Entertainment

'Gimme di flow'

McKenzie makes case for patois

By Aaliyah Cunningham
Observer writer
aaliyahc@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, July 12, 2019

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Media and communication consultant, Clyde McKenzie, says it is an artiste's ability to articulate outside of lyrics that contribute to marketability of their songs overseas. He made this observation based on recent pronouncements by Sean Paul that it is difficult for dancehall artistes to make it outside of Jamaica because of the “language barrier”.

In an interview with BBC Radio1 Newsbeat, the Grammy winner said, “People speaking in hardcore patois, it's kind of hard for people to understand so that's a big factor. I'm able to speak in a little tongue where someone can understand me.”

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer's Splash, McKenzie said people have to unpack Sean Paul's statement to understand what he meant.

“I do not believe he was saying to completely disparage and renounce the language (patois). There are few people who are better able to speak intelligibly for a wider audience to understand. What he is saying is not to change the music delivery, in terms of our interaction with international markets, through interviews, etcetera. We need to be able to speak to an international audience in a way that they are able to understand. It is not that we need to change our music to fit the audience,” he explained.

According to McKenzie, one key factor to a song's international success is the vibe listeners feel when they listen to the music.

“One of the things that is important is the energy. For example, one of Sean Paul's songs (says) ' Just Gimme the Light and pass the dro', he said that in patois and people loved it. But when he goes on an interview, he speaks English, that people across the world are able to understand,” he told Splash.

He also referenced Koffee.

“She is making music that is primarily in the dialect and they are hits around the world! But, when she does an interview she is able to articulate herself. She is able to speak in a way that people understand and say, 'Oh, she is articulate and smart'. So it is the energy of the song that counts,” McKenzie said.

Furthermore, he pointed to songs such as Despacito by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and a remake by Justin Bieber, as having international success even though it was in a different language. It was the energy of the song that caught listeners and not the language the lyrics were delivered in. La Macarena by Los Del Rio is another instance.

McKenzie has over 35 years experience in the music and entertainment arenas. He was once a senior member of Shocking Vibes Records, which produced crossover hits like Beenie Man's Oysters and Conch and Nuff Gal.

He has seen cases where Jamaican artistes 'flopped' because they changed their delivery to appeal to international audiences.

“Historically, they (artistes) have tried to sound more like the international singers and performers, and we have suffered because of it. There were a number of songs in which you found that there was a tendency to move from the strong delivery of patois in an effort to cross over,” McKenzie explained.

He added that rather than telling Jamaican artistes to relax their patois, major record companies would make the song with an overseas act to soften the dialect. That led to a number of remixes with artistes such as Super Cat, with rappers Heavy D and Kriss Kross and surfer band Sugar Ray.

However, McKenzie has noticed a shift in this strategy as pop acts are now seeking to use Jamaican artistes to 'harden' their sound.

“They want to use patois and incorporate it in their songs and bring Jamaican artistes into remixes. We need to stick to how we do our music, people find that attractive; we should be able to reach a broader audience without losing the appeal,” he said.


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