build yuh riddim
me at norman manley airport, ready for a real red-eye flight
it was just about a year ago that i was returning from kingston after spending the month teaching some young people how to make beats, or build riddims, on computers. the course that i was offering was made possible by the remarkable marvin hall, an enterprising educator who's been working to give jamaican youth cutting-edge access to new technologies, especially in the burgeoning field of digital media.
marvin looking all introspective and shit
in 2003, marvin was working as a highschool teacher in kingston. it was marvin who, taking his own initiative and seeing the potential in what we were offering, connected me and bec to camper down high school, where we conducted digital music workshops that spring. since then, marv's quit the teaching job--which, if you can believe it, is even less rewarding in jamaica than it is here in babylon--and he's been spending his time as a private tutor and, more importantly, an educational entrepreneur. last year marked the launch of his summer-session creation labs, centered on digital music and lego-robotics (as in "lego yuh mind"!). i was happy to be a part of the team.
the halls of learning crew, 2004
this summer, marvin added video-game creation and 3D animation to the curriculum, though i believe that the music course remains the most popular. unfortunately, being waist-deep in my dissertation, i had to forego the pleasure of teaching another "build yuh riddim" course this summer. fortunately, marvin had two able instructors in jason and john, my assistant teachers from last year and two talented musicians and producers in their own right.
me, john, and jason outside the lab, UWI-Mona
the icing on the cake is that jason was a former student of mine at camper down, where he quickly distinguished himself as a producer of uniquely melodic and driving riddims. jason and john were just here in cambridge with marvin at the end of june, attending a seminar at berklee on the music business. i'm happy to see that they're both advancing in their own careers as they continue to offer their expert ears and tips-and-tricks to new students. it was good to catch up with them and do a little planning together for this summer's session.
in addition to helping with the "build yuh riddim" curriculum, i decided--given the resurgence of interest in one-drop riddims--to create a likkle "roots riddims tutorial" for use in this summer's session. for those who have seen my previous "music lessons" (composed back in 2003), you'll recognize a number of similarites: a focus on FL (which is still, in my opinion, the best program for beat-making beginners), an attempt to lay out stylistic parameters in a simple, straightforward manner, and a desire to encourage people with absolutely no "musical training" to get right into it. i'm all about giving people the tools and all about encouraging people to use their own ears and sense of taste in order to figure out, in real-time, how they want their music to sound. of course, for experts and experienced practitioners, these lessons will come across as rudimentary, perhaps even as dangerously simplistic, but they are intended, above all, for beginners. if i were to compose them again today, i would no doubt do so differently, and i think the "roots riddims tutorial" moves in that direction, with greater attention to detail and variations (of course, that was partially demanded by roots reggae's greater dependence on "traditional" approaches to harmony, etc.). at any rate, i hope that some people find these things useful. i know that many folks who've stumbled onto them on the great-google-gaggle (i mean, world-wide-web) have found them helpful.
i haven't received the full report on how this year's courses went yet, but i trust that a good number of young jamaicans came away with a new way of seeing the world and making their own way in it. unfortunately, i think that the creations labs have generally been undersubscribed, which is a shame. marvin personally sponsors a lot of young people in kingston who wouldn't otherwise have access to such opportunities. i only wish that his efforts and investments could pay off in ways other than personal fulfillment. someone inna JA needs to give this guy his own school--and soon--before he's courted off the to US.
fi true: hallsoflearning is for the children! (i mean, the "youth dem"!)