Caribbean Entertainment News Views

Written & compiled by Stan Evan Smith, Music Editor

Silver Spring/New York City:

Clean lyrics for Songwriters’ Boot Camp

With dancehall lyrics being scolded by the Broadcasting Commission’s tongue of purification, the artistes are being pressed to produce material without delving into derogatory diatribes. Marjorie Scott-Anderson offers a solution for that – Songwriters’ Boot Camp.

Striving to enhance the skills of Jamaican lyricists, the Songwriters’ Boot Camp puts ambitious writers through a strenuous weekend of inspiration and creative writing-skills training. March 27-29 will mark a successful eight years of training upcoming writers and giving them the skills they need to make it big in the business. Organised and conceptualised by Scott-Anderson, the Songwriters’ Boot Camp was partly inspired by the military boot camp as a model for preparing persons physically, mentally and emotionally to conceive a new approach to songwriting.

Held at Starlight Chalet Hotel and Spa in the Blue Mountains, aspiring and established songwriters are whisked away to the peace and tranquility of the St Andrew hills to be inspired and write clean, uplifting lyrics.

“The camp was designed to arm participants with pertinent information, offer them an opportunity to use it and present a forum for product development,” Scott-Anderson told The Sunday Gleaner.

“The whole person was considered – the physical and the spiritual. The camp started in 2000 and has been going strong getting usually about 30 participants each year. The aim is that participants will leave with market-ready songs to be evaluated by an identified producer and publishing company.”

Out of these workshops, the Jamaica Songwriters’ Guild was born and launched in April during Intellectual Property Week 2004. The mission of the guild is to promote the improvement of all aspects of the art of songwriting and to position Jamaican songwriting as a formidable product in the international marketplace.

Last Tuesday, Ronnie Burke, former managing director of Synergy Productions, stressed the importance of creativity in songwriting. Burke was speaking at a Reggae music symposium at the Girl Guides’ headquarters in St Andrew, which was part of Reggae Month celebrations. He pointed out that cleanly written lyrics in English are more marketable.

“We have lost out a lot on marketing and overseas tours because our dominant music is dancehall, which is not accepted at the traditional European festivals,” he said. “What we have found out in Europe, North America and the United Kingdom is that they simply don’t understand what the DJs are saying and we find that it’s not marketable. Thus, tours have fallen off because there is just not enough melody in what we call popular music today. “Even when people understand, they do not like it, and the homophobic lyrics are not accepted in Europe.”            Overseas presenters

Scott-Anderson said, over the years, the camp has strived to have local and overseas presenters, as well as presentations from local intellectual property rights organisations. Past presenters include acclaimed writer Colin Channer, Jason Blume, who is the songwriter for Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys and who also conducts all Broadcast Music Incorporated monthly songwriting workshops in the United States. There has also been Richard ‘Dick’ Weissman, vice-president of Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association in the USA and associate professor in the music and entertainment industry studies programme at the University of Colorado, Denver, USA.

This year’s overseas presenter is American John Braheny, author of The Craft and Business of Songwriting. He is one of the most recognised names in the music industry and in the songwriting community. Local songwriter and producer and owner of Grafton Studios, Mikie Bennett, have also played a key role as a presenter over the years. While attending the camp, students learn how to structure songs, learn about rhythms and rhymes, language development and more.

So far, the camp has seen talents such as Rachel Manley, Abijah and Alwin Bully, who plans productions for Father Richard Ho Lung, among others.

“The boot camp attracts a variety from young persons, to students from the School of Music, to business people, cabaret people from the north coast, the Rastaman who want to ‘buss’. There was once a doctor who did it for two years who believed music was important to medicine,” said Scott-Anderson.  Powerful tool

She stated the content and format of the boot camp makes it a powerful tool for upcoming songwriters who will add value to the music industry. With the heat facing dancehall, Burke believes the artistes and writers need to reassess their approach to their craft.

“Dancehall has its place, it is great. However, we need to restore some balance between the writing of songs versus the writing of lyrics, because what we’re doing is creating hit rhythms and not hit songs,” Burke said.

Jamaican American Sean Kingston cameo in New Akon Video

Jamaican/American singer, Sean Kingston, of the hit tune `Beautiful Girls` makes appearance Senegalese singer Akon new music video, `Beautiful.` The song is a narration of a man’s search for a girl he loves and is the singer’s third major studio album entitled “Freedom.”(Source CaribWorldNews)

What do you think about the payola in the business?

Super Cat

Answer: Payola is illegal; it’s embezzling the funds in the business. Hundreds of thousands of artistes don’t have it to pay for payola. Why don’t they just buy some regular commercial air time, it is cheaper than payola. Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh never paid payola. These disc jockeys are trying to break the artiste. Once the strength of the people is behind the music. i.e. disc jockeys playing the music in dancehall, in the clubs and the street venues it’s not about what the artiste can afford but what they (the people) want. Artistes and their management don’t want to feel like they are being “sticked up.”

