stations broadcasting reggae to local communities. Eventually, with a change in government policy, some of these became licensed. But, as ever, David Rodigan was still there.

Jamaica was still the centre of reggae creativity, but British reggae was growing in confidence. So, it was interesting seeing David Rodigan going into the lion's den of Jamaica to take on the great Jamaican sound systems in sound clashes and holding his own. This mirrored another step into the lion's den by my brothers Leroy and Dave who had now become Mafia & Fluxy, the most prolific drum and bass 'riddim' section in Britain. 

David Rodigan, Mafia and Fluxy, reggae artists, radio dj,
David Rodigan with Mafia & Fluxy
A sub-genre of reggae had emerged 'Dancehall'  led by Steely & Clevie from Jamaica. Hit upon hit was being produced by the Jamaican duo. British reggae was playing catchup and this continued the myth that authentic reggae could not come out of Britain.

Mafia & Fluxy were alive to the new sound and accepted the challenge, starting to produce their own dancehall productions. Soon, however, the reputation of Mafia and Fluxy had caught the attention of Jamaican studio owners and they were brought over to:

" mek wi see wha de English man dem can do"

The story is for another time but ends with Mafia & Fluxy in high demand and the myth that authentic reggae could not be played by British musicians disproved forever.

Breaking the Mould

To me, this is the story of David Rodigan a white male who loved reggae music and Jamaican culture in a time of social upheaval, divisions and suspicion and just did his thing, breaking the perceived mould of a 'real' reggae music lover.

Now, reggae is truly global, with white reggae bands like Rebelution in the US having huge followings. Reggae is now no longer 'owned' by a racial group it now belongs to everyone, as it should be. It has spawned new genres like Drum and Bass, Dub Step, EDM. Reggae itself has sub-genres Roots & Culture, Dub, Lovers Rock, Dancehall, Reggae Fusion. 

David Rodigan is still here, still loving reggae music, still doing his thing for over 40 years. No one can say he hasn't earned the respect of his peers and reggae lovers globally. He gave us the opportunity to hear reggae music on radio during a time when reggae airplay was almost non-existent. 

For that, I salute you Mr Rodigan.


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Sunday, November 11, 2018

New Music and the Story of the Song Lyrics

New music stay tuned
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I thought it was time for an update on what's going on, as Marvin Gaye and Delroy Wilson would say.

Well, Dingazz Music released the song 'One' in October which is a collaboration with Jackie Scales a vocalist from the US. I wanted a bit of an urban feel to the song and Jackie's singing style was what I was looking for. If you haven't heard it the theme is that we can all make a difference 'it only needs one to make a stand'.  You can hear it here.

If you follow my music you know that my songs normally have a message. Not an in your face message, that's not my style, but more in the way of ' have a think about what I just said'. Anyway, the next single is in production and is another collaboration.  

The last two singles have been collaborations as I wanted them to have someone else's spin on the lyrics. Also, to have a different dynamic in the vocal. For me, it just adds to the creative content of the song. However, this time I am collaborating with a Jamaican vocalist and musician with great talent. 

I was trying to decide on the vocal style for this song and had a few vocalists in mind when I came across a couple of his demos. His style suited the song so we made contact and went from there. As part of the pre-release promo, I'll be doing an interview with him so keep following this blog. You'll also be the first to see a preview of the video. Hopefully, to be added to your YouTube music playlist 🤞.

The song is a roots reggae track and the working title is 'Every Decision'. I originally wrote the song lyrics in 2014 but I was never satisfied with the verses and the storytelling. So, I moved on, it was in my list of songs and I came back to it every now and then. However, I liked the chorus and wanted to finish it so the verses have been re-written and it's pretty much a new song. If you are a songwriter you will understand the struggle with song lyrics, if not, this is a little insight into my creative process.

The song idea really came from some the dramatic events that were occurring at the time worldwide like terrorist attacks, mass shootings and air crashes. In all these events you would always hear a comment from someone who made a decision or circumstance dictated an alternative action which meant they avoided the event. This led me to the first line of the Chorus:

"Every decision that I make still shapes my destiny"

 From that one line came the rest of the chorus. I then just had to write the verses and that is where the struggle started.

The song is not melancholy, in fact, its mid-tempo with a hook and is more about taking control of life and making the most of it. The last line of the chorus is:

"Live today like it's the only day I'll see how life turns out for me" 

So that's the story of the song lyrics. I am really looking forward to finally getting the song out there. I feel it is a message worth telling. More details in upcoming posts. 
Here's to more music and new music.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Is Dub Music the New EDM ?

