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Damn damn damn... musical weirdness. - John [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
John

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Damn damn damn... musical weirdness. [Oct. 27th, 2004|05:53 pm]
John
So I was thinking a bunch of random thoughts, and I flashed on two things.

First, Rap often uses a background piece of music for the rap.

Then, Reggae often steals music and transforms it.

And now I've got reggae versions of Funky Cold Medina and Ice, Ice Baby going through my head.

The worst thing is, I'm not sure if I'm ready to laugh myself silly with delight for such an offbeat idea, or scream in agony at how this makes my brain hurt.

They say that shamanism is the experiencing of many altered mental states... maybe this is progress of some form or another.

(Did I really just suggest that having reggae rap in my head is *PROGRESS*?)
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[User Picture]From: kightp
2004-10-28 01:10 am (UTC)
The worst thing is, I'm not sure if I'm ready to laugh myself silly with delight for such an offbeat idea, or scream in agony at how this makes my brain hurt.

If ever there were an opportunity to embrace the power of "and," love, this is it.

(Easy for me to say. I don't know either of those songs well enough to get an earworm from them. Although now that I've said it, I suspect you'll probably fix that for me ...)
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[User Picture]From: homemakerj
2004-10-28 03:57 am (UTC)
>First, Rap often uses a background piece of music for the rap.

Yes, this is called sampling and toasting. In reggae, back in the days of the Disco 45, the version often had a toaster (rapper) toasting over the riddims. It started with the radio disk jockeys who would chant out the news around Jamaica over the music only (version) section of the song. U-Roy and Mickey Dread are some examples. Rap started in Jamaica, but as usual, is given little credit.

You see, in Jamaica, they don't have bands, per se. They have several cliques of studio musicians who lay down rhythm tracks and singers or toasters are welcome to come into the studio and "rent" the tracks to sing over. That is why there are often so many reggae songs based on the same tracks.

Sound systems would get a riddim track cut on a disk and drive out to the country in their trucks. On the back of the truck would loudspeakers and a microphone. The deejay (toaster) would then toast over the riddim, ad-libbing according to what was going on at the dance or what was the news around that small town. There was heavy competition between different sound systems, which is the main reason that reggae artists don't live all that long.

The studio owners owned the rights to the riddim tracks, not the musicians who performed on them. In America, it is more the custom to have your own band, own your own copyrights, which are often split 50/50 with the producer (money man), and rent studio time to make an exclusive record.

When reggae artists are picked up by a major label in the United States, they often get into trouble because the word gets out in Jamaica that they are recording and the studio owners there rush to put out any recordings they have on the artist. This got Dennis Brown in big trouble when he recorded for A&M Records. They wanted him as an exclusive artist and it was beyond his control to keep his former recordings in Jamaica (sometimes of the same song) from being released. American producers didn't understand this and thought they had been double crossed. Eventually this incident contributed to Dennis Brown's death.

Currently, it is the fad within dancehall reggae, to do a whole set of reggae based on the different songs done to the same riddim.

>Then, Reggae often steals music and transforms it.

What? What? Bob Marley wrote "I Shot the Sheriff" not Eric Clapton. Very often it is a reggae artist who wrote the song first, but they do not have the money or means to pursue it in court. To give you some perspective, Bob Marley, while he was alive, had never sold enough records to earn a gold record, which is 500,000 copies.

Even as far back as Harry Belefonte's hit record "Day-O", music of the islands was squashed. My brain is foggy on the details, tonight, but there was a movement among the musician's in American to ban this music because they didn't want foreigners making the money. It was something about restrictions on shellac and other moves to prohibit island music and it eventually lead to the splintering of some musicians to leave ASCAP and form BMI.

Perhaps you are referring to the way that reggae artists will take American standards and re-do them. Time was when the music heard in Jamaica came from our southern states in American, mainly New Orleans. The airwave transmission was so small that the music, when heard in Jamaica, sounded like it had that backward beat that is now known as reggae.

>And now I've got reggae versions of Funky Cold Medina and Ice, Ice Baby going through my head.

>The worst thing is, I'm not sure if I'm ready to laugh myself silly with delight for such an offbeat idea, or scream in agony at how this makes my brain hurt.

There is a large Jamaican population in Brooklyn, NY. Many of them are responsible for the rap music that is coming out today. It is high time that they are recognized. It is only a shame that they had to sell out so badly and sing praises to drugs and guns and diss women, just in order to feed their families.

Just my friendly opinion, you understand.
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[User Picture]From: johnpalmer
2004-10-28 05:50 pm (UTC)
>Then, Reggae often steals music and transforms it.

What? What? Bob Marley wrote "I Shot the Sheriff" not Eric Clapton. Very often it is a reggae artist who wrote the song first, but they do not have the money or means to pursue it in court. To give you some perspective, Bob Marley, while he was alive, had never sold enough records to earn a gold record, which is 500,000 copies.