What do you think about the slackness in dancehall music and the music being banned?

Super Cat

Answer: The first destruction in the modern age of reggae name STING. Sting has the music like boxing ring. Imagine big artistes like Maxi Priest and Bunny Wailer come and get bottled. It seems to be a pattern, and then the clash is at the forefront. Clashes should be for new artistes, who need to express their talent, established artistes should not be in that category. There is always a stigma in the music, from the underground to the forefront. Are they going to ban the sex channels? Why should anyone stop a man from expressing how him feel about sex and how a woman make him feel.

What do you think about the payola in the business?

Super Cat

Answer: Payola is illegal; it’s embezzling the funds in the business. Hundreds of thousands of artistes don’t have it to pay for payola. Why don’t they just buy some regular commercial air time, it is cheaper than payola. Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh never paid payola. These disc jockeys are trying to break the artiste. Once the strength of the people is behind the music. i.e. disc jockeys playing the music in dancehall, in the clubs and the street venues it’s not about what the artiste can afford but what they (the people) want. Artistes and their management don’t want to feel like they are being “sticked up.” Source Yardflex

Reggae on the horizon for U2

IRISH SUPERGROUP U2 have reportedly recorded a reggae/dub album that is scheduled to be released in early 2010. The band recorded songs for the set while working on their latest album, No Line on the Horizon.

Britain’s News of the World newspaper reported that U2’s chief songwriters (vocalist Bono and guitarist The Edge) came up with the concept and began recording the reggae songs last year. “It’s just like how Bono and The Edge released the experimental Zooropa album soon after Achtung Baby,” read the News story.

U2 are one of pop music’s greatest bands. The quartet have been making hit records since the early 1980s, when they released powerful songs like New Year’s Day and Sunday Bloody Sunday, which dealt with unrest in their country.

The band broke big with Island Records, the record company that launched Bob Marley internationally during the 1970s. Bono inducted Marley into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. . Source Gleaner online

ARIA honours music stalwarts

Marcia Rowe

The first staging of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JARIA) Honour Awards was more than a historic event. It was a lesson in history. This was evident in the biographies of the awardees in the five categories: artistes, engineers and producers, sound system operators, musicians and the JARIA Life Award. Through the aid of videotapes, their life stories spoke of success.

Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports Olivia Grange told the audience at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on Sunday that the event was “a small, but giant step for the music industry”.

The works of the recipients span decades and some were presented posthumously. Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelations of Rastafari was presented with the first JARIA Lifetime Achievement Award. Sam Clayton, the only surviving member of the group, collected the award. “Music is therapy for post-colonial traumatic disorder,” he remarked.

Other recipients were Lennie Hibbert, “one of the best Jamaican music teachers”, and keyboardist Ansell Colins, for their contributions as musicians. King Tubby Hifi and Jah Love Music were the sound system-operator recipients, Leslie Kong and Sonia Pottinger were given the Producer Award and Sid Bucknor and Sylvan Morris were acknowledged for their contributions to the industry as engineers.

But the surprise of the evening was Pam Hall, one of the recipients in the artiste category. Dennis Brown, The Crown Prince of Reggae, was the other recipient (posthumously). Brown’s award was collected by his son, Daniel Brown. Performances

Quality performances from artistes, musicians and dancers interlaced the presentation of awards. Michael Holgate, Neila Ebanks and Michael Harris’ combined effort titled To The World, was engaging. This hybrid dance/ drama utilised vocals and movement to highlight songs such as Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop.

Dean Fraser’s All Stars were absolutely marvellous, not only in their presentation, but in backing the various performers, as well. However, it was the Raganutts – Lloyd Lovindeer, Professor Nuts and General Trees – who ignited the audience with their creative use of language in the segment called “humour in the music”.

Lovindeer’s Bun Bow Cloth, his jab at the Broadcasting Commission, was hilarious. And Professor Nuts explained that after the sound system euphoria, it was time to “take the rhythm low and elaborate”. Then he demonstrated how it was done in Tan-so-Back, while Trees told his story in Whey Eye Noh See Heart Noh Leap.

LUST and Freddie McGregor brought the curtains down. McGregor, member of the JARIA Committee, had the attentive audience on their feet dancing to his hit songs Push Come to Shove and I Was Born a Winner.

Other performers of the evening included Pam Hall, Keisha Patterson, Leba Hibbert and ‘Gramps’ Morgan. A.J. Brown and Kerie-Ann ‘Kiki’ Lewis hosted the programme. A video roll call of musical stalwarts who died in 2008 was also presented.                   Source Gleaner online

SINGJAY MAVADO’S new album, Mr Brooks – A Better Tomorrow, has made a slow start. The highly anticipated set, distributed by VP Records, failed to make any of Billboard magazine’s major charts in its first week of release. A Better Tomorrow entered the publication’s Reggae Chart at number one.

