The Way(ve) Forward for Local Content

By Christian Hume
September 02, 2010

DancersMaestro’s plaintive appeal on behalf of local culture to “play me” (see Youtube clip below) is still as sadly relevant in 2010 as it was 34 years ago in 1976. In a nation 48 years old, it is something of a near-tragedy that local music is still struggling for airplay. This is a DESPERATELY SERIOUS issue as we move forward in our evolution as an independent nation.

I would like to open the rest of this note by quoting from another recent note by my friend Phillip Edward Alexander (see link below), where he said:

“Other forces had to be at work here, either diabolically conscious and dedicated to the destruction of ‘our’ art, or unconscious and based on our colonized minds, ashamed to claim what we birthed, and unfortunately netted the same results.”

I focus here on the aspect of what Phillip calls “diabolical forces”. The recent sale of Radio 94.7 FM to the Chinatown Syndicate,and more importantly, the refusal of the syndicate to keep its word and maintain the prior format of the station, is the latest evidence of the existence of these “diabolical forces”. This along with the fact that advertisers are known to not be supportive of local music formats is all the evidence we need to see that Phillip’s quote is more vexatingly true than we would like to admit. So, now that we know these forces exist, what do we do?

The first step in combating these forces is to admit that they exist. We must admit, and PUBLICLY DECLARE, that there are “diabolical forces” at work, forces that, for reasons best known to themselves, have no real and abiding interest in the propagation of local music. This is the first step. It is only when this happens, that we will find the resolve to fight this enemy. So, question, how will we fight this enemy?

For starters, we must STOP BEGGING for airplay!! Airplay is our RIGHT. It’s Trinidad and Tobago airwaves we talking about here. No decent, civilized, or “first world” country anywhere on the planet has a system in place that deliberately stymies and holds back its own music. So we can NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, come anywhere close to first world status if our music is still scrunting for airplay. We have to find ways and means to recapture our airwaves – ways and means that do not depend on the largesse of the Chinatown Syndicate and others of like mind. We recall the example of Marlon Asher and his smash hit “Ganja Farmer”. When first refused by the radio stations, he and his producer, Carl ‘Beaver’ Henderson took the song to the streets, handing out free copies, and once the song caught on at the street level, the same radio stations had to ‘back back’ and play the music. The traditional radio stations are not the only portals to the airwaves. I read an article recently where the Radio 94.7 people were talking about embracing HD radio as an alternative to the over-crowded FM band. This is definitely a step in the right direction. We have already seen an explosion of local content on Youtube. This too is a step in the right direction. I’m pretty sure, as I write this, and as you read it, that there are creative ideas for taking back our airwaves that have not yet been ventilated, or even thought of. We have to brainstorm, think, and then do! The technology exists for us to circumvent traditional FM radio, even as we make attempts to get back on the FM band. Think internet radio, think DIRECTV, etc, etc, etc….. We can do it people! We WILL do it!

Now, once we resolve to recapture our airwaves, we have to be crystal clear as to what we mean by “local content”. So, I would like to propose a sub-division of local content into two areas. These areas are, “Indigenous Music”, and “Non-indigenous Locally Produced Music”. We need to be serious enough to treat the definition of our terms with the same care and detail with which diplomats sit and spend and entire day haggling over the wording of their documents. It is slip-ups like this that unscrupulous opponents use against us. More on that later.

“Indigenous Music” would of course refer to music in the genre of our Trinidad and Tobago artforms – Calypso, Steelband, Soca, Chutney,Pichakaree, Rapso,Jamoo, Folk Music, among many others. These indigenous artforms deserve their own special place on our local airwaves, and there is MORE THAN ENOUGH music in this category to keep a serious radio station busy.

“Non-indigenous Locally Produced Music” would refer to the music of non-Trinidadian genres that is produced by Trinidadians. Trinidadians and Tobagonians make music in ALL genres. We produce ORIGNAL reggae, jazz, R & B, hip-hop, rap, dancehall, pop, latin, instrumentals, gospel, among many others. You name it, a Trini could do it. These productions also deserve their own unique space on the airwaves, because not everyone will do the indigenous stuff, but whatever they do, they will do it in a manner to bring pride and joy to our little country. Names like Ralph McDonald, Billy Ocean, Marlon Asher, and Prophet Benjamin come to mind. There is also enough music in this category to keep any serious radio station busy.

If we fail to make this distinction abundantly clear, our enemies will create confusion in the minds of the populace, who still think that “local music” means “calypso”. When we agitate for 50% local airplay, our enemies will paint a scenario where we are asking the government to “force” them to listen to calypso. And they will then plead “freedom of choice”, and we will NEVER win THAT argument in a freedom loving society such as ours. Ironically, if we have just TWO strong radio stations following the formats I just outlined (one for “indigenous music”, and the other for “non-indigenous locally produced music”), we will not need to BEG anyone for 50% airplay. Once we succeed with these formats, and people see that our music is commercially viable, other stations will follow.

So my main arguments here are, firstly, for the dissecting of “local music” into two distinct streams – “indigenous music”, as well as “non-indigenous locally produced music”. Secondly, I am making a strong plea to the powers that be…Let us STOP BEGGING!! The days of begging are over. We have to TAKE our airwaves back – using creative strategies and 21st century technology. Let’s do this people!!

10 thoughts on “The Way(ve) Forward for Local Content”

  1. What do the people want? If the people only want to listen to foregin music, then you have to question their pride. People have to stop looking at other countries to define local musical culture. Do you think that on the forth of July yankee radio is playing Soca or Calypso? Why then during carnival and other parts of the year are we hearing TI etc…?