Umm. When I said "steal", I didn't mean "steal", I meant "take and use". I use 'steal' like that casually, like "I'm going to steal one of these brownies that you said I could have." (I also had only barely heard of the Bob Marley issue, and still only have vague rememberings.) I didn't mean to sound like I thought reggae artists were thieves.

The reason I mentioned it was that, part of what was going through my head was Chris (my soon-to-be-ex-wife) has a habit of complaining about the reggae verion of "Red Red Wine", and I told her that this is what reggae artists *do*; they take any song and transform it. (I was also thinking of the "Grateful Dread" album I'd heard of, a collection of reggae covers of Grateful Dead tunes.)

Anyway, I wasn't aware that a non-redone song was "reggae"... I thought that remaking the music was what defined the genre. If it was an original song in the same style, I'd have said "but doesn't that mean it's not reggae?" I'm afraid my knowledge about music is *very* limited.

Re: the Jamaican roots, that does explain why I've been able to make every rap song I've thought of scan to what-sounds-to-me-like-a reggae sound.

And yeah, I think it's a shame if anyone needs to sell out to make *any* kind of music, but especially if you have to go nasty/angry to sell rap. I think that the art is vastly under-rated, and can be a heck of a lot more than it's given permission to be, these days.
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[User Picture]From: homemakerj
2004-11-02 09:57 pm (UTC)
Actually, I knew you didn't mean to, but you just never know who is reading and what impression you are making. So, now you are well informed on reggae and can be the hit of the next party.

Oh my. A woman like that needs divorcing. In fact, I'd tell the judge that's the main issue.

Yes. The most recent is a double vinyl of Bob Dylan's songs. I highly recommend it. "Subterranean Homesick Blues" will never be the same.

Really? That's interesting to me. Actually, there are many excellent song-writers in Jamaica that do reggae. You might want to explore some of Joseph Hill's work with his group Culture. Often, reggae artists have a very good sense of humor. Joseph Hill sings about "when will this payday come for us retired slaves?" complete with crying and carrying on.

Jamaican music has many genres. At first it is tough to get past the accent and patois, but with repeated listenings it one day just comes clear, much in the same way it takes time to get used to say, a Southern accent.

I'll try to tell you in chronological order the various genres. There's Mento, which are their slaves songs, or, like our folk music; there's Ska (pronounced skee-yah), which is a form of jazz; there's Rock Steady, which are usually ballads or love songs by one singer; there's Reggae, which I don't know how to explain. It encompasses many types of music. Usually reggae was done by a lead singer with three background singers. I believe that Toots Hibbert, of Toots and the Maytals did a song which said, "Auntie, wipe your face, wipe your face, you're looking like a rag-gay" (meaning something like homeless or poor person) and from that came reggae to describe the music. Music of the poor people. There is Rockers, which is similar to disco; Roots, which sprang out of Reggae and was labeled Roots when less Rastafarian lyrics sprang out of Rockers; and there's Dancehall, which is a faster form of Reggae, a kind of cross between our rap music and country music. And, I'm probably behind the times, so there's a new label for the current music coming out of Jamaica today.

In the disco 45 days of reggae, you got the song itself for the first half of side one. Then, you got a "toaster" (rapper) singing over the song while the vocals faded in and out. On side two, you had the "dub", which allowed you to have a turn at singing the song. Should you lose your place, now and then, the vocal pipes back up to give you a clue. It also allowed the recording engineer to work his magic on the riddim tracks and show off. Often the dub was the more popular side of the record. Consequently, Jamaicans were rapping and sampling way back in the 70's, long before our American rap music. But, it is small island and not much credit is given.

Some of the American rap songs are done by Jamaicans and many more are done by Ja-mericans--that is children born of Jamaican parents here in America who have never been back to Jamaica. In listening to these songs (if you can) Americans don't quite realize that many of the lyrics are sung tongue-in-cheek, or with a sprinkling of patois, so that what it sounds like they are saying isn't what they mean.

For instance, in Jamaican music of old, sex was often referred to with nursery rhymes. "I'm a little teapot," comes to mind. Or, blood klaat, when rolled off of a Jamaican's richly accented tongue, sounds scary and threatening. Originally, it meant, well, Kotex, morphed into toilet paper, when it was considered a great insult, and now simply means an utterance of frustration.

Peter Tosh, of Bob Marley and the Wailers fame, couldn't get any airplay on his great songs, so he said that he bet if he made a song about swearing, he'd get played. He recorded "Oh Boomba Klaat", and yes, it got airplay. With some of the rap music of today, it is the same principal. Reggae doesn't get airplay, but if you sing about drugs and violence, hey, you're a millionaire. For Jamaican artists, it is often a means to an end. Once their name is visable, they can sing the kinds of songs they really wanted to sing.

Okay, so if you say all that at a party, they're likely to offer you more beers and if that doesn't work, gently suggest it's past your bedtime. Don't mind me. I love reggae and I love anthropology.
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