The past 12 months have been an unprecedented success for Cayman’s musical endeavours. With no less than 10 albums and many other singles released, things were extremely exciting, says Cayman Music and Entertainment Association head Jean-Eric ‘Notch’ Smith.
“It is unchartered territory – most Caribbean islands of this size do not have that and it shows there is a thriving underground music scene – underground because it is not to the prominence that it should be.
“That’s unfortunate; music is international, it is influential and I am proud of everyone for all their hard work as the recent Homecoming concert and individual launch parties attest to. It shows that there is a following of loyal supporters to local music,” he tells us. The key is to build on that as things go forward and ensure that there is a continued respect for Cayman productions.
“The music association still has a lot to do but we are well on the way; Musaic is our annual music and arts festival on 4th July and we have now started to produce the Battle of the Bands. That is very important – until we put the music to the forefront of the entertainment scene, there really is not an entertainment scene.
“There are too many clubs and bars playing rave music but none that play cultural music, or worse, none of the local music. Most beach bars you hear heavy metal or some alternative music form, or some lobbies you walk in to. These are things that need to be addressed, to try and bring about this change or renaissance in local music,” Notch tells Weekender.
The talent is there
It’s not a case of replacing anything with Cayman music but integrating it because the talent and the technical side are now certainly strong enough to match anything worldwide, he adds.
“That old argument that the recordings aren’t up to par is gibberish and no longer relevant. The talent was always here – in addition to those 10 albums many local artists have put out singles and all those songs should be given high priority and rotation like any new release.
“After a couple of weeks if they should take a back seat to other new music then of course that is understandable but music consumption is all about repetition; the more these songs are put into rotation the more you hear them and the more they are committed to memory. The melodies stick with you and you end up supporting the local artist and buying the product.”
This was ably demonstrated by the recent performance by the band Memory of Justice, whose songs were sung with gusto by members of the Homecoming crowd even two decades or more after the band’s heyday. Music, says Notch, has that power.
“It is a cultural cornerstone and that is one of the things that is suffering in our country – the soul of the nation. We have embraced our multicultural existence because of commerce and the economy, which is well and good, but we should not gain the world and lose our soul. That is a really bad equation,” he notes.
It’s important, therefore, that Cayman’s music has a presence in everyday life, whether that be enshrining more local airplay in law or more. The radio stations could be more active in promoting local music regardless he says.
“We will continue with the good fight and keep our eyes on the goal. The destination is bigger than the obstacles on the journey. It is that accomplishment that we are looking for.”’
A permanent home
Going forward into 2012, the music association hopes to finally secure a permanent office for operations.
“We need a home, somewhere we can interact with the rest of Cayman’s culture because it is a strengthening. A good example was Godspell at the Cayman Drama Society when local musicians did the score.
“With the assistance of the Department of Tourism, once a month during the season we hope to have a Cayman cabaret. Not just to drive people to Pedro Castle, which is a beautiful location, but to expose them to the full gamut of local talent. You can never tell what opportunities might ensue when you expose an international clientele to the local artists.
“It could be that someone who is there is a club owner in New York and wants to bring a Cayman DJ, or there’s a concert promoter who wants to bring a band to open for a big festival in Europe. The opportunities are there but we have to connect these dots; you have to be in it to win it. You cannot just stand on the sideline and expect things to happen – it is all hands on deck.”