This year 2017 has been filled with brand new experiences for me thus far. Created a website, started writing, started an online business, learned a new language – amongst other things. But one of my biggest highlights this year, is the introduction to various music sub-genres I did not really notice were out there. They just might be mainstream elsewhere, but not on this Northern side of the planet. Some of them I knew already, but didn’t think I’d enjoy them until I gave them a real chance. Others just ambushed me by surprise – full-on ninja type shit.
Over the last year, easy access to mainstream pop music made me yearn for something different. Thus I made it a point to visit a lot of Dublin’s niche pubs and venues I wouldn’t otherwise visit. I guess that happens when you start to grow older (I’m only 26 by the way, I’m not a grandpa). But despite the abundance of venues and DJs in Dublin, there is still a shortage of regular Reggae/Dancehall and Afrobeat events in the city. The exception being two collectives of DJs known as Sim Simma and Rub A Dub Hi-Fi that are my sole dealers on Afro-Carribean music in Dublin.
Now that I’ve put that out there, let us begin the countdown. 🙂
5. Alternative/Indie RnB and Neo Soul.
I had to put these two together because sometimes I cannot tell the bloody difference. I am still a huge fan of Soul music and the old school RnB. I still remember how singing monsters like Whitney Houston and R.Kelly dominated their eras. I still consider R.Kelly to be the best RnB singer alive; no contest. The beats used to be so straightforward and simple then, but contemporary RnB now has taken full advantage of complex programmable beat-making machines that add very intricate elements into today’s hipster RnB music – my favorite being the heavy bass drop that is very common in today’s ‘Trap’ music.
What strikes me most about some of my favorite contemporary RnB artists is that they are not very impressive singers. Sure, most of them have incredible writing ability but they wouldn’t be able to hit the high notes R.Kelly can hit. Boy, that man can SANG! (Typo intended). The beat producers do an incredible job of bringing these songs to life. Some of my favorite artists would be Dvsn, Tank, Kehlani, Elijah Blake, Tory Lanez, K. Michelle, The Weeknd… You know what? Maybe alternative RnB isn’t as non-mainstream as I thought.
4. Blues & Soul – You know, the Originals.
Get into my DeLorean – because we are going decades back in time. I’m talking about Nina Simone, Etta James, Otis Redding, Lenny Williams, Bill Withers… I need to stop. I have a Spotify playlist dedicated to just these people. To be honest, I’d never really listened to any of these artists until this year. Sure, I had listened to the popular Blues songs everyone would recognise. But not the little creative gems that have remained hidden in the respective albums of these incredible artists. Listen to Nina’s Four Women and Otis’s For Your Precious Love to understand what I mean.
Soul music has some of the best singers on the planet. But that tired, croaky, melancholic delivery in Blues music is always an absolute win for me. Something about it I just cannot put my finger on (it’s the melancholic croaky voice-thingy. Remember??). All I know is that right now, I’m imagining a man sitting at a piano with a cigarette, bourbon and a voice that sounds like he eats gravel for lunch. That’s most probably a Jazz image but I don’t care – still using it. My deep appreciation for Blues & Soul music only increases as I grow older. I guess some things only start making sense when your hairline threatens to go on leave.
3. Blues Rock/Soft Rock.
I’m not a big rock music fan but I’ve always loved the kind of soft rock from legendary bands such as The Eagles, R.E.M and Pink Floyd. Just like with Hip hop and RnB, the various Rock sub-genres are just too many to count. I was ambushed this year by some good Rock music live shows that left me with a budding love for some types of rock music.
The electric guitar is truly a beautiful beautiful instrument. A single name always pops up into my mind first when I think of Blues Rock – Alvin Lee. I still remember the first time I was introduced to his music like it was yesterday. We had finished service, and as usual I chose a playlist for the kitchen speaker while we cleaned down. This time, it was a random Spotify Blues playlist. A few songs go by, and then the song The Bluest Blues comes on. A minute into the song, we all stop cleaning and make faces – the kind you make when you smell shit. If you don’t know, black people will usually make that face when they hear something incredible on a loud speaker. It is a sign of approval – not disdain. Take note.
After work, I went straight home and searched for any Blues Rock playlist I could lay my hands on. A kind of rediscovery if I might add. And needless to say, I haven’t looked back ever since. Thank you Alvin. May you rest in peace.
The big brother to Rocksteady, Reggae, Dancehall and Dub as we know them. As you already suspected, you only have Jamaica to thank for this one. Originating in the 50s, Ska has left an impact that still reverberates strongly to this day. The genre, which is synonymous with the very highly misunderstood skinhead movement, is one of my favourite surprise findings in the past year. Every Sunday, I still go to the Garage Bar for my weekly dose of Ska. Just like it says, the bar does look like a garage, from the petrol pumps and half-sawn mini coopers dangling from the roof, to the oil drum seats and occasional sawdust covered floors. But that’s its own charm to me. And my favorite of only two venues in Dublin where I can enjoy some of this music consistently.
The Abyssinians, The Skatalites, The Specials, Desmond Dekker and Phyllis Dillon would be my favorite artists of both Ska and Rocksteady. As I mentioned earlier, the only unfortunate thing about these genres is their immediate association by most people with the fascist skinhead movement. A terrible misunderstanding, given that fascists groups only adopted the punk-skinhead look in the 80s as it looked radical, and totally fitted with the agenda of hardline sections of nationalist groups. The real origin of the look, however, has no association with hate. But rather, a desire by English youths in the 60s to distinguish themselves from the prevalent Hippie movements at the time. The peace and love ethos by both groups was always the same. But hey, what else can I say? The world will be a much happier place if we all just read a little more.
And now, to the number 1…
You get the idea – stuff from the 60s, 70s and 80s with underlying African vocals and instruments such as the Djembe and the Kora, just to name a few. Legends such as Manu Dibango, Miriam Makeba and Fela Kuti are the benchmarks when it comes to Afro-music. But what I love even more is what modern DJs have done with 60s and 70s Afropop music. I believe remixing already established African songs with Electronic and House music is something that shouldn’t work – only thing is, it does. And it is usually highly enjoyable. I will just throw in AfroFunk as well as the icing on the cake. I run into a lot of these songs and remixes just by being at the right place at the right time. In this city, Yamamori’s Izakaya and The Globe are two venues that do me such good.
AfroHouse has always had a massive presence in the Southern part of Africa. And to me, modern Southern African House music is always a far richer sound than its European influences. With well known DJs such as Black Coffee leading the contemporary Afro-House movement in the continent, it was only a matter of time before I took my seat on the bandwagon too.
Aaaaaaaaaaaand that’s it. (P.S. Honorable Mentions. – Spanish Folk Music & World Music).
Trying to make this article as short as possible was my intention when I started writing this. As you can see, I clearly failed :). But that’s what happens when you write about something that you’re very interested in. Since you read this far, do let me know about any other music genres that I need to check out. With all the music variety out there, I know the list is inexhaustible.
If you enjoyed this article, please let me know in the comments and do not hesitate to share with your friends. Thank you :).