Artistes Nashville bound


Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley (left) and Senator Maxine McClean (centre) pose with some of the attendees at the showcase.

by Adonijah

Congratulations to Anderson Blood Armstrong, Nexcyx and David Kirton.

The three acts are the chosen ones to showcase their talent at the 2013 National Association for Campus Activities) convention to be held February 16-20, 2013, in Music City USA, as Nashville, Tennessee, is known.

NACA is the organisation that plans entertainment across the campuses of its 950 college and university members. Once a year it stages a convention where artistes display their talent in the hope of getting block bookings. In this way, an act can end up with many consecutive bookings which makes it easier to do gig after gig rather than having to return home and move fresh all the time, a considerable saving.

President of the Association of Music Entrepreneurs George Thomas confirmed the selection to VIP PASS yesterday, after its recent showcase at Limegrove attended by officials of NACA and members of Degy Entertainment, booking agents.

The acts were chosen based on their performances at the showcase and those who did not make the cut included Biggie Irie, Vizion, Kirk Brown and Malissa Alana. Kirton has previously received bookings through NACA, following his appearance at NACA 2011 in St Louis, Missouri.

Thomas attended NACA 2011 and noted that there would be significant differences between that venture and the one next year. “We now have the experience,” he said. He also stressed that funding from UNESCO had made a significant difference. Last year artistes who attended had to pay US$5 000 but assistance from UNESCO has made it possible for them to attend next year without paying.

Whereas last year’s venture was confirmed only a few weeks before the event itself, Thomas pointed out, this time there is “six months to plan”. He noted that the booking agents were working with the groups attending in 2013, “telling them what to do”. By the end of the year, he added, Blood and Nexcyx would each submit a 30-minute performance recording which would be submitted to agents Degy.

Thomas said he expected more block bookings this time around, which would make the acts more affordable. He noted that entry-level acts earned about US$3 000 per gig. “We are building fans long-term,” he said. “These appearances will build their profitability and they may be able to reach the US$10 000 per gig level.”

Last year Masala, Kirton and Alana John rocked the house at Night on St Louis, when they appeared in a club setting. One difficulty then was that the gig came towards the end of the week when students had been listening to acts all week. Despite this, however, the crowd was very responsive, especially to Philip 7 and Masala.

Next year, though, the Night on Nashville takes place on February 17, the second night, when the audience will be fresh. It will be the first big performance of the week.

Blood was happy to make the cut and told VIP PASS a lot of what they had been told by Degy was “performance-related” and was what they already did . He intends to take the whole Soka Kartel band, he said, noting that Degy liked the fact that he dressed brightly and generated a lot of audience interaction.

“We will be doing Caribbean music interspersed with other stuff,” he said. His hope, he added, was that the venture would go a long way in taking himself and the band “out there”. “NACA will put us into the college circuit and hopefully from there we will move onto the Carnivals.

“We didn’t have to change our style. I’ll just be doing me,” he concluded.

Nexcyx keyboardist Andr? Clarke also said the advice they received was “stuff we usually do”. One tip given to guitarist Russell Padmore, he noted, was to consider different eyewear.

The band played at a showcase at NACA 2011, during which it had only six minutes to impress. Clarke noted: “Having done the convention in 2011, we realise it is better to do the Night On show. We are a party band and the environment of the showcase is not suitable. We are doing more planning and everything is more organised. Plus, we know what to expect.” The set, he said, will be “pop and hip hop, with one or two Caribbean songs, along with some of our originals.”

After NACA 2011, Nexcyx secured four bookings but played at only two, in Virginia and Ohio. “The response was good,” said Clarke, “the people appreciated it; we got encores.”

Having attended NACA 2011 and thus having an appreciation of what a career-changer it can be, it is good to see that lessons have been learnt. UNESCO and all the other organisations which have come on board must also be congratulated. In order to make an impact on big markets such as the USA money must be spent. It is a significant development that, because of this support, artistes do not have to foot a US$5 000 bill. Dat en easy and it would be regrettable if good talent could not be exposed because of not having the money to go.

Last year it was a credit to the artistes who showcased that they made as good an impression as they did, since they had little preparation time and basically did not know what to expect in St Louis. The AME and COSCAP team, along with Degy, did serious work in getting the attention of the organisers and it paid off. This time around, Degy came in, helped prepare the artistes and they know fully what to expect.

I suspect that some wrong impressions may be reached by the selection of artistes. I know for sure that people will be wondering how come Biggie Irie, with his super voice, didn’t make it. I believe it has nothing at all to do with his talent but rather that, good as he is, the convention caters to a 16-22 age range and that isn’t Biggie’s demographic. His is an older crowd; give him that and he will blow them away every time, real ting.

There is no doubting Malissa Alana’s talent but, while she may stand out here as a country and western singer, it may be a different story in Nashville, where country music comes out when you turn on the tap. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to think of suggesting a genre change but I honestly can’t stop myself from wondering what would happen if she sang soca or reggae. Hmmmm! That would be interesting, even if only from a marketing perspective.

I understand that she has made a favourable impression in Nashville itself with her recordings there but I’m not sure how big country and western is on the college circuit. I don’t recall seeing or hearing about any at the convention in St Louis last year. Nevertheless, as I said there’s no doubting her talent and if she keeps on working hard she will doubtless make her mark.

One thing I saw clearly last convention was that sincerity and credibility go a long way in establishing the connect ion between performers and audiences. At the Night On St Louis, Masala was rocking the audience with hip hop and some Top 40 songs. When they went into what seemed an impromptu performance of “Guh Down”, however, they nearly blew the roof off the place.

People, and the most unlikely-looking ones at that, were going crazy to Li’l Rick’s song and it was all about the fact that in that song Masala was playing Barbados, if you know what I mean. The response was, to me, because the people could feel that this music was not learned music but rather a vibe that came naturally and they in turn responded naturally.

I hope that the artistes going this time learn from that. I wish them all the very best and look forward to nuff bookings at the end of NACA 2013.

Photos by Chaka Welch

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