Mon | May 20, 2019

‘Practice makes perfect’ Rita Marley advises young songwriters

Published:Monday | April 15, 2019 | 12:10 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Rita Marley (seated) receives a kiss from fellow members of the I-Three, Judy Mowatt (left) and Marcia Griffiths (second right), while Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange looks on. Occasion was the Reggae 50 Awards during February’s Reggae Month celebrations.
Rita Marley (seated) receives a kiss from fellow members of the I-Three, Judy Mowatt (left) and Marcia Griffiths (second right), while Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange looks on. Occasion was the Reggae 50 Awards during February’s Reggae Month celebrations.

The Rita Marley Foundation has, since 2013, held annual essay competitions for high-school students. However, this year, secondary-school students will be able to submit entries for the first songwriting competition.

Although the I-Threes singer and widow of reggae legend Bob Marley only recently made her first public appearance (in a wheelchair) since experiencing a stroke over two years ago, Rita Marley’s health struggle has not affected her capacity to innovate.

She noted that when her career in music began, she was privileged to be in the company of creative, award-winning musicians and writers. “As the proverb states ‘iron sharpens iron’ and we naturally were a source of inspiration for each other,” she said.

So for prospective songwriters, Marley’s advice is, practice makes perfect.

“You have to practise; it is the same advice that I gave to my own children and now my grandchildren. The same way that an artiste may practise playing musical instruments or singing to perfect their vocal ability, that is what it takes to develop your creative strength as a writer,” she said.

While most schools offer a creative-writing course, Marley said, it would be a pleasant addition to see schools touch on the art of songwriting.

“It should not be about a Grammy or getting on the various music charts, and any artiste who is serious about their craft should naturally want to explore songwriting. The goal should be to develop your talent and skill to a level that lets you reach and connect with an audience. Once you reach people, the accolades and success will come,” she concluded.

Songwriting contest

Manager of the Rita Marley Foundation, Rosemary Duncan, outlined the reason for the staging of the competition.

“The foundation felt it important to launch a songwriting contest to allow for the youth to continue harnessing their writing and communication skills while focusing on creating positively powerful material to which a voice and music will be added,” Duncan told The Gleaner.

She continued, “We want the youth who are interested in creating music to be guided by the philosophy of Bob and Rita Marley. We want them to create songs that transcend time and generations, songs that babies and elders alike can listen to, and this is achievable by writing clean, clear lyrics that are reflective of life experiences.”

Work continues

As the foundation continues to work alongside teachers and school officials across the island, the songwriting competition, which targets high-school students, replaces the usual essay competition this year.

Entrants will vie for the cash prizes of $50,000, $25,000 and $15,000 for first, second and third place winners respectively.

The top awardee is expected to earn mechanical royalties for his or her work.

Duncan remarked, “There is a global market for songwriters and if we start nurturing that skill among the youth, encouraging them to pen positive songs, music will be in capable hands.”

The topic ‘Strong Black Women and Their Role in History’ challenges the adolescent participants to be imaginative in their analysis. All entries should be submitted by June 1.

Marley, the competition’s originator explained: “All good lyrics have a root in universality and truth, something in a story that connects and resonates in the listener. This topic gives the contestants an opportunity to take a true story and interpret it in a creative way that does that.”