I am a musician. I started playing the piano at seven years old and since then I have added three more instruments to my armamentarium. I say that to, as it were, put myself in the position of an expert of sorts as I expound on the matter of music for the upcoming Festival Season.
In the Bible, we read that we should make a joyful noise unto the Lord. For a book that is as precise as the Bible is, I can safely conclude that one does not have to be an opera singer in an effort to praise the Lord. As a matter-of-fact, without being irreverent, I don’t really think that God cares whether one is tone-deaf or not.
The matter of being tone-deaf which is the inability to hear a note and reproduce it vocally has a significant bearing on music being produced for the general public. We all have ‘rights’, which sometimes places us in sticky situations. An individual might say he or she has the right to record and produce whatever tickles his or her fancy. On the receiving end, another individual might say he or she reserves the right not to be subjected to words thrown together in no particular order and set to the rhythm of the season. I think it boils down to self-preservation and in a case such as this, if what is being blared over the radio stations grates on your ears, change the station.
With that being said, what about standards? If no-one speaks out or takes a stand against poor standards of music being produced, then it stands to reason we will continue to have poor standards of music being produced. It is at this point that I take a minute to say a prayer for the judges of our upcoming music festival who have to sit for long periods at a time, pore over confusing lyrics and listen to several compositions which barely qualify as music. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel because not all the music produced by our artistes qualifies as paltry or sub-standard.
We have many lyrical and instrumental geniuses who each year produce superior crafts of words and chords which leave us wondering which individual will emerge on top. There are catchy rhythms that stay in the head for the entirety of the season and cleverly hidden political jabs woven into the fabric of our social commentaries. As I write, I remember a cousin of mine who made it her business every year to go to the Pic-o-de-Crop Finals. This sort of loyalty can only be expected if, for this and all the other music competitions held annually, an unwaveringly high standard of music is produced for public consumption.
The sanctity of our festivals cannot be left up to persons who have only a pecuniary interest in its existence. Plainly said, the persons involved cannot be in it just for the money. Our current financial predicament may present a challenge for the Festival as money needs to be poured into the entity in order to have an outcome worthy of the Herculean sacrifice put in by the artistes. I do believe, however, with honest on-going dialogue between the parties concerned a reasonable agreement can be finalized.
Stay with me on this train of thought. There are twenty-six letters in our alphabet and this is a fact learned at the nursery level in our nation. The number of combinations of these letters to produce words is almost innumerable. As such, our artistes have no excuse for populating their songs with degrading and insulting lyrics in any genre of music to be produced for our festivals. I make no apologies for saying that many of the songs that have been put out over the years and even some for this year lack substance and leave so much to be desired. As a female, many of these lyrics are an affront to femininity and womanhood. An entire woman is reduced to ‘a bumpa’ and most of the song is spent on enlightening the public on what should be done with said ‘bumpa’. I willingly admit that true interpretation of kaisos past and present do reveal insensitive issues about women. However, those issues are so cleverly integrated into a decent rendition as compared to blatant smut.
I choose to speak out because as a Bajan, I have a vested interest in the Festival. It brings tourists to our island, our musicians (the authentic ones) have the opportunity to market themselves on the world stage and compete with the icons of music and it preserves the history of our country. I am looking forward to the incorporation of the recent election results, the South Coast sewage issues and our inability to choose an Anglican Bishop as parts of songs across the genres.
Perhaps I am too late for competition as preparation for this year should have begun last year. But I am in time for next year to implore our composers and those involved in the production and distribution of Festival music. Do not prostitute quality for income. It is understandable that if an artist is willing to pay for studio time then in these challenging economic times the easier, more reasonable thing to do would be to accept payment. However, the Festival is like an ecosystem and the actions of one species affect all the others. Demand quality of the artistes and other stakeholders and refuse to stand-down until it is received. It is for the good of the Festival, the economy, and the country.
I am looking forward to seeing who will triumph at the end of the competitions this year and I know that individual will be deserving of his or her prize. I do not believe that I will be able to summon the courage to enter competition next year, but I hope that the standard progressively improves and we have a product that is the envy of the world stage.
(Renee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:[email protected])