Saturday 2 March 2013

The sad state of 'music' in the Dominican Republic.

Typical Guy - Girl Dominican duo.
She stares at Laptop while he fakes his piano.

   On a recent trip to the DR,  I stayed at a relatively top notch place, and everything about the place was first class - except the entertainment and the 'music'. Now, I know some consider my views rather extremist, but here goes: DJ's don't play music. Apple doesn't sell music. Radio stations don't play music. Musicians play music. There is only live music.There is no dead music.
     After the recent lip syncing of what's-her-name at the Super Bowl, and what's-his-name at the Grey Cup, it makes you wonder where the world is headed, 'musically'. 
     Perhaps 10 years ago, I was walking into a Legion, keyboard under arm,  and a guy opened up his car window and yelled 'You the DJ tonight'?  People have come up to me as I play the piano and tell me I'm a great DJ. I have honestly come to believe that people are so uneducated about music, that they literally don't understand the difference between a DJ and a musician. (btw - I use the term Space Bar, not DJ now, as most of them just 'play'  laptops). 
     Anyway - I digress - back to the DR. Space Bars are everywhere at the resort - for yoga, weddings, poolside dance instruction, and night time shows. Most, if not all Carribbean resorts use 'animation' teams - young energetic adults who lead you through everything from ping pong to yoga, and this includes stage shows at night. (I am not knocking them, they work very long and hard.) Sometimes these stage shows are games which feature audience members or, they are tribute shows with big costumes and …. lip syncing.  How nice to see the Michael Jackson show with lip syncing.  Meanwhile there is another common form of music at these resorts: a male - female keyboard duo - she sings, he plays and sings. The male runs midi files on the keyboard, while they sing. This year it has sadly digressed. I saw: 
  1. a male - female duo with a Yamaha keyboard.  The 'music stand' supported the laptop - from which the background trax were played. The keyboard was not hooked up. Piano parts were in the background trax  and he faked the piano - he physically play-faked the piano. She sang nicely enough - but not harmony - she didn't know how.  
  2. A similar duo, except he used - get this - a cell phone to play the trax. He still had the laptop for lyrics, and the keyboard.  So, near the end of one song, he would be on his cell phone choosing the next song. (I think it was Android based.) (He, of course, was kind of hiding all this behind the laptop) 
  3. A singer-guitarist singing duo. Trax were on the laptop, guitar parts were on the trax and he played a few notes here and there. Basically, the guitar was but a prop. There was singing on the background trax. Both were quite good singers, and both could sing harmony. I also saw him faking away as a solo act. (to his credit, he did learn a sort of solo in 'La Bamba')
     I did have one good musical experience. In the restaurant, several nights, were 2, older, male, acoustic guitar player-singers, who circulated and did requests. They were experienced, talented, and wonderful and….playing Dominican music. (plus the ever present Guantanamera) I told the manager "That was the act that should be on the main stage instead of the junk that's up there;. ("Oh gosh, don't say that!") 
     This whole scene made me wonder a few things. Sitting in a corporate office somewhere, is there an entertainment 'consultant', who distributes the same background trax to all these 'musicians'? They all sound the same and play the same instruments and songs. Is it cheaper to hire a non player than a player? Does the hirer have any idea what he's doing? There must be tons of musicians in the Dominican, and it would be so interesting to hear/see them playing Dominican music, instead of trax of American (and Dominican) songs off a cell phone. Why is the resort so classy and so crappy musically? I'm sure the economy is such that they could hire talented musicians for next to nothing.
I just don't get it. .....stay tuned for Cuba.....

Dominican music star Joe Veras

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