All in the lyrics

better writers needed for international success in music

by Kimberley Cummins

Better writers are needed if more Barbadians want to attain success on the international music stage.

This advice came from artist manager, Robert Livingston, at the Bajan Music Going Global seminar at Hilton Barbados, hosted by the Copyright Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

In an interview with Barbados TODAY this morning, he said he felt that Caribbean music itself was in a very good position to take over the world but emphasised that artistes (writers in particular) needed to concentrate on hooking the listener to their work.

“I think what I would advise is going to be very difficult; I think Bajan music has come a far way, motivation is there but I think they need more clever writers,” he said.

“The artistes need to focus on their material because some of our artistes just become an artiste and they are sure if they are not sure they are good writers — take it seriously. Some of them financially cannot do it, but find a way how you can display yourself better because don’t underestimate our people — our people have vision and they see things, you can’t bring just anything to our people.

“Artistes can make any song they want to, just make sure it is catchy. They don’t think about the hooks, the chorus and the beats, they just do a lot of verse and talk a lot of story and we’re not making any catch hooks. Once somebody plays a song for you and you hear the first line you should say ‘Oh shoot, I remember that’.

“You know that people’s time span is very short, they have so many things to attract them so sometimes they don’t listen to one thing for too long. So anytime you get them, make sure you pierce something into them…

“People don’t care where you come from as long as the song is dope. Rihanna has done very well with that, she is giving them what they want and you have to give her respect for that. This girl is kicking ass and we need to kick ass too.”

Livingston has been in the music business for more than three decade and has produced music for artistes such as Super CAT, Heavy D, Frankie Paul, Kiprich and Maxi Priest, among many others. He started the Big Yard label in 1992 and in 1993 he signed international artiste, Shaggy, where he remained until last year, producing many of his hits like Summer Time, Bombastic and Sexy Lady.

The 54 year old said that while he was not telling anyone to adopt somebody else’s culture, he believed that what worked for artistes like Shaggy and Machel Montana was that they “polished” what they were offering to suit markets.

He encouraged the participants of the seminar to build stars first and then concentrate on building an identity for the island.

“The identity will come after,” he said.

The father of eight had no inhibitions about giving his opinion of soca and calypso. He said that the problem it had faced over the year was that it was seen as “seasonal music”.

“They don’t see the music as a part of their everyday music that they want to hear and I say this from my experience travelling. They’ll listen to it when it is carnival time but when it comes on to the regular time, they want to hear the regular pop music or whatever music so that music has been branded as a seasonal music and it is very hard to erase that.

“The music needs a rebirth; just like what reggae has become, from Rock Steady they [remade] reggae, so they need to rebirth another genre from the calypso. In England they have jungle, dance, hip hop, techno so all these generations of music is rebirthing from something.

“Jackie Opel is an older artist from back in the day. Look at his time, he did some wonderful work but nobody has maintained it, they get cold feet. You don’t notice that Jamaicans don’t get cold feet? We as Jamaicans are very forceful, I don’t know where it comes from but we mind strong and we don’t take no for an answer.

“We find a way to put another jump on it and what we also do is create a dance to go with it, to create energy in our market. Then when the tourists come in they see it — ‘I like that, that has flavour!’. {Jackie Opel] opened something and everybody should have look at it and say ‘That is what that man was doing, it is the right thing’.

The younger generation need to take it and get it out there. Instead of saying that we are running but we are not going that fast so if we take this with us while we are running it will help us along the way,” he encouraged.

He disagreed strongly with Barbadian artistes who believed that they could not make a living from the Caribbean. He said that whereas the region was sometimes financially unstable with regards of people purchasing the music, it was big enough for artistes to make a livelihood touring.

“If you look at it there are a lot of artists from Jamaica and other places that do very well by just touring the Caribbean. A lot of them don’t have visa and are happy because they can make a really good life, a lot of lawyers and doctors are not making the salary they are making from just touring the Caribbean.

“The Caribbean is a big market but people seem to ignore it. But if they work on it something can happen. We just have to get serious and more effective and find our market, know that it is there and seize it”.

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