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September 3, 2010
It’s a rare song that’s great to dance to but also isn’t so overpowering that it doesn’t get “in the way” when you just want to enjoy a tune in the background at an event while you have a drink. It’s rarer still to find a song that is able to do that, but additionally, is friendly enough to appeal to a wide range of listeners while feeling fresh and even a bit edgy.
Popular dancehall artist Shaggy’s song “Dance & Shout,” does all this effortlessly. This tune takes the groove and chorus of the popular – but not overplayed – Jacksons song “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” and lays over it a sunny, slightly raw vibe that gives the original song’s disco polish a kick in the pants and turns the song’s original fun but slightly predictable mood into one that’s still friendly, but also more sexy and bad-ass.
Combining sunniness, sexiness, and a little bad-assness is what the genre of dancehall often does best. Dancehall began in the 1980s as a sound that added faster rhythms to reggae and ska, often using programmed synth riffs as well and adopting a more aggressive, hip-hop-influenced attitude. However, despite its more in-your-face style – one that at times embroils it in controversy over violent lyrics much like some of harder-edged hip hop and rap – much dancehall still has a message no more troubling than insisting you party a lot, as well as keeping at some level the festive, tropical vibe of reggae and ska. In the U.S., dancehall artists like Shaggy, Beenie Man and most notably Sean Paul rose to popularity in the mid ‘90s and since then the genre (and its influence on other styles) has been common on the top 40 charts.
That said, at certain events – even being long-time DJs in New York City – we encounter more conservative crowds that haven’t heard of Sean Paul’s mega-hit “Get Busy,” or older guests who, if you’d mention Beenie Man to them, they might think you’re talking about a peculiar fellow who wears stocking caps all the time, instead of realizing you’re referring to one of the more well-known dancehall singers. That’s why a song like “Dance & Shout” is great – it can open people’s mind to the genre who might never have heard it or danced to it. Because of this song’s familiar foundation, it’s not so harsh or unfamiliar that it would alienate these guests, and it might – given a couple drinks – even “hook” them into going along with more dancehall songs afterward. Even if you choose not to play more dancehall, you can easily transition from “Dance & Shout” into disco, R & B, or modern top 40 hip-hop.
“Dance & Shout” is great for all kinds of events that include a portion of dancing, or for cocktail mixers. But because the song has such a accessible sexy energy to it, it also will fit in nicely at art openings where a bit of a sunny pop vibe seems appropriate, as well as atfashion shows, as either atmosphere or runway music.
Have a listen…
Shaggy – Dance & Shout
Where Should You Start When Deciding What Music To Include at Your Event? Start With Your “Dream List” of Songs
June 29, 2010
When we meet to talk with clients about music for their event, often the first thing we notice is that they've already dejectedly decided the music they really like and want to hear won't be able to be played at their event.
It may be a designer in a fashion show thinking that the music she wants to use for her fashion line will be too ethereal a sound to keep the audience interested. Or a couple who loves moody acoustic indie pop but thinks it would be too much of a downer to play a little at their wedding Or an organizer of a corporate party who worries that the employees won’t dance because they tend to like raw Southern hip-hop and their bosses wouldn’t. Whatever the case, whatever the event, it seems this kind of unfortunate premature musical censorship is everywhere.
It often comes from a good place of common sense or consideration, like an organizer at a art opening knowing that prospective buyers might not want to hear his beloved deep cuts of ‘70s classic rock all night long. But some of our clients’ decisions that their favorite songs or genres won’t work comes not from a good place at all, but instead from having met with conventional, unimaginative DJs that tend to work for bigger, more cookie-cutter DJ companies. We’ve heard from these clients that some of these DJs have told them straight up that the only way to get a party movin’ is to play disco all night.
Whatever the reason for clients' doubts in the music they love, one of the first things we tell them – no matter what their event – is to open up their mind, revisit their CD collection or iPod, and make their “dream list” of songs they want to hear, with no censoring allowed. Put anything in you would love to hear. Not only does it make the process of selecting music easier, but also more fun. It will get you excited about the possibilities of hearing this music, as opposed to nixing songs right away and feeling frustrated that the soundtrack to the event is already not what you would like.
Now, will all these "dream songs" end up making the cut when the event arrives? Sometimes many of them do, sometimes they don't. But what always happens is that when we see these “dream lists” and talk a bit with the client to see what music is most important to them, we can then use our experience in knowing what of these songs will work given the mood that is wanted at the event, as well as what kind of guests will be there, and what kind of structure the event will have. Then we can suggest which songs to keep, which to think about not using. For example, a pair of melancholy indie songs at the more sedate moments in a wedding can feel absolutely right and even moving. So can a set of obscure hardcore punk during the more boisterous moments of a corporate party. And even a little experimental progressive rock can enhance the feeling of an art opening, if played at the right time.
By far, many more of the songs you really want at your event then you ever think you can play are actually able to be fit in, but not only that, they can be made to add to the atmosphere of the event. But to do it, you have to begin by letting the DJ know what you really want to hear. And if that DJ looks at your list, smirks, and says something about how you can't have a party without having "the Y" on your list, well, you know the time has come to find a different DJ.
Try These Jamaican R & B Tracks to Warm Up Any Winter Event: Rico & the Matador All-Stars, “Continental Shuffle” and Owen Gray & the Jets, “Nobody Else”
January 11, 2010
With the holidays over and the two coldest months of the year ahead, now is the time when winter in New York City and much of the country quickly loses its romantic appeal and instead becomes, to be polite, a real drag. Sorry to remind you, but remember, the weather doesn’t really get consistently nice around here again until around the time we have to get our taxes in.
So, to “tropicalize” the atmosphere of events that you may have planned in the next two or three months of our annual struggle through blizzards, slush, and 37-degree rain, here’s two songs that are sunny, cozy, and fun. Both are Jamaican rhythm and blues tunes. If that genre sounds unfamiliar, don’t be surprised. It’s a rather small and obscure style, but fortunately some of its best songs recently have been made much more accessible for those of you who don’t have the time or interest to spend digging in record crates for hours a day by the release of the excellent compilation Trojan Jamaican R & B Box Set. Both songs here are available on the box set, as well as a few other less comprehensive compilations.
Jamaican R & B, born in the late ‘50s, is both like everything and nothing you’ve heard before. It combines shuffling jazz beats, the upbeat horns of what would soon become ska, festive Trinidadian-accented vocals of calypso, and a bit of the sultriness and gritty attitude of rhythm and blues and early rock ‘n’ roll. Most people are familiar with each of these styles, but put together in the right amounts, they create a sound that feels new and fresh and most of all, cozy and friendly.
Both these mid-tempo songs here have pleasantly catchy melodies that will get your snow-stained shoes tapping at any sort of event. “Continental Shuffle,” by Rico and the Matador All-Stars, a brief but swingin’ instrumental with masterfully mellow, pre-ska “skank” of a horn riff, immediately seems to brightens the mood of any room when we play it. The same reaction happens when we spin “Nobody Else,” by Owen Gray and the Jets. With its sturdy piano, its warm, fuzzy saxophones and its sweet calypso-inflected vocals, the song sounds like what Ray Charles might have recorded if he got his start in Kingston.
Have a listen to both; I think you’ll agree they’ll make things feel a little less “January-ish.”
Matador All-Stars – Continental Shuffle
Owen Gray & the Jets – Nobody Else