Selection is a function of art

2010-10-08 12:33

Sampling is at the heart of hip-hop.

At its birth and during its infancy, producers creatively submerged themselves in the old and merged it with the new to give birth to this new music form.

While the early days were less organised, as rap music started to make money, royalties and credit also increased with older artists earning from songs they had created years before.

Artists and groups like James Brown, George Clinton, Kool And The Gang and Sly & The Family Stone have been sampled extensively and, more than likely, started to make decent money off royalties from this.

For the purist, sampling has always been a grey area with some viewing it as cheating and uncreative.

Yet, to be able to sample in such a way that we take what is and turn it into what can be, can be the height of creativity.

It is when someone has sampled badly that one truly sees how creative the process can be.

For hip-hop, the sources sampled have tended to be American and European because that has been their key reality.

In a way, it’s honouring the creations of those who have come before, those who laid the foundation.

As African artists?started?to?explore this aspect of creating music, there has been the same tendency – a focus on American and European artists.

Instead of tapping into the sounds of Harare, Osibisa, Kori Moraba, Dark City Sisters, etc, we looked primarily?to?American?artists, ensuring?that?those?who?are already reaping the financial rewards of sampling continue to do so.

Now I’m not advocating simply taking from the musical creations of others to create today’s music – I too believe in the power of pure originality – but I recognise that sampling has a place that is creative and social, and if we are going to do it, let us use it as a mechanism for ­­­­re-igniting the music of those who have come before us.

Artists who have faded into obscurity for whatever reason can perhaps find a sparkle in previous lives who give their creations new life.

Draw inspiration from the music that serves as the root of your current reality.

Artists like Lucky Dube and Fela Kuti seem to be celebrated and explored more outside the continent than on.

To demonstrate that they, and all our musical elders, should be perceived on equal terms as those from the US and Europe, we need to celebrate their creativity.

And, in a strange way, sampling them is one way of doing so.

» Baffoe is the editor of Destiny Man

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