Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Caribbean Education

So, I live in the Caribbean.
There's a lot of great music here.
Which means there's a lot I need to learn about the great music here.

Specifically, I really need to brush up on my genres. There's a distinct difference between ska, mento, rock steady, reggae, dancehall and the R&B that comes out of these islands, and I'm definitely sensing a learning curve. Not to fear- I have a source.

I work with a 60 year old Rasta man who has an extensive collection of music and an encyclopedic knowledge of artists, albums, and the evolution of Jamaican musical styles. He's not a musician. He's a coffee farmer.

Yesterday, the area farmers had a social gathering. We cooked outside, traded ant-bite stories and played dominoes. All the while, this coffee farmer friend of mine, played DJ. As he lined up the tracks, pulling from his voluminous discography, I was able to begin to identify the differences in tempo, rhythm and general sound of these musical genres. It was neat to finally be able to piece them out, as I heard them side-by-side. That said, I've got a long way to go before I can comfortably say I have an understanding.

What better way to keep my thoughts straight, I thought, than to record by observances? And so, I've resolved to keep a record here- as time and internet connection allows- of my new musical experiences and all the questions that manifest alongside them. Is the categorization of "genre" helpful in this case? Is genre just reflective of musical style development over time? Are these new genres, then, only helpful insofar as placing the music in history? Is it same music played on different instruments? And what about all these covers and mixes?

Then there's the different culture around music in a Caribbean country, and the influence of that culture on the music itself. Does the knowledge that listeners will want to be able to break into song on the public bus influence your creative process? What about the mostly-concrete or outdoor listening acoustics? And perhaps most pertinent: what is the role of all these annoying DJs and their alter egos?

I sense an adventure.

Image: "Dance Hall Hobby" album cover, 2012, by Mr. Williamz

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