Sat | Aug 24, 2019

Dennis Howard | Back to music

Published:Saturday | August 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Sean Paul
Dr Dennis Howard

The 21st century started on a good note for recorded music globally. The early part of the new millennium heralded a move to some interesting and fresh music.

Albums such as Speaker Box the Love Below, Outcast; Musicology, Prince; Fly or Die, N.E.R.D.; Come Away With Me, Norah Jones; Rooms For Squares, John Mayer; Chocolate Factory, R Kelly, College Dropout, Kanye West; Da Real Thing, Sizzla, and Stony Hill, Jr Gong are superb examples of great innovative music.

This is a rarity in the modern-day music business, primarily driven by hype, social media likes and big numbers in terms of sale.

Unique and great talent hardly get a chance to emerge, as record companies are not interested in spending the required time to develop and expose talent of any sort. That is the purview of independent record labels and production houses.

Just look at the big superstars of popular music anywhere in the world and you will realise that great talent is not a common denominator among them. In fact, the talent of many superstars is indeed questionable and has been fodder for comedians and talk show hosts worldwide.

In Jamaican popular music, there are only a handful of albums that are of any artistic merit.

Yet despite the dilemma of mediocre music globally, we see the emergence of a few genuinely talented artistes and great records. The question is, are we heralding a new golden era of music which we enjoyed in the '40s, '60s and '70s?

Well, for music sake I sincerely hope so as music lovers are really tired of the same old drivel that we are fed by the global recording industry.

The output of rap and its derivatives, trap and drill are becoming really problematic for even the most rabid fans of the genres, as we are given the same diet of minimalist beats, vocal grunt and undecipherable lyrics.




Electronic dance music, the once-respected underground darling known for grit and sonic innovation, has been reduced to monotonous bass drops, synth riffs and bubblegum lyrics.

Jamaican popular music is approaching an identity crisis. While there are a few innovative ripples, the music is still in a rut creatively with the emergence of performers who are subpar at best, coupled with the continued creation of mind-numbing repetitive beats.

Musically, new styles have emerged that are ripe for the identification of a new genre but due to the lack of consensus and leadership, the industry has failed to make the necessary changes with the speed that is required to ensure financial exploitation.

All this despite the amazing popularity of Jamaican music worldwide, a popularity that we are yet to capitalise on.

In fact, Jamaican popular music that has consistently done well internationally is the fusion sounds that are not given any respect in urban street culture.

Who could have predicted that with such 'superstars' as Sizzla, Kartel and Bounty Killer, the most successful Jamaican acts, from an international perspective, have been Shaggy, Omi and Sean Paul.

Artistes who, as I write, are still grappling with acceptance issues from our urban culture purists.

The release of the albums I pointed to earlier, and several others, are a refreshing change from the formula trends in popular music.

The Billboard charts are filled with albums and singles that might sell big numbers and the recording artistes of these hits may become big stars.

However, one might argue that we are no better, for all this success, as we still rely on the music of the '60s and '70s as benchmarks of great artistic achievement.

You will never live long enough to hear N Sync, Brittney Spear, Limp Bizkit, Vibes Kartel, Elephant Man and Nick Cannon being mentioned in the same breath as the Beatles, Van Morrison, Dennis Brown, Jimmy Cliff, Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Earth Wind and Fire.

I can assure you that we will still be listening to Kaya, Bob Marley, Rubber Soul, Beatles long after we have forgotten No Strings Attached, N Sync and Big Money Heavyweights, Big Tymers.

The fact is, great music is still being recorded but due to the control of mass media by big corporations whose only motivation is to make money without regard for artistic excellence, we do not get to hear most of it.

There are several good artistes who are doing great work but due to lack of promotion they are not universally known.

However, if you are a discerning music listener you would have heard of Ani Difranco, Jorja Smith, Robert Glasper, 3 Canal, the Roots, Black Star, Lasana Bandele, Chance the Rapper, Laura Mvula and Samory I.

- Dr Dennis Howard is the general manager, radio services, RJRGLEANER Communications Group. Feedback: