Lyrics: Prescription or description?
Let's Talk ReggaeSunday, April 11, 2021
For quite a number of years my colleagues and I have perpetuated the narrative that music is one of the greatest tools that creation has given to mankind. Upon reflecting on the definition of the word 'tools', I was reminded that tools can extend to our ability to modify the features of an environment. That has solidified my philosophy that everyone who gets a chance to deal with music has the opportunity to change the world for the better, and the responsibility not to make it worse, which would be inclusive of their neck of the woods.
Big stories are reported on everyday by journalists around the world. Fake or credible information is placed on a variety of platforms for people to see, hear or read. On the other hand, our Jamaican musical connoisseurs create music on a daily basis that journeys to the four corners of the planet and is received by warm and lubricant ears at every port of entry.
That being said, can you imagine the enormous power that sits at our fingertips waiting to be used?
If we ramp up the lyrical content of our music with positive influences that can be a prescription for society, rather than simply just being a mirror reflecting what is happening in these streets, what a powerful impact we would have on the world. This could bring forth the change we all are looking for.
The debate about the influence or non-influence of music in our backyard is a never-ending one. There has been offensive and defensive justification, and even research papers presented around this topic for years, yet the understanding of the gatekeepers continues to be polarising, much to the detriment of a united front which is what is required in order to formulate a plan to move forward and allow us to maximise the potential of the great platform we have through our indigenous Jamaican music.
When I think about the massive influence of our rhythm and melodies on the world's population, I am convinced that if the appropriate words are attached there will be an inevitable paradigm shift in the minds of our people. If you continue to hear that you should, “Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights,” sooner rather than later you will be doing just that especially if the results are explained in ball-by-ball description and they are good. My experiences have taught me that impressionable minds are here for the taking. So, by our solicitation the decision will be made as to what we will or will not harvest in the near future.
Let it be clear. The comprehensive change for better that we need will only come to pass when every individual, every organisation, all businesses, each household with the exception of none, makes a concerted effort to use all the influential powers that we possess in a positive way, for the benefit of self, family, country and, by extension, the world.
Having said this, I can already visualise many comments that are bound to arise and hear the endless questions. My answer will still be yes, without a doubt, and definitely in the affirmative. All the above mentioned are not far-fetched. They are within our reach, and are filled with unlimited possibilities.
When you listen to advertising for items ranging from fast food to false medicine, political campaigns to most businesses, music is the common factor that powers their messages to the ears of the people, intending to obtain a positive response.
Technological advancement has provided new ways to get music in every ear, even the deaf. So we have no excuse. The tools that we have should not be utilised in the destruction of ourselves, but rather for the advancement of the whole human race. The choice is ours!
In this op-ed I deliberately use the opportunity to encourage the music family to be a little more cognisant of the power we have through this art form to make significant changes. I do not want to be a part of the chorus that uses and abuses, then comes with scapegoating, bashing, and blaming music for the results of generational mistakes. Twenty-eight years ago, I uttered “be careful what you teach the little children”, had we applied and multiplied that message, we could have saved the majority of our millennials.
However, the journey continues, and it's never too late to sow good seeds in order to harvest good fruits. When we describe, please prescribe and when we prescribe make sure it is positive so that the future generation can benefit, and history will see us as critical thinkers.
Patrick “Tony Rebel” Barrett, OD, JP is a recording artiste, promoter, producer, cultural activist, and motivational speaker. His first release was the single Casino that appeared in 1988 on the MGB record label, although his career took off when he worked with Donovan Germain's Penthouse set up in the early 1990s. He had a big hit in 1990 with Fresh Vegetable, and became identified as part of a movement known for their cultural, message-driven, traditional reggae at a time when dancehall music and deejays were more popular. In 1992 he signed a deal with Columbia Records who released Vibes of the Times, a predominantly reggae fusion album, the following year. In 1994 he founded his record label, Flames. That same year, he held a reggae festival named Rebel Salute in Mandeville, Jamaica. It has developed into an annual event, spread over two days in January each year.
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