  2. Satnarayan Maharaj: Many stations have failed because of failure to adjust to the competitive nature of the industry. While other stations have flopped and floundered in areas they choose, the Indian niche within the radio industry remains the most competitive with eight radio stations that are Indian formatted. Yet each Indian formatted radio station has survived and even grown.

    There are many factors playing out here…1) Our wonderful Class System.. Where ‘we’ love to CENSOR/BELITTLE other views that ‘we’ do not agree with, ie. Marlon Asher’s Ganja Farmer.
    2)Lack of Leadership in The BLACK community in regards to ‘our’ ECONOMICS power. No one is shouting, SUPPORT OTHERS WHO SUPPORT US… In other words, Radio station MUST appeal to it listeners to support Businesses that advertise on their Radio Stations.

    Now, Sat is boasting about these Indian stations.. These Stations cannot even play in a Maxi/Taxi without some passengers protesting to that ‘cat call’ they call Indian Music… These Stations do not reach the greater population… But they “has survived and even grown”. Indian businesses (which many Africans support) are pumping their Ad. dollars into these stations..

    Then again, there is the content of the music coming out of T&T.. Oh God man, how much ‘Jump and Wave’ ah man cud take..
    Personally, I believe it is a conspiracy to distract the youth..
    juss my 2 cents.

    Now, Pitbull/Khem doh come and tell meh bout Ras Shorty I’s Indian influence in Soca… The Dhol is an African Drum brought to India by men like Malik Amber (the African that went East).

  3. Pride, what exactly do these people know about pride?No Yankee city would hire a foreigner to police their city , no matter how incompetent they think the locals are , neither would they or any so call independent nation, have white old Europeans in charge , as their final court of appeal, so what exactly are you bellyaching about? Your white Trini Westmoorings pals celebrate Irish day , 4th of July, and the Queen’s birthday every year, I do not see you getting all bent and out of shape for that Curtis. Give it a rest, we hear TI for the same reason we hear Country music , Pavarotti, and Amir Khan .

    Why do you Sat Maharaj fought the pro genocidal , racist , African savages ,that oppressed our kind , and tolerant Indo population decades, in order to get a Indian radio station? It can assure you that it was not to hear Croco , and Sugar Allows .
    Lord how we despise national frauds- excluding you of course , Curtis.
    Good history lesson George. We’ve got to educate the clueless ,revisionists like pitbull, and khem.
    To think that some still believe that it was only white Europeans bandits that stole and raped Africans.
    Go talk to our Bantu cousins in Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania.

  4. alyuh ain’t notice that everything and anything foreign is better and the best in Trinidad whereas local is inferior…..this government driving this message home quite forcefully right now

  5. Let’s keep it real , keeping it realer. It’s not only that locals are despised, but only a particular segment of the local population.
    In short, anywhere that there is a perceived tribal imbalance in favor of ‘dem’ worthless, big butts , kinky hair, thick lips , party freaks savages ,that are devoid of any noble culture, and has destroyed ‘our’ loving country , because they allegedly controlled the political machinery since white , and loving ,European/ ‘Caucus cousins’ left . Read me?

  6. In France they passed a law requiring radio stations to play a required percentage of French music.

    A similar situation existed where French listeners enjoyed listening to Foreign music as well as home grown talent.

    The government’s view was to protect their own culture from outside influences.

    The seeds were sown and 10 years later French music has improved because money was poured into that industry form increased airplay and exposure.

  7. Your point Baco? What do you believe is Trinidad and Tobago music when a brainwashed half the population only believe in everything indian , and the other half feels the same about Africa, while everyone adores everything Europe ?

  8. Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.

    In fact, music can be a mixing pot of cultures and beats and some of the most successful artists are the ones that have been inspired by musical flavours outside of where they live.

    For instance, if the Trinidadian government passed a law that local music had to be played for 50% of the airtime on radio stations. Perhaps Calypso music would not be (sadly) the dying art form that it is today.

  9. So you think Brother Gypsy your new culture Minister ,has the ‘Mayaro Cohones,’ to pull that off,or would Sat , Ramy your Anthony General COP/ PP ,Pitbull, and new education head guru , Dr Goopiesing ,would win out in the end , so that instead we are blessed with 50 % Hindi music on our radio station?
    You guys claim to be proud nationals , but I am quite certain you are not fully cognizant about the type of society you’ve inherited, and the country hating demons you have to contend with, that also conveniently claim to be fellow citizens.
    Sing with me along with Brother Stalin , my friend , and enjoy the journey into the future, as you have no one to blame for this disgusting state of your national art form, than the cowards, and jokers that constituted the PNM leadership from 1956 to May 24th 2010.
    “Brother one day you go wake , and u go here ,Canada is the land of the Limbo,Jamaica is the land of the Steelband , and there is nutting for Trinidadian.
    It is then you go hold your head and bawl , if ah did know, if ah did know, ah woulda hold on to me steelband and kaiso!”

    In ending, here is a test for you Baco our new cultural concern hero. Nelson street boys , and Success Lavantille Secondary ,perhaps won more Junior Panorama Championships ,than any other schools all put together. How many of the kids from those two schools, ever won a scholarship to study music ,or any field of choice? You guess it- zero, and don’t think for a moment that Madame Kamla , and her elitist side kicks Jack, Errol Mac, David Abdullah,and the Mayaho Kisonain /ONE TIME ,Yankee Cowboy crooner ,of ‘little black boy fame,’ are planning to ‘touch that with a ten foot pole.’
    I wish you well.

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