Notes From The Margin

February 11, 2008

What will the cultural academics say about Rihanna when the history of this time is written?

Well it’s old news by now that Rihanna has won her first Grammy. We on the margin are thrilled for her and once again renew our call for some form of national recognition for the songstress. Congratulations to her once more for her achievement.

But we got to thinking about the long term for Ms. Fenty… and we asked ourselves the question:

What will the Bajan cultural academics say about Rihanna when the history of this time is written?

Those slobs like us on the Margin think its great that someone from “bout here” could attain so much in such a short space of time at such a young age. But I can hear the linguistic gymnastics going on already in some quarters….

What does it say about the Barbados “music industry” if the most successful performer to emerge from the island simply bypassed the entire industry? We’ve heard at least one comment that she never sang in the “teen talent contest” We can hear lots of lip service from all and sundry about the development of a “music industry” but really how many international artists has it produced? It’s enough to make one question the relevance of the local scene.

There are many “managers” out there who say they manage artists, but some of them have been doing it for years and haven’t had the success that Rihanna has achieved in a relatively short space of time. It does beg the question… what are they doing wrong?

Let’s face it Rihanna’s music is pop music, written for a global audience, what does it say about the people who have spent years trying to find “the next reggae” (we won’t even talk about the “bring back spouge” crowd) What are the cultural implications of that? I’m sure some academic somewhere is tearing his hair out looking for some sort of “cultural linkage” to hang a paper on.

And while we are at it, the academics are quick to talk about “a strong cultural identity” being important for success (and yes Bob Marley is trotted out to support this) But here we have an artist, who speaks with a Bajan accent, and pays homage to her homeland at every opportunity but is clearly now a citizen of the world. Next to her many of the local artists look…. well…. “local”.

We’re not decrying the local music industry, but there are loads of “armchair experts” who are quick to talk about what should be done and what Rihanna should do. “We don’t want a Sony or EMI taking our artists” we heard one say on the radio today. There are only so many labels with the power to create a superstar. Even Prince ended up re signing with Universal after trying to go it alone. Rather than trying to create an entirely new music industry, perhaps we would get further if we worked on linking local talent to the international industry.

Just a thought….



  1. Marginal:

    Your comment is too deep. It seems to be looking into the heart of a soggy platitude. From an existentialist perspective( Yes, I read Jean Paul Sartre in my youth)I recall the famous quote that everything has been figured out, except how to live. So why bother about the academic experts, or the armchair theorists. Rihanna has been there and done that, thereby proving the truth in Hamlets words that: the play’s the thing. Doing is better than talking!

    Comment by Linchh — February 12, 2008 @ 4:20 am | Reply

  2. […] successful performer to emerge from the island simply bypassed the entire industry?” asks Notes From The Margin after Rihanna's first Grammy win. Share […]

    Pingback by Global Voices Online » Barbados: Music Industry — February 12, 2008 @ 8:26 am | Reply

  3. Linchh,

    I make the post simply because there are so many talkers in this section of the Barbadian social landscape!


    Comment by notesfromthemargin — February 12, 2008 @ 11:56 am | Reply

  4. Marginal, I have never commented on Rihanna before and I am still fighting with if I shouldn’t erase this.
    The young lady was blessed with talent, seen and heard by a talent scout who saw her somewhere singing, and the rest as they say is history.
    Fame coming through talents of athletic prowess, acting, singing, politics or anything which one is exceptionally good at, I see as a blessing from God(whatever you conceive him to be).
    I am not too worldly so I wish her well and hope she knows for sure who has got her back, since as far as I can gather the ‘company’ makes you or breaks you. She should just ride the wave of ‘success’ wherever it takes her as long as it is good.
    While it could be said that I am happy for her, what difference does my state of mind make to the situation? I have no significance in her life nor she in mine as I suspect is the case for most B’dians out there. Should I have written that? I am not even sure.
    Again, I am glad for her and the team which would have helped to propel her to that set of circumstances since it is not something that can be done alone.
    As for the rest of your musings, you do have a point about the music industry.

    Comment by Anonymous — February 13, 2008 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

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