Insight from a professional

26 May, 2017 :: Kingston, Jamaica

Thirty-five aspiring Jamaican songwriters were invited to an onboard workshop with American gospel singer and songwriter Babbie Mason.

“There are so many possibilities for songwriters and singers, and I am all about equipping and putting tools in your hands,” said Babbie. Taking a poll, she found that over half of the men and women there had written a song before, while other people were interested to learn how to start the process. Babbie offered two methods: “Songwriting can come from inspiration – when you are just walking along and it feels like the heavens download a song into your mind – or songwriting can come from perspiration: hard work.”

Babbie explained that while each person has natural gifts, the skill of songwriting must be developed. A creative title, an interesting topic, rhyme and rhythm are pieces that can be combined to produce a memorable whole. “If you listen to some of your favourite songs, there is something about that song that makes you come back to it again,” said Babbie. “The same songs that we are singing in Atlanta, Georgia, you are singing here in Kingston, Jamaica.” Babbie explained that the key is having a universal idea that has mass appeal. “Tonight I am going to give you ingredients to writing a good song.”

Babbie talked through five components before inviting six men and women to share a song they each had written for a group critique. Judged on the criteria of a universal idea, memorable title, strong start, consistent rhyme scheme and appropriate form, the participants received feedback on what things in their songs were working well, and what could be improved.

The training encouraged the Jamaican songwriters to persevere, as Babbie explained that seeing their compositions played throughout the world is an achievable goal. “You have to have your songwriter eyes and ears open for ideas,” said Babbie. “The more frequently you practice that craft, the more songs you will be able to write.”

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