Thursday, 22 November 2012

Sir David Rodigan leaves Kiss FM - BURN DEM OUT!

This is the type of post of been meaning to write for a while, so excuse me if it's a bit long. I'll try to keep it as short as possible even though the fire is burning. And this fire can't quench. Nor will my words be diluted.

Today, acclaimed reggae DJ, radio broadcaster, sound clash winner and ambassador David Rodigan MBE announced he is to leave Kiss FM. Whilst admitting they've had a good relationship over the past 22 years, the relationship has terminated since the 12am-1am slot he previously resided was given to Craig David. Remember him? Exactly. "Due to their continued marginalisation of reggae music into the twilight zone of radio scheduling, it has left me no option but to make a stand for my passion and the music I love so dearly," stated Sir Rodigan [Source].

Words can't express how overjoyed I am that someone has finally taken the step to stand against a commercial radio stations. Not only for reggae in this case, but every single genre which has been marginalised by Kiss FM in recent times for more playlist shows. An example of this is Logan Sama, who for the longest time has been grime only DJ on a commercial station saw his show cut from 11pm-1am on Monday night, to a one-hour show (12am-1am), then moved to 1am-2am. One of the most important homegrown genres, one that produces chart-topping MC's (albeit on grime-less tracks), achieves top 10 trending topics in the UK most weeks, yet 1am-2am on a Monday slot?

I think every specialist show on that station has the 12am-2am slots because most of the stations schedule consists of playlist shows. You know, top 40 radio format with the same old 25 songs on loop? Yeah that. From 6am to 11pm at night. Except Kisstory of course. While I do think the "marginalisation of reggae" card is valid, I'm personally not sure if this is an attack on just reggae as most specialist shows face the same problem.

For those internationally, Kiss FM is a pop music station on the various forms of house music side of life, so I don't really expect a great deal from them in terms of reggae.  Let it be known though, that reggae appeals to that demographic, as displayed through the demand of David Rodigan + other sound systems (Jah Shakka, Aba Shanti, Channel One, The Heatwave etc.) at bass music nights/festivals.

Reggae music is being embraced more and more in the mainstream by non-Jamaican artists yet less avenues than ever for genuine reggae shows in the UK. A place that has always been receptive to reggae. And I do agree that generally there's a marginalisation of reggae music in commercial radio. Admittedly, the business side of the music isn't the greatest, but there is still a demand for reggae. More than its representation on radio.

I've heard from a few people that Robbo Ranx's show on 1Xtra is the most listened to specialist show (10pm-2am slot). Not sure if that's still the case.

2012 saw David Rodigan awarded an MBE for his services to music by reggae fan, Prince Charles. That's a massive deal, especially for bun babylon, bun the Queen music. (p.s. "bun" is Jamaican pronunciation for "burn".) He plays many big festivals including hosting his own tents and nights, Ram Jam, nationwide. He won a sound clash on Kiss FM against fellow specialist DJs earlier this year as voted for by the listeners in addition to a grassroots reggae world cup clash in New York. And lastly, a Gold radio award for his show on BBC Radio 2 for best specialist show. Many would argue that this has been one of the most productive years in his career and has been put in a position where he quits? That makes sense?

Shall I keep the fire burning? Time to throw in another station? Oh, go on then.

Now this isn't just an attack on Kiss Fm. Let's moving on to the other popular London-based station. Choice FM. Once the best and a respectable commercial station to hear the best in black music. Once upon a time a.k.a. before Global bought them, Daddy Ernie hosted a week day reggae show between 7-10pm. Can't even remember the evolution, if it was sudden or gradual (because I stopped listening), he now plays to night bus drivers and people going to their office cleaning jobs while ravers go home after an enjoyable night out. Grand time of 1am-3am on a Sunday morning.

To be fair, the quality of his show declined as he didn't move with the times and played soul music during his show, but why move the whole genre because a DJ's not good? Oh, that's right, because they wanted to make more time to play the same 20 songs each day. How many time do they think we want to hear Trey Songz, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Maxwell "Pretty Wings" on loop?