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Dub music is one of the great reggae inventions believed to be created by legendary Jamaican innovator and mixing engineer Osbourne Ruddock better known as 'King Tubby' in the late 60's. With the early reggae singles (this is the time of vinyl) it was common not to have a 'B side'. Instead, there would be a 'Version', which, was basically an instrumental version of the vocal A side.

dub visual in red gold and green

These early innovators took these instrumentals and 'remixed' them using whatever effects were available at the time, mainly reverb and decay or 'Echo'. With the drum and bass centre stage small extracts of the vocals were then mixed in. In these early days of Dub the mixing engineer was the creative force. They were eventually held in as high or greater esteem than the singer or composer.

Dub music become a reggae sub-genre in its own right with albums of roots reggae Dub only tracks created by sound engineers and producers, like the legendary Lee Scratch Perry, King Jammy and Errol Thompson. This creation of mainly instrumental music by sound engineers and producers spawned many similar music genres that exist today. This early remixing was the forerunner to music genres such as hip hop, trance, techno and EDM.

This leads me on to the question 'Is Dub Music the New EDM'? What I mean by this is that dub as a sub genre of reggae would be considered niche and has its core following in sound system culture. EDM (Electronic Dance Music) has moved into the mainstream with a huge following and events like SEMF (Stuttgart Electronic Music Festival) where tens of thousands of followers attend.

The popularity of electronic music has meant that dub music has attracted followers who may not have come via the reggae route. The dub reggae producers have not been slow to recognize the opportunity available and there has been a move towards producing tracks with a danceable tempo. One of the great sound system owners and producers, Jah Shaka, has been doing this for years and he is now in high demand all over the world. So, is dub music finally reaping the rewards from its innovations to reach the popularity of its derivatives like EDM music?

Well in Europe, in particular, dub music festivals are springing up. One of the best was a great festival held over the Easter period in Bigastro, Alicante, Spain, The International Dub Gathering dedicated specifically to dub music and  the sound system culture. It was a three day event and included sound systems from Europe, UK and Jamaica. including Jah Shaka, Channel One, GreenLight, Mafia & Fluxy and Blackboard Jungle to name a few.

dub festival

I was there on day three of the festival and it seemed very well organized, which was to be expected, as the organizers included the Rototom reggae festival team. Thousands of dub lovers attended with the 2018 edition being its third year. You could move around freely listening and dancing to the 'riddims' played by different sound systems.

For me this was great to see. A form of music created nearly fifty years ago that gave birth to other music genres, finally coming into its own on a global scale. Long may it continue.
King Tubby would be truly proud of his creation.

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Robert Nesta Marley (6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981)

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So much has already been written about Bob Marley. Thirty six years after his death his influence still lives on all over the world. Personally, he has had the greatest influence on my musical journey for many reasons. I clearly remember when Bob Marley got shot seeing this as a news item on the BBC news. It was at that moment that I realized what a global star Bob Marley had become.

As with many great people their time in this world can only be put in context when they are gone. The influence Bob Marley had on reggae cannot be understated and even now there is no one artist who can claim to pick up the mantle he left and take reggae to new heights.

One of my early memories of Bob Marley, which really sealed his greatness in my eyes, was seeing Bob Marley on the main news bulletin. Back then, a black man with dreadlocks on the news was less frequent than a lunar eclipse. Anyway, the main impact he left on me was the power of music. He proved that music really can change things, it is some thing that can bring the most diverse personalities together. It can be a banner to focus the mind as we saw in the UK with the 'BandAid' concerts. This is something that is always at the back of my mind when I am songwriting. The song isn't just words it is creative energy that can grow and lead to change on a personal level or any other level.

In 2016 Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. It was awarded to Dylan for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition". There's no doubt that for 50 years Dylan has been writing songs that include socially conscious topics. However, if the award was to be based on conscious lyrics, then, I am sure that Bob Marley would be right up there.

Although, he is no longer with us physically Bob Marley's words of wisdom are constantly quoted on the internet and are still a source of inspiration. One thing this all proves is the power that music has to touch people and from this feeling can come forth action. 

When I review the news with the focus on the negative stuff going on in the world. It reminds me of my formative years, similar to now, a lot of focus on division. Then reggae was a voice for positive energy and Bob Marley was at his peak and reggae was spreading all over the world.

It is different now reggae has many sub-genres, Dancehall, Lovers Rock, Roots & Culture, Dub etc. But the time has come for us reggae songwriters, musicians and producers to put even more focus on sending positive messages, no matter how hard it is to get exposure for the music. With the help of listeners, fans and like-minded people we can succeed.

Thank you Bob Marley for the enlightenment, you live on in the songs of peace, love and reggae. As you once said "Love the life you live and live the life you love"