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"one of the many areas that concerns me is the lack of real musicianship among most of the young crop of artists and 'musicians'"

When I think about the state of British black music, one of the many areas that concerns me is the lack of real musicianship among most of the young crop of artists and 'musicians'. I see many of them, as what I refer to as 'music makers' - they can create music, some of it pure class, such as Massive Attack's 'Unfinished Sympathy', so long as there are sequencers and computers. Turn off the electricity, or request they play their music in real-time, and they just can't.

"What a lot of our young music makers are primarily involved in is making records, rather than creating songs. There's a somewhat short-termism inbuilt in this form of activity. Some of the records may be hits of today, but are so faddish they have little long-term economical or cultural capital, because they are so much of their time. And career-wise, without a live circuit as another string to their bow, these music-makers are likely to fall off the scene much faster once their style is felt passé by the record-buying public. I admire several vintage acts that aren't selling records but can fill good-sized venues. How often have we heard of a current chart scrapping concerts due to poor ticket sales, whereas some less well-known or 'world music' act fills venues such as Royal Festival Hall or the Forum.

"I remember Hi-Tension putting an ad in Melody Maker, or some such music paper, for a musician. And then in what seemed like a few months later, there they were tearing it up on Top Of The Pops with hits such as 'Hi-Temsion' and 'British Hustle'. The were one of the leaders of the '70s so-called Brit-funk movement, which relied on real musos, including brass sections (no brass stabs from keyboards in those days!) I also remember seeing Aswad rehearsing in a record shop back room with Drummie's badly-tuned snare drum. Not long after, they became the first UK reggae group to be signed by Island. In between the hits and flops, they consistently toured the world for over twenty years.

"Yes, I'm excited by a lot of the stuff I hear from our young artists, but I can't help thinking too many of them are studio-tied. Some of their music careers can be as good as literally their last hip drum beats. Still, it's encouraging when I'm standing in the Jazz Café and Beverlei Brown informs us that this is her first proper live performance with real band. And, hopefully, when some of our young musicians see the way Beverley Knight rocks and prances in front of her tight band, they'll realise the power of quality songs, which have the capacity to last, and how much more powerful it is having a band playing live instead of relying on a DAT tape. Yes, I know the economics can be prohibitive. But if enough kids want to play instruments live, I'm sure they'd find a way of overcoming the cost barrier."

 

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