Confusing catalogue with conclusion
In addition to the twists, twirls and twinkly toes, singer Ken Boothe threads a near standard narrative through his set. Part of his patter is connecting the songs to the personal history of audience members, saying that some persons grew up on those songs and made love for the first time to them.
At the start of Think Me Did Done, deejay Admiral Bailey gives a striking, extended belly laugh after demanding, "Oonu tink me did done?" This refers to the habit of those who follow Jamaican popular music avidly to dismiss a vocalist as having nothing more to offer when there is the slightest lull in their output. In the song Admiral Bailey deejays, "After '87 there is a lot more to come"; he has long changed that to "after the year 2000 there is a lot more to come."
Performing on this year's Dancehall Night of Reggae Sumfest, Bounty Killer said he has never done an International Night, "but I sure got an international voice (pronounced vice, to make the rhyme)". He then did, It's a Party, from 1998, Aisha Davis doing the female vocals.
There could be many more examples of how Jamaican popular music is connected to a timeline. However, what these three indicate is the importance of longevity. Unfortunately, though, we can be quick to write off vocalists as being spent forces when they are in the process of building a catalogue of songs that will serve them for a lifetime. In doing this, we not only assess the current direction in which they are going artistically, but also do not take into consideration the value of the songs they have already amassed.
Another example. In the late 1990s to early 2000s, Wayne Wonder took a step away from a scene in which he had enjoyed a good run by himself as well as in tandem with Buju Banton. I remember an article in which he spoke about wanting to learn to play an instrument. He waned in Jamaica at a time when there was a wave of newer prominent performers in Kartel, Assassin and more. But Wayne Wonder extended his catalogue with Bounce Along, but was still able to retain the 'Yaad' sound with No Letting Go.
Ken Boothe, Admiral Bailey and Bounty Killer have all put together bodies of work that people want to hear over and over again. The audience knows the recordings, most likely has seen the vocalists perform them time and again, and want to see them do so again. That is the value of a catalogue.
But putting that set of songs that will always ensure the performer of an income takes time, which inevitably comes with boom and bust periods. This can lead to the premature proclamation that the performer has exhausted their reservoir of creativity. And it takes going into different musical directions, which can lead to complaints that the performer has compromised on their music.
Much earlier this year, I saw Tarrus Riley perform at the opening of Toyota Jamaica's Old Hope Road office. He was the evening's sole performer, which gave him the opportunity to put on an extended showing, which he did (to recorded tracks). As he went through from the binghi of Lion Paw, ran a dub of Beware, lover's rock of She's Royal, dancehall of Good Girl Gone Bad and Powerful, which sounds like a slow rock jam or power ballad a stadium full of fans could groove to, I thought that I have seen someone building a catalogue. Added to that could have been the acoustic version of Black Mother Pray, which he did with his father Jimmy Riley.
So when I listen to new songs these days, it is with an eye on catalogue building. Where does this material fit into their existing body of work that the person has produced previously (if they have done songs before), and what does it indicate for the furture? I believe that approach allows for deeper appreciation critical appreciation rather than the 'pump it or dump it' sort of one-off assessment.
One more example of catalogue. Beenie Man, closing Dancehall Night at Sumfest 2016, said it was really a task for the young, hip deejays, but he was doing it. And what did he use to whip up the crowd?
Not cracking new material but, in the main, songs which were probably as old (or older) than some audience members.
That's the power of a body of work.
Tune of the week: Bunny Wailer's Blackheart Man, is a sublime album. I have been watching his performance at Rototom Sunsplash 2009, where the early part has songs from the set (after the Rastaman Chant and Bald Head Jesus. His intonation and inflection give the songs added impact. Take a look atwww.youtube.com/watch?v=5V1ordcRuTo.