Expectations have been strong for the album, which was released March 3. Its lead song, So Special, made Billboard’s R&B/Hip Hop chart and set the stage for a flurry of media coverage for A Better Tomorrow. Mavado is best known for the hit songs, On The Rock and Overcome. The former has been sampled by hip hop heavyweight, Jay Z.

His gritty portrayal of ghetto life in Kingston has made him the hottest act in dancehall. It has also won him numerous hip hop fans.  Source Gleaner online

Fifty years of Island

Howard Campbell

ISLAND RECORDS, the powerful independent company founded in Kingston in 1959 marks its 50th anniversary this year. A statement from founder Chris Blackwell says a week-long celebration scheduled for England in May will mark the occasion.

Blackwell will oversee the event, titled ‘Island 50 Live’, at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. Activities include live music, movies produced by Island as well as an exhibition of photographs and memorabilia.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to work with some of the greatest musical artistes of all time,” said Blackwell in a statement. “It was always my intention at Island to make records that stood the test of time, and I’m proud that Island is still a potent force in music 50 years since that first release.”

Some of Island’s classic albums are to be reissued this year; there will also be a series of compilations and box sets. Son of an Irish father and Jamaican mother of Portuguese/Jewish heritage, the London-born Blackwell started Island at Odeon Avenue but moved operations to London in the early 1960s when Jamaican popular music was taking off through ska.

Island distributed early Jamaican hits such as Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop throughout Britain during the 1960s. One of the company’s first major signings was the British pop group, the Spencer Davis Group, which included a young Steve Winwood.

Blackwell and Island hit it big during the 1970s when it established itself as the record industry’s biggest ‘indie’ company. Among its acts were Cat Stevens, Traffic, Bob Marley, Third World, Burning Spear and Steel Pulse.

In the 1980s, the company stepped it up a notch by signing an Irish band named U2. It distributed some of the group’s biggest albums, including 1986’s multi-platinum seller, The Joshua Tree. Blackwell sold Island to the major Polygram Company in 1989. The label’s catalogue is currently distributed by the Universal Music Group.

Island sounds: Great reggae moments

Catch A Fire, Burnin’ and Natty Dread were Bob Marley and the Wailers’ first three Island albums. Blackwell kept faith in the group, although the first two were not big sellers. In 1975, Island unleashed a new singer called Burning Spear. It distributed his groundbreaking Marcus Garvey and Garvey’s Ghost albums.

Third World was signed to Island in 1975. The group’s breakthrough album, 1978’s Journey to Addis, contained the dance hit, Now That We Found Love.

Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing album, produced by Sly and Robbie, was released in 1981. It spawned the hit song, Pull Up To The Bumper. All She Wrote, the gold seller (500,000 units) by Chaka Demus and Pliers was Island’s last big reggae seller. It was released on the company’s Mango label.

Blackwell launched the Island Jamaica subsidiary in 1994. It released albums by Beenie Man (Blessed), Luciano (Where There is Life) and Spanner Banner (Chill).                      Source Gleaner online

Tanya Stephens rocks Jordu Live

The lyrical queen Tanya Stephens was in full control of the audience at the exclusive event JORDU LIVE, as she had the fans rocking to songs such as It’s A Pity, These Streets to name a few. The event is held once a month inside one of the hottest clothing stores in Jamaica, JORDU, shop #15, 7th Ave Plaza, Kingston, Jamaica.

Tanya Stephens shows the power of her music is for Jamaica and her fans at JORDU Live. The fashionable crowd filled with excitement to meet and greet their favorite roots girl, their favorite reggae artist, Tanya Stephens.

JORDU Live Showcase

JORDU Live showcase features new artist who will be selected by the power of their lyrical content, appearance, performance energy, use of the stage and by crowd response for an exclusive performance with a major headline artist, local and international. Application fee is $1,500 JA. Artist if you think you got what it takes to perform next to the greats in the music business, step up to the next level, and step up to JORDU LIVE. . Source

Serani for Metro PCS Tour – collaboration with Chamillionaire & MIMs

The Metro PCS 5 Borough Takeover Tour stops at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Tuesday the 10th of March. Dancehall superstar Serani is headlining the show alongside rapper Common and singing sensation Jazmine Sullivan, who is currently heating up radio and charts with Lions Tigers & Bears, following the huge success she had with Bust Your Windows and her Reggae-tinged breakout single Need U Bad.

“It’s an honour to be on a bill with such great artists,” says Serani, recently signed to Universal Republic Records. “It gives me a chance to introduce myself to their fans as well, so I’ll be giving them my all. The shows have been promoting really hard on mainstream radio in New York, so I’m getting a lot of mileage that way also.”

The Metro PCS Tour stops at the Prudential Centre in Newark, New Jersey, on March 25th, where Serani will be joined by Alliance colleague Mavado, as well as Akon, Busta Rhymes and Estelle. Source

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