A Song of Songs

Bass Like a Boss , Jazz , Music

A Song of Songs

It’s been a busy last week.  So much so that I skaars had time to update this blog. I had 3 gigs this passed week: Brother & Brother at Baboon Boogie (Zula Bar), Ramon Alexander & the Big Five with the Glenn Robertson Jazz Band (Kaleidoscope Cafe) and CueCumber Jazz at a fundraiser for the Athlone Academy of Music.

By the time, I got home on Saturday afternoon – I was quite over music and wasn’t lus to listen to/much less play ANY music! I did however get bitten by the songwriting bug and I managed to write two complete songs this weekend.

I think this fire for songwriting was ignited after getting some really good feedback from a reputable source regarding what Brother & Brother have been doing right, and also what we’ve been doing wrong. That source was Jon Savage (5FM radio presenter and ex-Cassette lead vocalist/songwriter).

Our guitarist Adi had entered us into Converse‘s Get Out of the Garage band competition, where we stood the chance of winning a trip to London to perform at one of its most prestigious clubs.  Jon was one of 3 judges who arduously scrutinised every submission, one being rapper ZuluBoy and another a rep from MTV. Needless to say, we did not win nor make the top 10.  One thing ran through my mind during the entire process: we don’t represent Africa – we are not an African band, we have a very European sound (which isn’t too bad depending on what your tastes are). It was however that one thing that stood against us, one thing I have been trying to push into the sound of the band since we first started. Alas, a revolutionary mind-shift of this magnitude can only be realised naturally and over a period of time – OR if an industry opinion leader unabashedly confronts you with it – nothing withheld. That is precisely what happened.

Two weeks ago Jon Savage posted a podcast on his webpage with the aim of giving feedback to the 150+ bands from around South Africa who had entered the competition. Some he completely disregarded and some he highlighted. This is what he said about Brother & Brother:

“Ok, Brother & Brother – we had a big one about this. ZuluBoy is your biggest fan in the world, he loved you…(All But Left Behind) is a fantastic song. Go check out Brother & Brother, they’re like a really good, straight, solid pop band. Great song, we threw this band around the room for ages and the only thing that really counted against you was to send over a kind of band that sounds like so many English bands…I don’t want to say middle of the road, it’s like an adult contemporary band. There are 10 gazillion of these bands who sound similar to this. Now you are doing this well Brother & Brother, I think you have a great career ahead of you and I just think upping your game is the next step; because you’ve got something special but I couldn’t send…(plays song in background) This is a pretty top song actually! Alright, great. This is a great band. I think this band has a lot of potential, I won’t say a great band. This is a very good band with loads of potential, and I think give this band one more year and we’ll be talking a different story here. This is a serious band writing decent songs, taking what they’re doing seriously BUT are they the band that should represent South Africa? Probably not.”

I have subsequently started following Jon’s songwriting website where he gives tips and in-depth advice on the business of making money from writing songs. It is a very useful resource.

I have also been sending All But Left Behind to various radio stations. In comparison to Jon’s very helpful response above, one of Joburg’s biggest commercial radio stations called the song ‘schizophrenic’ and thought that our bridge part didn’t make sense and that the song wasn’t very cohesive on the whole. This was the first time that I’d heard from anybody that my band has a personality disorder! Earlier this year I downloaded a document from the DIY Musician webpage which explained how difficult it is to get play-listed on commercial radio without the help of a major label or a radio publicist. Now I know why.

The good news is that All But Left Behind has been play-listed on MFM 92.6 in Stellenbosch and has now moved to hot rotation, which means it is getting frequent radio play. Campus and community radio stations are generally more willing to play the music of unknown artists and are not as limited by trends and formulaic songwriting.

The Big Five

The Big Five from Left: Dustin Julius (guitar), Annemie Nel (drums), Ramon Alexander (piano), Josh Prinsloo (bass) and Lou-Anne Stone (sax)

Friday night I played bass for Ramon Alexander’s Big Five jazz project at Kaleidoscope Cafe, opening up for the Glenn Robertson Jazz Band. I have to say, we were cooking! Here is a video of us playing Ramon’s new fusion tune Moegoe.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-k4MDoOEAA]

Glenney…Oh, Glenney

I jokingly made the mistake of saying to the Big Five during our rehearsal that Glenn Robertson was going to spontaneously force us to play the jazz standard Georgia so that he could sing over it (like he did last year when we played at Kaleidoscope Cafe). I didn’t know the chord changes to Georgia and Glenn insisted we do it. I then just followed Ramon’s left hand on the keyboard.

On Friday night, While I was trailing off on the couch backstage I heard Glenn say over the mic, “Joshua Prinsloo come up on stage and do a duet with me! Joshua Prinsloo? Is he still around?” Glenn is one of Brother & Brother’s biggest fans.

The song: Georgia! I didn’t know the lyrics and insisted to Glenn that I came to do this gig as a bassist and not as a singer…

“You’re not a bassist Joshua! You’re a musician!”

…Thanks for the faith Glenn. 🙂

Ramon Alexander & the Big Five + the Glenn Robertson Jazz Band
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