Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Twenty-one years after singing Oh Donna and When I See You Smile, the songs still remain the number-one source of musical income for reggae/dancehall artiste Singing Sweet.
According to the artiste who recorded the songs at the tender age of 13, dancehall/reggae music has suffered from technology, poor production and a lack of talent.
"Oh Donna and When I See You Smile came at a time when reggae/dancehall was nice and people were very familiar with their music, so I guess it was just the right time and right moment. Recording those days was a challenge. We didn't have many studios nor Pro Tool technology, and the producers were limited, so to get produced by a respected producer was difficult," Singing Sweet explained.
Singing Sweet got his break in the 1990s through the assistance of Colin Potter, of the Silver Hawk Sound, and Steelie and Cleevie. However, he believes that local music has taken a turn for the worst since the new millennium.
"I came up in the sound-system days when artistes had to have real talent. But now, things have changed because of technology. Technology has its positives because people have more access to our music, but there is a huge negative side because music stop sell. The burn CD thing and the downloading thing; vinyl records are no more, so there is no money coming from sales," he continued.
"When songs came out, you would have to go to the record store and buy the record, joining the line like everybody else, and that made it better for us as artistes," Singing Sweet said.
'90s songs still strong
The artiste revealed that even today, the songs that are most financially productive are those that were recorded in the '90s.
"Every tour that I go on, 99 per cent of the dubplates that I do have to be Oh Donna or When I see You Smile. Sometimes I sing those songs until I'm tired of them. Even now, when I am talking to you, some Japanese are waiting to get them on dubplates. If I get two more songs like these, I can live from them for the rest of my life," the singer revealed.
Singing Sweet continued to comment on the state of music today, describing it as 'disposable'.
"We still have good music, but it is not in demand. Ninety-nine per cent of what we see now won't last. Music is more disposable now. Mi nuh seh music dead and mi nuh seh music nah guh improve, but the good songs that are being produced are not being promoted and getting highlighted," he said.
"Some producers and selectors are not thinking professionally, but back then, you had to bring your best else you would have to go home and come back. The music should have something like Broadcasting Commission, which stops certain things from going through. I am still doing good music, still have the style and vibe, but I am not getting the promotion, unlike the dispensable stuff," he said.
Potter, Singing Sweet's former manager and the man that discovered him, believes songs like Oh Donna are not being made anymore.
"The business is just like hustling now and the songs won't last over 20 years like an Oh Donna. A just three months. These little songs are not working and, as a producer, I couldn't produce Tommy Lee. But these young people just grab on to anything and hold on to it. Nowadays, mi nuh bodda wid producing ... . The music change now. Mi nuh enjoy the songs. Some of them you can't even play in front yu yute," he said.
Singing Sweet is signed to Big Ship records.