Remix Culture Alive And Well In Jamaica

from the all-those-different-songs,-so-few-copyright-issues dept

The folks at Creative Commons might want to send someone down to Jamaica. Salon is running an article looking at the sudden success (in the marketing sense) of Jamaican dancehall music – a form of music that’s been popular for decades in Jamaica. What’s most interesting, though, is how the various Jamaican dancehall artists make their songs. First, there’s a producer who comes up with a “riddim.” If the riddim is popular and catchy all sorts of musicians will try to make a song based on that riddim. Off of a single riddim, different musicians create many different songs – many of which can become popular. Read through the article, though, and try to find worries about copyrights or licensing or intellectual property. They don’t exist. This is Creative Commons’ vision of a “remix culture” at work. Musicians want to work with the best riddims to help get themselves more popularity, and riddim writers want to get the best musicians to record over their riddim. Out of this, comes a variety of creative songs – all quite different. Even with all of this, there’s commercial success, as well, as the best songs appear on albums and the best artists have marketability. While it must seem like chaos for those in the established recording industry, it certainly seems a lot more vibrant and creative than the local recording industry.

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Comments on “Remix Culture Alive And Well In Jamaica”

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Adrian Anders (user link) says:

Re: Bad Apple Accountability

It’s hard to believe that you can state that seriously. Have you LISTENED to music put out my majors lately. Holy crap, I’ve listened to better music in an elevator. I personally think indies are a much better source for good music than majors. Yes, with underground bootleg/remix culture you have to wade through some pretty awful stuff, but if one were to take the advice of people in the know (blogs, friends, trusted music sites), you can find the real gems out there. Much like dancehall riddims, mash-ups get played out on a regular basis (really, how many “Get Your Freak On” mixes do we need?), but then someone flips it around and pushes the game up higher and we are all the better for it. Electronic music (including Hip-hop & Dancehall/Dub) is a competitive game, if you don’t keep innovating, you get left behind, period. I think this type of competition makes the music better in the long run, as each producer takes what was there before him, and makes it his/her own.


Khyron (user link) says:

Riddim culture

This is what I like to see. The article seems to overlook the history of riddims, and it definitely doesn’t get into the counterarguments (for example, riddim-driven songs are becoming bigger in the more well known Carnival countries such as Trinidad and there has been some critical backlash against them there as well). I find it odd that old practictioners of the art are not covered better – a little more history (scant mention of Buju, no mention of Beenie Man, a look at past popular riddims which anyone who has visited a dancehall is familiar with – “Joyride” for good example). American media coverage at work, I suppose.

The point is made, and I think there are lessons in it for the American music indutry. Riddim-driven music has a place, as do the standards that are defined in IETF RFCs for the Internet and technology standards for GSM (look at the problems with uptake of [re]writable DVDs for how lack of standards impedes progress). They create a platform upon which creativity can flourish, by creating a common and accepted starting point. At the same time, originality in the form of new beats is always welcome. Dancehall must not become mired in being only about riddims, but at the same time, I don’t worry about this. Riddims serve a purpose, and the artists that have made it big, such as a Buju or Beenie Man or Sean Paul, understand this as well I’m sure.

Anyway, for the curious, just find the following tracks and listen to them, for a demonstation of the power of di riddim: “Who You Wanna Dis” – Beenie Man, “Everyone Falls in Love” – Tanto Metro & Devonte, “Up Close and Personal” – Buju Banton. The US music industry could learn a thing or to (I mean, really learn) but something tells me they won’t.

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