This disappoints me more than Kiss FM as Kiss haven't been that station in my lifetime. Choice were relevant. And as for urb*n blogs? MOBO Awards? And all these other things that are supposed to be here for our music, but cover hip hop and r&b much more? Same thing

This isn't just a save reggae music on commercial radio post, this is a SAVE SPECIALIST SHOWS ON COMMERCIAL RADIO A.K.A. BUN YOUR REPEAT THE SAME SONGS SHOWS.

Then Radio 1? Not representing at all. UK Hip Hop has been around 2 minutes in comparison to reggae and even grime, yet UK hip hop has a show, the others don't. Sound of the revolution or the side of life which isn't playing into their hands gets no love. Big up Westwood playing some dancehall though. I see Rodigan going to BBC Radio 2 full-time.

As always, that troublesome, rebellious genre, reggae is the one taking a stand against the system for what they stand for. Gift and a curse, because the commercials hate that attitude, but bun them! We're here for the people!

I'll leave you with this final quote from radio father Rodigan. “As Bob Marley famously said ‘the stone that the builder refused will be the head corner stone.’ Reggae was originally played on the streets, not on radio, and Kiss's refusal to schedule the only reggae show on their network to a socially accessible time has resulted in this decision. Reggae is worthy of more respect and so are the fans and lovers of this music.”

And in the words of Bob Marley, "Get Up, Stand Up. Stand up for your rights... Don't give up the fight." Hopefully a few other DJ's make a stand too. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Happy Diwali = Diwali riddim 10 year appreciation

Today is the Hindu celebration of light. Big up all my Hindu's inside the place. It's a national holiday in Myanmar, India, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Fiji, Singapore and to my surprise Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname and Guyana.

But today we are gathered here - in the dancehall world where I reside - for a whole different meaning to the celebration. Disclaimer: not to take over like the Christians did with Pagan festivals. We believe in unity so it's a parallel thing.

The Diwali riddim released ten years ago (yes, all the way back in 2002) by Stephen "Lenky" Marsden took the world by storm, becoming one of, if not the most successful composition in Jamaican music history in my opinion. (Yeah, I am about that mixing fact and opinion vida loca.) I think Diwali riddim earned its name from the Bhangra syncopation, plus I don't know the name of the instrument, but there's a sample in there. This came around the time Indian/Arabic samples were frequent in hip hop and r&b, mainly through hitmaker Timbaland. It was also quite prevalent in dancehall with the Bollywood and Egyptian riddims being two good examples. A lot of Bhangra is influenced by dancehall anyway so we're like bredrins.
It took dancefloors by storm upon release to the grassroots dancehall fans across the world. Initial standout cuts displayed versatility of the rhythm - something you won't find in any other genre. I always find it interesting to see how different artists interpret the same beat.

Party starters include "Energy God" Elephant Man's "Elephant Message" and "Party Time" by duo Danny English & Egg Nog, boasty "Ruffest and Toughest" courtesy of soon-to-be rookie of the time Assassin, and TOK's anthem for the hot girls "Galang Gal". I remember this tearing down a Jamaican independence in Tooting Bec common. Good times.

Then on the other hand you have what we call "conscious" tunes; the poor people's Governor Bounty Killer "Sufferer" proving to the doubters that he can do social songs without hit songwriter/producer Dave Kelly. "Born as a sufferer, grew up as a sufferer, struggle as a sufferer fi make it as a sufferer" struck a chord with the disenfranchised. Another relative newcomer singjay Wayne Marshall scored a hit singing "Many are called but the chosen few/ nothing in this world that you can't do/ Work hard for your dreams and they will come true" on the uplifting "Overcome".

