Recently I had a lively discussion on what makes an artist different from want of a better word a Tool. Given the state of the music clearly there is an abundance of Tools around. Firstly one should establish a working example of whom or what an artist is.
In my view an artist/musician is a person with a deep and full understanding of his/her chosen craft, in this case music. He/she should be trained or at some point expanded academically, be it formal or informally in the subject of music and should be able to write music. This, is vastly different from writing rhymes on paper as that is what poets do. An artist/musician should be able to effectively communicate to any musician around the world regardless of language their specific vision/ideas. Therefore the ability to write music is a must. They should possess a working musical vocabulary. It should be evident that this person loves music and is familiar with not only his/her genre but listens widely and is influenced by other artists. Therefore when the host of Gaza dunce bats (among other new artists) state that their major influence begins and ends in the early 90’s there is much cause for concern. In Jamaica’s short yet vibrant musical history where you can only see Kartel, Bounty Killa as role models then something is gravely wrong. And it is no wonder the pool of crossover artists are so small let alone the ones who positively impact the world now.
It is infinitely sad that in a country so young when many of the actual architect of the music still lives and breathes, it feels like no one seeks advice, and guidance from these walking vestibules of knowledge. They are honestly not that hard to find. They still go to the same studios as the newer supposed replacements. They own bars and restaurants that bear their names or the names of the songs that made them famous. However, instead of respect there is contempt and the superficial “big up de elda dem!” Any opportunity they get while they trample and poison any foundation and scaffolding built by them. As Charles de Gaulle said:
There can be no prestige without mystery, for familiarity breeds contempt.
And there is much contempt to go around. Right now if you close your eyes and listen to what is pass off as popular music one would be surprised that this is the same place that gave birth to the likes of Don Drummond, Sly and Robbie, Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert and Dean Fraser.
What is even harder to believe is that the same institutions such as the Alpha Boys Home, church, school choirs and marching bands are still available. Added to this is the wonderful invention called the internet and better access to books of which the predecessors didn’t have. All these options and more are available to this crop of so called budding talent. However one gets the feeling that instead of doing the obvious and putting in the work needed to be “great”, forget that good or even just a little above average musicians, instead do a Milli Vanilli and concentrate on everything except the music especially the image and the money.