Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Where is Malawi’s Roots Radics?


Well, as I said some weeks ago I will constantly be referring to the West Indies Island of Jamaica when it comes to an example of a highly successful music industry. This will be regardless of its third world status although it is achieving a substantial economic growth.
The Caribbean Sea Island nation is the third most populous Anglophone country in America after the US and Canada with a population of 2.8 million.
Nonetheless, most of the population speak an interesting dialect called Patois pronounced Patwah; a mixture of African, Amerindian, English, Spanish and French languages. This dialect has also dominated the Jamaican music industry.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) the music industry in Jamaica grew at a rate of about 5 percent per year between 1991 and 1996 but in 1997, this translated into nearly US$38.1 billion in legitimate sales of sound recordings, mainly comprising LPs and CDs.

In 2000, sound recordings were estimated at US$39.1 billion globally.

However, by 2005, a clear division emerged between recorded music, which accounted for US$33 billion globally, and a much broader music sector from subscription radio to ring tones worth more than US$100 billion globally – well over three times the market for recorded music.

Partly in response to piracy problems, the live performances segment of the industry has also grown dramatically to account for about US$14 billion in 2005.

A Report called ‘The economic Contribution of Copyright-Based Industries in Jamaica’ prepared by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) says copyright-based industries have emerged as an important part of Jamaica’s economy and society, influencing and transforming it as well as traditional sociology and policy.

It says Copyright output, which has both a marketable and non-marketable “tacit” form, is becoming increasingly important both as an intangible capital resource (input) that is not consumed entirely during its use and as a final consumer good or service.1

It says in music, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, international investors began to cooperate with local investors to develop domestic capital and tacit knowledge, transform domestic comparative advantage, and market the product locally and globally on terms that pushed Bob Marley and the Wailers, in particular, and Jamaican reggae and dancehall, in general, to the forefront of global music.

One way of ensuring that the industry is vibrant is where there has been division of labour. When one is an instrument player, he will perfect this aspect, the same way as a music distributor or marketer will perfect this art.
In Jamaica when I am a rhythm guitarist for example, I am going to group with other accomplished instrument players to form a band that can be hired out.
The starting point perhaps would be the Wailers Band that backed Bob Marley. While this was being considered as one unit, it was Gregory Isaacs, the late, who brought to the industry a different definition.
He formed a band called ‘The Roots Radics’ which was a composition of accomplished players of instruments.
Drums: Style Scott; Bass: Flabba Holt; Guitar: Eric Bingy Bunny Lamont; Guitar: Dwight Pinkney; Keyboards: Earl Fitzsimmons; Percussion: Style, Flabba, Bingy, Dwight
Roots Radics started formally in 1978 as a group of well known respected artists, brought together by superstar Gregory Isaacs to back his recording endeavours.
The concept of being a ‘group’ really stuck as they continued to back Gregory Isaacs.
And when they further backed Yellow Man ‘Winston Foster’, Eek-A-Mouse,’Ripton Hilton’, Clint Eastwood &General Saint, The Wailing Souls, Don Carlos, Linval Thompson, Frankie Paul, The Meditations, Sugar Minott, Shine head, Culture, Bunny Wailer, Prince Far-I, Adrian Sherwoods, roots Radics became a band for hire.
The Roots Radics special sound is rootsy, heavy and danceable. They are masters of the cool and deadly ‘one-drop’ sound.
In Dub history the Roots Radics were the musicians on a majority of Scientist’s historic productions. Under the pseudonym ‘The Arabs”, they backed Prince Far-I on his most crucial Dub recordings.
As recording artists, on their own merits, the Roots Radics have released records for RAS, Heartbeat, Taboui and Trojan Records.
They are in hot demand by Jamaican record producers and artists such as Bunny Wailer and Barrington Levy and can be heard on countless Jamaican albums.  
In Malawi, just to ensure that the industry has to find room of growth, there is need to create a Roots Radics like grouping of the Peter Likhomos  and the Dan Sibales of this Malawi music world so that musicians and vocal groups, like Wailing Souls or Israel Vibrations can hire them for live performances or studio sessions.  
In so doing, we will be able to start counting, how much our music industry is contributing to the economy of the country.
Feedback: drummingpen@columnist.com

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