All of this is just the underground success. Calm before the storm per se. 2003 saw the initial commercial success, cementing mainstream dancehall favourite Sean Paul's arrival as more than a one-hit wonder. Following up surprise hit "Gimmie Di Light" was always set to be a tough task, however, the follow-up "Get Busy" surpassed the predecessor topping the American Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. "Get Busy" wasn't even on the original batch of Diwali cuts, so was pretty new to most of us. The global star had a reworked beat with added synths and different re-arrangements.

Sean Paul admitted in an interview that he pulled a fast one on the label with this release - despite fighting with Atlantic for a release of "Get Busy" they stood firm on "Like Glue". Even down to the day of the shoot, they thought he was recording the "Like Glue" video, until he spoke to the director and said keep the same treatment, but they're doing the video for "Get Busy". And the rest as the say is history. This explains why "Like Glue" ends the video.

Chart performance: #1 = Hungary, Netherlands, Italy, USA. Top 10: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK. Gold certifications: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. #50 US decade end charts.

The next cut from the riddim is another re-worked cut which wasn't on the original riddim package. Singer Wayne Wonder scored a few hits in the 90s with the Penthouse label, then a few more towards the end with Mad House on the Bug riddim especially. However, "No Letting Go" turned his fortunes around. I remember this one burning a big buzz underground prior to commercial success. Although I don't remember any other riddim scoring two hits in such close proximity, I knew it would be a hit. I remember girls from the local girls school singing this on the bus home from school. Low and behold, it reached #3 in UK, #11 in USA and top 40 in Canada, Holland, France, Sweden and Switzerland.

American "singer" Lumidee was the first of many non-Jamaicans to utilise Diwali riddim's sound. "Never Leave You (Uh Oh)" became the third hit of the year off the same rhythm track (albeit altered by DJ Tedsmooth and Trendsetta). A remix with fellow New Yorkers Fabolous and Busta Rhymes giving it a more hip hop spin. Definitely the worse singer of the year, however it didn't stop her from topping charts in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Switzerland, while peak at 2 and 3 in UK and US respectively. Top 10 in Norway, Hungary, France and Austria.

Another hit from the riddim landed in 2004 courtesy of Jamaican sisters Brick & Lace. If I'm honest, I'd never heard of them before. I thought they were some foreigners trying to capitalise on the success of the riddim, 'cos once again, it had been altered. The sisters recorded on Lenky's re-licked XM24 version of the Diwali riddim complete with boosted synths, re-arranged . My goodness, what a re-lick! Probably the most underrated crossover dancehall songs. Really well-written, top notch production. Great video too.

I feel success in the UK was limited as the instrumental had been exhausted. Most of the success for this was in Europe, peaking at #13 in the European singles charts and charting in Belgium, Finland, France, Sweden, Switzerland and Norway. The duo also achieved success across African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Nigeria amongst others.

2005 saw the riddim again, this time in form of blockbuster movie actor and multiplatinum selling rapper Will Smith. A comeback single of sorts following a hiatus from the rap game, "Switch" basically takes the bass drum pattern and over-emphasised claps from Diwali and even a Jamaican dancehall-inspired dance move to match. There was also the Elephant Man remix which almost became customary feature in pop music around this time.

Topped the charts in Australia and Canada. Top 10 in UK, Belgium, Austria, Holland, Italy and US.

And if you're debating whether the above is a dancehall/Diwali-inspired song, as people who have to see direct Jamaican/Caribbean relation before their ears hear what they see, we move on to the next. A then unknown protégé signed to Def Jam by the name of Rihanna burst on the scene with "Pon De Replay". Now I can't remember which way around the story goes, but I believe Will Smith rejected this beat for "Switch". Either that or she rejected "Switch" for this. So basically, if you didn't think "Switch" was dancehall-fusion, yet think "Pon De Replay" is, you probably think "Rudeboy" is dancehall-fusion and "Te Amo" isn't a.k.a. hear with your eyes.

Anyway, chart performance: #1: New Zealand. Top ten: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and US.

