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Bajan station

call for local vocals to be played 24/7

by William “Smokey” Burke

I may be wrong, and I usually am, but I am going to beat this baby to death!

The need for a Bajan station (100 per cent) continues as more and more radio stations get hooked on back-in-time music! Barbados now has a mind-boggling 12 radio stations, with a 13th to be established this year! Reportedly this will be yet another idiotic bid at back-in-time to garner listenership, and from a marketplace of purportedly only 280,000!

A major part of the problem is that Government (as opposed to a particular political party) shows little interest in the topic; this is obvious as they grant licences without ever asking about Barbadian content!

Back-in-time is now so prevalent in our country that it happens with a monotonous regularity! Unfortunately, back-in-time does not apply to local music! Where do we go from here?

Local artistes need to make their presence felt and their worth valued. We can do this by protests at certain radio stations, constant newspaper articles, emails and blogs on the Internet; we have to bombard the local public with our case and get them to be sympathetic to our cause. However, it must not be wild and disorganised acts; it must be well-coordinated with extremely well-crafted PR.

I strongly believe that the recent death of local entertainment was caused by a dearth of local music production; this in turn is caused by two “biggies” — piracy and lack of airplay. If a songwriter knows that there is a very slim chance of making a return on his investment, (aka) intellectual property, then why bother to invest? It must be obvious to all and sundry by now, that this is how recording artistes/songwriters make a living elsewhere in the world! Why do we copy everything from American entertainment except its most important aspect?

The same way we have been bombarded by this American dated stuff, which by the way fills the coffers of the late rights owners, let us now be bombarded with local vocals; not just in “September Remember” or in Independence month (November), but year-round. If it sounds sweet at these times, it can and does sound sweet all the time! Do not be misled, there is enough of several genres of local music to be used if one wanted to have a genuine Bajan station!

There is a multitudinous volume of local oldie goldies available, e.g. spouge, gospel, dub, love ballads (aka quiet storm), kaiso etc; and if there is such a station, new music will come out of the brains of both the potential songwriters, not to mention those already in the business. This in turn would see the re-opening of nightclubs all over the place as people would come out to see their favourite local artistes. One would see several local-only shows selling out as Bajans would want to big up their Bajan stars! Then, maybe then, some foreign artistes could be opening acts for our locals!

Without doubt, The Copyright Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers must be part of this “warfare” on local radio; this is what it will become before we can turn minds around. This is not only directed at DJs and radio programmers, most importantly it must be aimed at the general public.

They have been sold so well and for so long on a particular point, (remember that as a country, we are still unable to shake the “if it’s foreign, it must be better” attitude) I suspect that it will be our greatest difficulty. Yet we aspire to First World Status!

Maybe our fixation with back-in-time music is also reflective of our general thinking and may very well be the reason why our economic policies and approaches to governance continue to be reactive rather than proactive and has driven our country to a state of economic stagnation. Just check the nightclubs and other sources of entertainment and one will immediately observe that live entertainment is now a thing of the past, and all this in a tourist-oriented country!

The leader of this necessary effort must be fearless but also influential; a name that is respected locally, not only at the radio end but also amongst the artistes/writers. The following is what is incumbent upon the stakeholders in the appropriate areas:

Artistes/writers: You can make a living from this, but you need to be up front and centre in the protests (peacefully) to those who control airplay. Your mantra can be: “Get local with airplay or we’ll get vocal ’bout fairplay or something like that.

RADIO DJS: We have to convince these guys that if we all get a slice of the pie then we can all eat our cake and have it too. An industry can be had and we can all make a living as we should, just like “over-in-away” people do! You would be surprised to see how quickly nightlife in Barbados would be reinvigorated!

RADIO PROGRAMME MANAGERS: These guys either do not have a clue or do not care about anything but ratings, which pretty much guarantees their jobs. However, in three of the situations in which we are talking about, they are Government-owned stations; stations for the running of which we ourselves pay taxes.

The irony is, they take us for granted by denying us local airplay knowing full well that royalties paid through their logs will go outside of Barbados, primarily to the US. Two of these said stations proudly proclaim daily that they play music from the 50s through the 90s exclusively, but remember this excludes local music!!

GOVERNMENT: They own radio stations and have the required tools to legislate the required changes and of course the influence over those who are hired to run the stations! Barbadian content has to be part of the criterion when one applies for any future radio licence.

GENERAL PUBLIC: By all means we have to change the mindset of the public first and foremost because if we cannot achieve this then it is a total loss for the entire project as we would not be able to reach the DJs/radio programme managers!

Can this be made to happen? I certainly hope so and will continue to do my best to assist in and effect that required change! However, it is not a one-man job and so I sincerely hope that all of the above-mentioned practitioners, especially those in local radio, can see how this can all redound to the benefit of everyone one involved.

*Part II of Bajan Station will continue next week!

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