CREATIVE SPACE #16 of 2020 (uploaded September 23rd 2020)
CREATIVE SPACE is a series spotlighting local art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 and ran to 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. There are plans for its continued evolution across multiple media platforms. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, and freelancer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared on September 23rd 2020 in the Daily Observer: Creative Space Talking Music in the Daily Observer
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with extras.
If you would like to be featured or to sponsor (i.e. advertise with) a future installment of the jhohadli.wordpress.com online edition of CREATIVE SPACE, BOOSTing your BRAND while boosting Antigua-Barbuda Art and Culture, contact Joanne.
CREATIVE SPACE: TALKING MUSIC WITH DJ JIME
“Music is everything.”
So begins my conversation with DJ Jime, and music is quite literally his life.
The popular DJ has 15 years in the game. But his love of music began in the pan yard – and if you’re from Ottos, as he is, that’s the Ebonites pan yard in particular. Or perhaps it began earlier, when, at seven or eight, the now 33-year-old tuned in to Governor Slim’s show on ZDK for a Burning Flames album release. He remembers being “enthralled” by the music of the band that from the mid-80s onward re-defined soca.
Jime started DJing while studying in Cuba in 2007. “There’s no TV, no internet, (so) we used to throw a lot of parties and there wasn’t an Antiguan DJ…so the Antigua music wasn’t being played.” He stepped up, and, in time, “I used to travel up and down Cuba playing (music).” A lot of his gigs then were the various island Independence celebrations. He got sick and returned home for a time, DJing at various Antiguan nightclubs, before wrapping his college years in Louisiana where he earned his degree in accounting with a minor in marketing, both of which he’s put to use in his professional life (not only as a DJ and event promoter but providing accounting services for small businesses). While in the American south, Jime DJ’d mostly house parties about which he said, “I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without that platform.” Professional development aside, playing music he didn’t feel so alone.
When he came home, the side hustle became the main gig. “In the beginning, it was really a struggle.” But as he got more and more bookings, he started to feel “maybe this can work.”
And it had been. In addition to gigs, he had four annual events of his own – Best Brunch Ever in January, Up for Labour Day, Rise during Carnival, and DDF Independence weekend. Twenty 20 put a stop to his event promotion, accounting services, and DJing.
“This would have been one of my best years as a DJ. (I had) bookings different places I’d never been to before … a lot of firsts …and the pandemic just said ‘you have other plans’.” He admits to being “totally depressed” in March but then he turned to music, and in so doing he wasn’t just playing, during his virtual sets, for the people; music was his therapy.
We talked music quite a bit; and especially Antiguan music: for instance, about recently departed Swallow, one of the Big Three of Antiguan calypso. “It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Jime said, “but next year when it’s Carnival and we have these nostalgic events like Vintage and Breakfast Fete and we don’t have individuals like Edimelo and Swallow on them, there is going to be a huge void, it’s going to be so weird …I’m not looking forward to that feeling.”
Of Swallow, in particular, he said, “I don’t think (we) understand the full impact of what Swallow means not only in Antigua but around the Caribbean …and that’s sad because Swallow meant so much to the art form…he’s one of the artists that took up the bpm (beats per minute)…it’s one of the things that helps to define what soca means to the people…without Swallow we would not have a lot of the soca that we hear today…his style of writing, the word play (provided a) base for artists (today).” Highlighting but not limiting it to the Big Three and trailblazers like Burning Flames, Jime said, there needs to be documentation, teaching, and appreciation of Antiguan and Barbudan musical history, and examination of how to define and maintain that distinctively Antiguan sound.
He doesn’t think renaming a competition or a plaque will do Swallow justice; he suggests instead a youth development programme that honours Swallow while continuing his life’s work.
As for Jime’s life’s work, he looks forward to getting his events back on track when it’s safe to do so; but for the meantime, having recently produced his own riddim for the first time, he’s taking the free time and the clearer mind this season of stillness has forced upon us, to reorganize and is looking forward to getting more in to the creation of music.
DJ Jime on…
Coping in 2020
“To be honest, I’ve just tried to interact with negativity as little as possible; keep (my) mind off what is going on as much as possible.”
DJing in 2020
“As of now, it’s a little hard to monetize DJing online.”
“I did a production this year. I wrote a song and produced a rhythm. That’s one of the things I want to get deeper in to…I think I have a responsibility in aiding the way that our soca ages.”
Learning from others in the DJ community
“DJ Nez guided me. …Actually when I started, I used to lift up speaker for Nez. I went through the trenches. That’s why I have so much appreciation for the art form.”
“The younger DJs are taking the art form to another level. They’re doing what I can’t do. … I don’t see the younger DJs as competition. …We all feed off each other.”
Searching for the Antiguan sound
“I think they’re (Burning Flames) underrated, their contribution to soca is heavily underrated… Burning Flames definitely got out there…(but) I think had it been in this age…understanding how proud you can be of your island and social media being this tool (they could have been bigger) … I think we have a lot of blame in that…you don’t appreciate greatness until it’s gone… and I think that’s one of the things we experienced in Antigua… we didn’t really appreciate who Burning Flames was until they have stopped being as dominant as they were.”
“Post (the) dominance of Burning Flames, I think we’re still trying to find what an Antiguan sound sounds like…there’s an emergence of great producers in Antigua; artists just need to have more confidence in utilizing Antiguan producers (and) writers. …We need to hold the mantle more as ambassadors (of the Antiguan sound).”
Capitalizing on the technology
“I don’t think our artists use the internet nearly as much as we could…They’re not as engaging, not posting enough content, not enough music.”
(He names Ricardo Drue as a notable exception)
Evaluating the Music Scene
“There’s nothing called too much music. We should be doing as much songs as we can just to break out, see what songs fit in the market in the Caribbean.”
Evaluating our musical crossovers
“A lot of our breakthroughs are songs that speak to what it is to be Antiguan”
Explaining what’s missing
“One of the things we’re missing is unity… (also) what we’re missing in Antigua is artist management.”
“I think here we’re focused too much on competition …a lot of them think the end all is the competition …and there is so much more to being a soca artist right now.”
“The Big Three (Swallow, Obstinate, Short Shirt) need to be documented. Our musical history needs to be documented and taught in schools, visually it needs to be in documentaries…(we need to do) more interviews with our entertainment icons while they’re still dominant and before they leave dominance…that’s the way we hold on to our culture, by teaching it.”
“I think we’re too dependent on the government to promote our artists …the onus of the artist’s career is up to the artist…(but) the government definitely has a large role in curating our history.”
“When I go to events I try to get there early. The people that are there are the most important part of your sets. (Reading the energy of the people) is one of the most important things to me, more than planning out a set. Djing is not about you, it’s not about what you like…figuring out what people want to hear is one of the most important things for the artist in Antigua.”
Pulling from his listing of Antiguan soca songs that are favourites of recent years that will stand the test of time – or CREATIVE SPACE DJ Jime #looocal set
Out dey – CP
In the middle – Tian
Stamp your name – Ricardo Drue
Mating season – MJ
Fete – Menace
Fish Dance – Low Rider
Cool It Down – Tian
Naming favourite example of Antiguan calypso
Antigua by Rupert Baba Blaize
“I can’t tell you how amazing that song is lyrically, amazing… say the name of the song the lyrics come to your mind…it’s one of my all time favourite songs”.
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