‘Nonsense lyrics, nonsense riddims’ - Level of reggae songwriting has fallen, says Jobson
Double Grammy-winning DJ and producer, Wayne ‘Native Wayne’ Jobson, has joined the swelling chorus of voices having their say on the retarded growth of dancehall music in the ecosystem. Jobson, who is part of the not-so-newly-formed Trojan Jamaica record label, based in St Ann, identifies weak songwriting as one of the major frailties in the production of Jamaica’s music.
“Nonsense lyrics and nonsense riddims” was how he dismissed many of the songs coming out of an island replete with half a century of rich musical heritage.
Not only has Jamaica given reggae and dancehall genres to the world, accompanying that have been songs, too many to count on all fingers and toes, which have been covered by entertainers in the top echelons of the musical totem pole. From Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam and Tenor Saw’s Ring The Alarm to Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers to Cross, Bob Marley’s catalogue and a plethora of songs in-between, Jamaica has given the world great songs.
“The level of songwriting has fallen,” said Jobson, who has worked with such artistes as No Doubt, Gregory Isaacs and Toots & the Maytals. “Songs are not anywhere near as good as what we used to hear. Listen to songs like I Need a Roof (Mighty Diamonds), Solidarity (Black Uhuru) and Little Cottage in Negril (Tyrone Taylor). Overall, we are not hearing any classic songs that people will want to cover,” was his lament.
He listed Earth a Run Red by Richie Spice; Blood Money by Protoje and Look Into My Eyes by Bounty Killer as other examples of great songs.
“I don’t like the message of glorifying violence in Look Into My Eyes, but it is still a good song,” he said.
Jobson hailed the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts for their great music programme, but he thinks that there is a shortfall that needs to be addressed.
“Edna Manley is focusing on musicians, but there is nobody who is teaching how to write good songs,” he said.
Jobson, who is also an entertainment lawyer, has credits in television and radio as well. He produced Behind the Music for VH1; music for award-winning films like 50 First Dates, starring Adam Sandler; the Alec Baldwin-Meg Ryan romantic fantasy Prelude To a Kiss, and Disney’s Cool Runnings. He was programme director at XM Satellite Radio and DJ for The Joint, where he helped bring reggae to a national audience in the United States. When XM launched the largest ($2-billion) radio operation on the planet in 2001, Jobson arranged for Bob Marley’s One Love to be the first song ever broadcast. He has worked as a consultant to Napster to develop their Reggae and World Music departments. Jobson, the co-founder of reggae band, Native, is currently the host of rock-reggae radio show Alter-Native.
“I play songs from rock-reggae bands,” he told The Gleaner of his two-hour show which sees him hosting, interviewing and playing rock-reggae music by artistes such as Rebelution, Soja and other bands that regularly make their presence felt on the Billboard Reggae Chart.