Now here's another debatable one, but I'm convinced I'm right. Ne-Yo's 2007 single "Sexy Love". Yes, five years straight after the original. You're thinking "Nah, that's a straight r&b/slow jam," but hear mi nuh man?! Listen to the bass pattern and melody. It's a slowed down version of the XM24 I mentioned earlier. Listen back to Brick & Lace "Love Is Wicked". And we all know Stargate are r&b like to copy dancehall... Like the two above, they aren't direct copies like Lumidee, but blatantly based on.

Chart performance: top 10: New Zealand, UK and US. Also charted in a few other countries across Europe, but nothing compared to the dancehall songs. Why? Because dancehall has longer legs and travels further...

Bringing up to current day, Nigerian star boy Wizkid's song "London Girl" samples the famous Diwali drums.

Lenky, we salute you.

p.s. I spoke with Sean Paul about this dancehall era's impact on pop culture. Click here to see what he had to say

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Another "MOBO doesn't care about the 'B'" post

So, 10 years of grime music, Jamaica's 50th year of independence and the year which saw Afrobeats experience crossover chart success, some mainstream coverage and a lot of underground black club scene love, MOBO Awards have ignored all of these opportunities to celebrate. Something to celebrate in my opinion, cos you know, it's only majority of the UK's black population that comes from Africa and Caribbean.

Who do they give the Lifetime Achievement to? Dionne Warwick? And outstanding acievement to TLC. No disrespect to either of them, but once again they couldn't find anyone British/Jamaican/African to celebrate?

Remember when UK funky had the club scene going wild and they had Gracious K perform by the tables? Or when Gyptian had one of the biggest songs of the year was in attendance to collect his Best Reggae Award, but no performance?

This seems to be another one of those. I know for a fact that D'Banj would have been an outstanding performance on the night and actually represented what MOBO's were about when they started. I don't know if there's a schedule conflict. I really hope that is the reason. What about Wizkid? P Square? Ice Prince? They could have filled the gap. I mean, even BET had Sarkodie in their Hip Hop Awards cypher.

Despite what anyone says, like Black History Month, MOBOs are still necessary. Both platforms have the potential to be credible, relevant and worthy of their time. However, they insist on pandering to those that don't really care or ignore our own achievements in favour of Americans. As much as we enjoy and are exposed to American culture, it's a bit much of a much. We see it at every other awards show. This is the only time we have something to showcase us, and, well, like every time before it's the same old story. Guess that's what happens when the organiser started out putting on Jazz and Soul nights. Definitely representative of the great black British tradition.

What can't we pay respects to Omar, Maxi Priest, Gabrielle, Fela Kuti, Lucky Dube, Gregory Isaacs... You know, the people no one else pays attention to? Yeah, the same reason the awards were created, no?

But hey, at least we had ends-representative and self-appointed youth speaker Adam Deacon co-hosting with über, urban diva Miquita Oliver. And why do JLS keep winning awards? They aren't MOBO. If pop-r&b group Blue who had songs produced by Stargate (Beyonce, Ne-Yo, Rihanna etc.) weren't MOBO, nor were S Club 7 (they had black boy Brandon), why are JLS?

MOBO's mentality of bum America and forget about where black people in this country come from is something common amongst urban outlets; be it blogs, magazines, newspapers, TV or radio stations. It's all the same. Most would rather report on Justin Bieber's r&b-attempts and Rihanna's pop-dance records than something authentic from Jamaica/Caribbean, Africa and many times UK. It's all about the money and hype over building something respectable and representing in addition to getting money and hype.

This is why I say it's pointless afrobeats fans fight against bashment fans over who has the more popular music when neither of us are represented on basic levels where they should be.

I can't lie and say the performers of current scene aren't the right ones, big up. Not like they had much choice on booking those they have who managed to get somewhere without MOBOs. Nominations weren't stupid this year either. But show some love the foundations of the B without hopping on a plane to America all the time.