Clive Caines CaribDirect

Clive Caines Cultural Contributor

I’ve been taken by many of the statements in Neal Gabler’s ‘The Elusive Big Idea’ none more so than his explanation of the value that ideas once had:

“Once upon a time, they could ignite fires of debate, stimulate other thoughts, incite revolutions and fundamentally change the ways we look at and think about the world.”

It’s hard to argue with the assertion that we no longer care about ideas given how many people are happy to declare that they don’t read or will dismiss anything that appears complicated with a ‘das dry’ or a ‘Its long’.

Now while I do not expect all musicians to be intellectuals I’ve been happy to endorse those musicians who offer us with ways of thinking about the world while keeping us musically entertained.

The sole purpose of the ‘Goodly Words’ annual cultural winter festival is to bring together musicians who have always been concerned with taking a philosophical approach rather than just being happy to entertain the masses.

Neal Gabler.

Author Neal Gabler. Photo courtesy js.emory.edu

Jointly promoted by Royal Roots Promotion and Vital Resource the Goodly Words is driven by a philosophy of communicating the message of love, justice and equality through the medium of words and music while promoting cross-cultural connexions and improving racial harmony.

As if to recognise that talking isn’t the same as doing ‘Goodly Words’ also has an ambitious environmental and a social policy: the environmental policy has the intention of implementing renewable energy projects in Africa; they believe that this part of the world is most likely to suffer from the effects of global warming.

The social policy, unsurprisingly given the level of concern around disaffected youth, is to assist young people in staying away from crime and helping them to achieve their full potential.

Black Slate

Black Slate. Photo courtesy .last.fm

It would be understandable if the event lost its way given that it has to deliver so much but it appears not to be the case. Billed as the greatest one-day roots and reggae festival in the UK it’s packed line up struggles to fit into the events timescale, yet fit in it does and this is what gives ‘Goodly Words’ its dynamism: with each artiste only being given the space for three tracks there’s no time for egos to take over.

On the bill for this year’s festival were a mix of UK and International artists such as Black Slate, Dixie Peach, True Identity Joy Mack and Kwest just to name a few, each seemingly happy to do their bit to keep love and respect on the stage and help their fellow artistes.

Joy Mack – Reality

While in the green room I spent some time finding out from some of the artistes what Goodly Words meant to them:

Dixie Peach told me that for him “goodly words are like godly words. For us artistes it’s just about expressing yourself with good words. For the audience its all about the messages they hear from the artist so maybe that’s what brought this word together – goodly words.

We are going to try hard to get it on track but we do need this new generation to get behind us and learn the way we do things through the messages, the music and the culture.”

Sitting chatting to Dixie Peach was a musician called Sparky who was at the event to support the other artistes, for him Goodly Words meant: “Exactly what it says, goodly words meaning happiness, pleasantry, niceties and togetherness.”

Dixie Peach

Dixie Peach. Photo courtesy houseofreggae.de

Sparky also felt that Goodly Words had work to do with the young, “this is something that we need to introduce to the younger youth letting them know about the godliness in life, as you know some of them have gone astray but we’ll eventually get things back on track.”

I then turned to a Moa Anbessa guitarist, Rennie, “Well it means the future in some form of way; I would say it’s something that is good because it carries on annually and it would also help to multiply reggae crowds, reggae musicians and artistes that live in England, so it leaves a future really. The messages really come from the vocalists within their lyrics, we musicians provide the progression, the musical steps.”

Moa Anbessa

Moa Anbessa. Photo courtesy myspace.com

As with any musical event it is the symbiotic relation between the audience and the performer that determines whether the event is a success or in this case whether the events messages are likely to be well received.

From my observation the atmosphere evident in the green room was also present among the audience. I would presume, given the event was clearly established with the audience many of them arrived with a positive vibe ensuring that politeness and respect was to the fore.

Rarely have I attended an event, even on a club night when essentially everyone is there for the same purpose, where the audience has so much consideration for each other. The embodiment of this respect for me was seeing a wheelchair user being pushed in and taken to the front of stage.

It is easy to be cynical about wrapping big ideas around music and musical events but I guess those aims will not be achieved without an audience willing to be receptive to those ideas. The trick for ‘Goodly Words’ is to engage those who have lost an interest in ideas regardless of whether the ideas are big, small or just intended to enrich.