Barbadian Music, Radio and “Cuhdear Syndrome” by Veteran Musician Mike Hulsmeier

{NB – More unexpurgated venting about devolution of Barbados’ Entertainment Industry from Splashband co-founder, Mike Hulsmeier: 2nd rant from his facebook collection}

“The truth is an offence…but not a sin. Bob Marley

In my view what is going on now is eroding the great foundation built by artistes like The Merrymen, Gabby, RPB, Spice & Co, Edwin & Krosfyah, Alison & Square One, Rupee & producers Eddie Grant, Nicholas Brancker, Chris Allman, Peter Coppin, Terry Arthur & Darron Grant…to name a few…..People who took our music allll the way to the big yard of Trinidad carnival and then upward and onward to wherever soca is played in the world. It really hurts me that we now seem to be allowing the road they paved to be mashed up and grown over with bush…making it more and more difficult to pass thru. When I listen to the radio I can’t help but think we are going backwards ….. some things sound like rush work and too much of the mek sport thing and too few of the really good songs…….everything has it’s place but when mek sport becomes the norm and the music that can actually take us forward is being given the smaller space where sporty once lived, it becomes a problem for those who are serious about taking bajan music beyond these shores.

The names I mentioned paved the way with good music, good production, many hours spent getting it right…and good writing.. I forgot to mention that Darron Grant produced a tune right here in B’town that got us all the way to Billboard!!! The first time i logged onto Billboard and saw Tempted To Touch. I was like YEEEEAAAAH!!! WE’RE FINALLY MOVIN ON UP!!! We are overflowing with the talent to make some more of that happen. If my memory serves me correctly we have like 5 or 6 SIGNED ARTISTES!! To MAJOR LABELS.

But what eats away at me is the fact that if the likes of Rihanna, Shontelle, Livvi Franc, Hal Linton and J-CO were still in Bim unknown and doing what they do they would pretty much be ignored. They certainly wouldn’t get enough support to make them into stars here and they certainly wouldn’t be bigger than the popular mek sport people. Don’t we see a problem here? People are coming down here and snapping up all our talent while we focus mostly on mekkin sport. Anyway with respect to our soca it is the ones that travel that really fly the flag and get the attention and there are quite a few more that could travel than actually do…but we don’t give them the right treatment on radio so they come over as Crop Over flops. Statistics will show that relative success at crop over gives you more chance of getting a buzz outside…i.e. Trinidad.

If we are about building an industry where we will be taken seriously we need to wake up. Radio and the Djs have a big part to play in us creating an industry but it seems like some of the djs have become more about themselves….it’s more about them than it is about the music…….music is bigger than any of us and all of us put together….so lets humble up and deal with the music again…….another issue is that of the radio DJ and producer being one and the same person. This creates conflict …. the door is left open for artistes to cuss and say dj this or that only playin what he produces or whatever.. perhaps playlists could be created by the program managers and given to the djs in an effort to resolve this somewhat.

One more. We have what I call the “Cuhdear Syndrome” here in Barbados. We hear it all the time. “Cuhdear man…give dem a chance neh“. Contrary to popular belief, this is not helping those who need help. When you can take people who are simply not ready and write them up in the paper, put them on TV, play their songs on the radio….or as has been the case at some shows: have bands who are not quite up to par backing the likes of Natahlee, RPB, Biggie Irie etc…..what do they have to aspire to??…by giving them a chance in the big league before they are ready aren’t we telling them they are good enough? And what about those to come after??
They will know they ain’t gotta be all that to get some recognition.. this is how the standards drop and mediocrity becomes the order of the day.

When I started out in 1987 there were pretty high standards set all round and you had to really work your way up…you couldn’t expect to get airplay if your stuff was not up to scratch…and you could not get a gig opening for Spice Or 2nd Avenue if you didn’t have ur stuff together. When you did get an opportunity to play alongside a top band you would get half hour or 40 minutes……..and you would pick the 4 or 5 songs you did best and rehearse the sh*t out of them because you didn’t want someone like Alan Sheppard or Nicholas Brancker or Turo to come over and basically say…wunna need to REHEARSE MAAAAN!…..we wanted desperately to impress them…They were the best around and we wanted to be like them. And don’t talk about playing in an actual band WITH them…as was the case when we had the Feb Fest shows at The After Dark.

All the musicians would come together and we would create bands by genre…spouge band…reggae band…soca band…R&B band..etc….it was an honour to be included and you knew you were included because they thought you were good enough..but you now realise ur actually playing alongside the likes of Nicholas, Turo, John Roett, Ian ‘Hoggit‘ Alleyne, Gregory Hunte, Boo Husbands etc….and the moment you stepped outta line attitude wise or played shyte they would let you know it…and not in the nicest terms….they were all very proficient in expletives when necessary…..bottom line was…you could eventually get in with the best…but you had to work your ass off and be ready….it’s that simple. That’s all I have to say about that.

Thank you.

Mikey Hulsmeier.

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2 Responses

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  1. great article. couldnt agree more. the mek sport thing has a time and place but the music thing is a craft and practitioners need to hone it and be serious and evolve the music and represent when given the chance.

    couple of random scatterbrained things popped into my head. one was the bajan artist who allegedly came to canada a few years ago with his one hit song, performed blind drunk forgot the words and was absolutely crap. artistes be professional especially when representing abroad.

    second thing was you never know whats going to be big where. When i first came to canada (1991) every fete i went to even if it wasnt all soca they always played that song "do dixie" by a one hit artist whose name escapes me except that I remember in Barbados we all thought it was a joke song. turns out that song was really popular up here. I mean djs usually played maybe 2 or 3 bajan calypsos back then (Krosfyah and square one werent big yet). it was RPB's ragga ragga, something by Gabby either Boots or dr Cassandra and this do dixie song. So ya never can tell what going to be big where.

    third. the comment about radio djs being producers made me wonder if there a payola issue in Bim like there is in the states where certain artists pay to get play which better songs and artists get bumped. not saying there is just asking

  2. This is so true of our music industry today. Too many radio dj's and their friends are "producers" who own bedroom studios. The music played by these dj's consists mainly of what comes out of these studios.
    There is all the "poor black man" syndrome at play here. Everyone wants to be given a chance and they should, but if the talent is not there why should poor quality music be allowed on the air waves or at shows.
    Everyone wants to be famous and Crop Over is the vehicle which some people use to gain popularity.
    Barbadians love mediocrity.


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