A Lot of Music Today Is So Basic. – Entertainment Gurus Weigh In On What Makes An All-Time Hit Song.
Written by Derrick Asaba on February 23, 2021
By Derrick Asaba
Musicians have over the years recorded songs some of which play for days, months, years and others, for generations. The explanation to this phenomenon is merely a union of a number of elements that characterise the inception of the song.
A bet is, some just walk in the recording studio for the sake of a number of projections outside the box of talent. Some think they can be superstars out of the blue and oftentimes regard music as a simple task anyone and everyone can carry the burden of. This usually makes it hard for many musicians to have their songs play time over especially in this era where artistes release songs hour in hour out.
They obviously never learn a thing from their previous experiences. Or are they too rigid to bend for a timely musical tutorial? Frankly the number of songs – classics per se, whose lifespan is a bit lengthy, can be told on a finger count. For bands like Afrigo, possess a whole hill of knowledge on how to arrive at such a destiny. Who wouldn’t twist a bone when a song like Sikulimba is being played in a night club or on the stereo? Not even a today’s teenager. Where is the trick? Music specialists and some artists whose songs have stood the test of time weigh on.
First forward, are the lyrics embedded in the song in question. Afrigo’s Joanita Kawalya and Rachael Magoola concur on this. “A song’s lifetime depends on the message it relays to the people. Message that is culturally accepted for instance in my songs Jim and Tonny, this is fostered beside entertainment. This has partly kept such songs a look-out for always. Topics of mending relationships, preaching against domestic violence and role of women in society are very important and equally appreciated by our culture so much,” Kawalya explained. She added that it is an artist’s obligation to educate masses through their art.
In the same thought, Magoola notes that song lyrics are queer as per the longevity of songs. “If the information in the song is really a call to the audience, people will automatically like it. Such songs tend to touch a way of life or sentiment that affects many people” she added.
In an era where technology advancement is at its peak, Swangz Avenue’s Benon Mugumbya leans his reason to why today’s songs don’t last long to this.
“Currently, one can listen to a song on their mobiles, and watch on TV. In the days of yore, one could listen to their favorite song over the radio once in a while which is different in the present world. When a song is released, many can easily access it and listen to it as many times as they want which needs them to listen to a newer song the next month. Based on such, a song can never last for times,” he said.
In the same perspective, Joseph Batte, a radio personality and music guru thinks that the invention of computers has swept away the essence of quality music production. “Most of the music produced today is made by computers than real instruments and less time is given to production. It is a subject of copy and paste, with a small editing and the song is done which changes the whole narrative. Apparently, most of the songs lack that human element evoked by instruments like the saxophone, guitar, among others,” he said.
Record FM’s Mark-Xtreme, a DJ Show host and creative says, “I think the challenge in Uganda is people don’t collaborate enough. Songwriters, Musicians (that play instruments), producers and the singers are supposed all work together to bring a song to life. But what ends up happening is songs are rushed before they ready to be released.”
Mark further adds that the mixing and mastering needs to be emphasized more adding that some songs are written well, but the mixing and mastering part gets in the way of the song arguing that all this can’t help a song without a relatable story.
“Because some of the hit songs tend to focus on certain trending moments. This wont workout for the song when we are out of that moment.” He says.Rodgers Nyangi, a local producer based in Mbarara city attributes the slow-fading of musical colours to low quality productions. He juxtaposes fallen South African reggae musician and Rastafarian, Lucky Dube’s songs to Uganda’s ‘best-to-date’ musicians; Maddox Ssematimba, Philly Bongoley Lutaaya and the reigning Afrigo band’s arguing that the resonation why their music still plays fresh in people’s ears is the initial production that was absolutely on point. “There are production basics like arrangement of music, use of instruments, which basics are a pipeline through which every song to bear a hit title over generations of time, must put to check,” Nyangi remarked.
Batte objects the fact that lyrics determine the long-lasting of a song. “In Africa, we play happy music which basically is major keys where Kadongo Kamu songs fall. The tune of the song matters most. We have heard and danced to songs in languages we don’t relate to like Congolese. A handful of people in Uganda for example speak ‘Lingala’ but people like such music so much. The instrumentation and orchestration in a song makes it sound fine and irresistible,” he argued.
But to John Kagonda aka Bushington, a song’s lifespan can be attributed to style, artistes, seasons, among others. He however, says that trend and genres top the list. “Some genres have a bigger longevity and don’t die easily for example Soul, RnB, Reggae, and Pop. These genres are not consumed so much compared to dance hall and hip hop which play time and again anywhere and are not affected by trends.
Bushington adds, “Situational songs too, don’t die that is to say, worship songs because they can be inherited over generations. About trends, if a song is trending, it will be consumed more because it is attached to moments and emotions. Take an instance of Ssemyekozo and Parte after Parte, these trended because they had moments attached to them. These cannot still play high ten years after.”
To put out good work worth appreciation, Kawalya lends her brains on this; Music is a summarised story. When writing a song, it should flow as a story. Like in English essay writing which includes an introduction, body and conclusion, so should in a song. But when you look at the kind of music produced lately, it’s just the opposite. An artist writes three lines and off they head to studios for recording. At times these artists lack this feeling.
Musicians ought to learn how to build songs. When one is still new, they sometimes need to consult for guidance. This has however, turned tails in that people can’t trust one another with their craft for they can eventually claim its ownership. If you give your song to someone who has experience, they can nurture you and build on your song to make it better. Some of us were helped by our seniors. We could write our songs and people like Moses Matovu tune fine them. It sounds mature and ripe in terms of arrangement so that you produce something at your standard.
Shading light on what musicians ought to do to play in people’s minds after generations, Batte advises to invest and learn an instrument. He wonders of singers who can neither play an instrument nor know the keys they sing in but go on to claim the ‘title’.
“How can one be a singer and don’t know the key they sing in and go on to claim you’re a singer? There is now mass production of songs but with poor quality. Music needs time. All the artists we hail greatness for, took time to produce their songs. There is a lack of music education. There is no shortcut to music, you either know or don’t know,” he advised.
He further noted that artists ought to know what they want and go for it. “It’s not all about putting a song out. The songs also last longer because musicians ago weren’t battling, fighting or stabbing each other. They were only challenged to produce good music alongside many bands. Every school had its own band like Buddo which could teach their students to learn how to play instruments. The lifespan of a song has to do with music knowledge (education) which includes the formula of making a hit song, to write a very good song and so much more,” said Batte.
Magoola noted that a lot of the music nowadays is so basic melodic wise. There is nothing to remember about it. The words mean nothing to be memorable. It catches fire for a while and disappears like foam. Any musician who wants their songs to last long should be more concerned about the quality of the music they are doing. Longevity comes from the quality of work one produces not the hype birthed at the arrival of the song.
As I pen this down, I quote Batte who in reference to this notion said that, ‘There is no shortcut to music. You either know or don’t know’. To raise the game up, some issues have to be made up so we can raise eyebrows no more when certain music is played day by day and the other, not.