We need Editor, to be mindful that we are already precariously perched on a precipice. Most of these shows along with their artistes are no more than money-making crazes with an emphasis on popularity and brazen hyped-up vulgarity, and have little quality – which doesn’t matter anyhow. And I do agree that these singers have talent and can offer much better material if that is what is required of them. I recall seeing a scathing attack on this genre of music by Ian McDonald not so long ago, and I share his disgust. There is indeed, I think, a kind of crudeness in most instances in the way many of these violent and roughly hewn lyrics are expressed, but no doubt there are many other rap artistes who have displayed superb performances with wholesome material. And I can recall Ronald Austin Jr’s response to Dr McDonald in an SN letter (‘Dismissal of rap music was too sweeping’ September 24, 08) in which he presented the positive side of this form of music which was very informative and uplifting. He said that “rap began as a social commentary and was used as a voice for inner city (ghetto) black youths to address the challenges faced… Until the late 1990, when this art form became commercialized and was hijacked by ‘Puff Daddy’ Sean Combs… Then the money came and the poetry went.”
And while Mr Austin was somewhat passionate in highlighting the excellent rap artistes, we cannot blind our eyes to the atrocious level to which this form of entertainment has sunk with most of today’s rappers/chanters, and the observation made by Rev Gideon Cecil. That being said, I now offer a few comments on Dave Martins. Nina Simone sang ‘Everything must change nothing stays the same,’ and so after reading Dave Martins I couldn’t agree more. It was difficult to totally disagree with his presentation, the points and explanations were so clear and easily grasped that you almost immediately were in accord, as if they were emanating from you, the reader. And even though not totally liking the way things have gone, one had to grudgingly accept this is how it is – “suh it go banna.”
Indeed we all can agree that “Calypso is no more the popular music of the day in the Caribbean and that the reflective and incisive Calypso is nostalgia material.” Honestly I have no idea how or if we will be able to break out of the “seasonal festival” to which it has been tied to traditionally like a “mango.” But certainly calypsonians now have their work cut out and must more than ever draw from every quarter of the musical trade with captivating topics, powerful lyrics, “driving beat and catchy hooklines,” unique and diverse styles and enhanced superb stage performance – the whole works. We have to accept that change is the only permanent thing, and music also must yield to it. There is seldom a smooth transition or an automatic acceptance of anything new without a fight, and music is no different, especially as we are now frequently subjected to the inartistic piffle, the trite and obscene dross that passes for songs.
But I need to quickly point out how lucky we are too for the beautiful ones that are churned out that give us hope and strength, and which we must try to encourage as much as possible in whatever way we can, and fight, kick, cuff, butt and bite according to Forbes Burnham, not to let the raw vulgarity triumph with ease. Please don’t get me wrong, I make no claim to being self righteous; I do love variety.
But we need to look at what the Jamaican Broadcasting Commission has done: “banned all music that contains sexually explicit lyrics… that glorifies and promotes violence, murder, rape… stopped any presentation, audio recording or music videos which promote, contain reference [to] or is suggestive of ‘daggering.’” All this “to keep the questionable artiste and their lyrics away from mainstream radio.” The Antigua Sun February 26, under the headline ‘Sun Speak’ asks the question about music, ‘at what cost?’ It is also stated that “things have started to get very scary indeed and need to be reined in.” It is in that same light I view the negative changes that are taking place in our musical world. In passing I want to mention an amusing question put by well-known Lindener, body-builder/trainer Samuel Barker, who asked his son in all wonderment, “But Brown Boy is wha you gon play fuh old sounds when yuh get old?” Sammy a music lover just could not fathom the kind of stuff (music) his son was trapped in.
Question: With the rapid evolution taking place in the musical world, if calypso changes its form, beat, style and shape – a new form of arrangement, will it still maintain its calypso essence, or like jazz must there be a fixed kind of format with certain ingredients or it wouldn’t be jazz/calypso? Just trying to learn.
Dave Martin’s last paragraph is well taken: “Reality to be faced…Don’t hold your breath waiting for bandstand concerts or sold-out calypso shows. They belong in a time that is gone, and one that is not coming back.” Which brings to mind the saying, not even God can change the dead past.