A cover is a new performance of a previously recorded or commercially released song by someone other than the original artist or composer. Sampling is taking a portion of a song and re-using it as an instrument or a sound recording. Now that we have understood what that is let us address the issue at hand. Kenyans were previously not very open to doing song covers and many were done in the confines of our homes and bathrooms. The world has discovered some of the best artists through covers that were uploaded on YouTube. It is now easier for record labels to search for artists on social media as opposed to holding auditions. But that is mostly done in the Western world as opposed to this side of the world.
Sampling however is our forte although some artists overdo it and they end up sampling their songs in all their songs. Not cool. Sampling can also be done in mash ups of different songs and give a new spin to how a song was previously done. Now there are those who have mastered the art of both sampling and covering songs but then there are those who are yet to get there. Truth is it takes time.
I have repeatedly mentioned that the Kenyan education system specifically the 8-4-4 system does not favour creatives. If you discover that you can sing at the age of ten , 10-12 hours in school , followed by another two hours of homework and tuition during holidays does not leave much time to nurture talent which is downright unfortunate. We have also been raised with the mindset that you go to school to get good grades and get a job , get married and die. The few who defy the norm and follow their talent are frowned upon till they make it and suddenly everyone celebrates them. But even with that parents would rather play safe.
Moving on, recently Jimmy Gait suffered the wrath of Kenyans when he did a cover of Adele’s ground breaking Hello. Kenyans are a tough people to impress. Many may fault his version as mediocre but he did something else, he showed the power of social media and how that can change your career. There are now more than ten covers of that song in Kenya. There are those who take it seriously then there are those who are just joking. See we are a diverse people with 43 tribes and sometimes our mother tongue sneaks up on us and it sounds more sad than hilarious. Have you ever been in a situation where someone hums a song and it is nothing close to the original? Now imagine that happening for 3 minutes, you will be scarred for life.
Dela on the other hand covered the same song and she was celebrated globally. Again the power of YouTube. The song was beautifully covered and it catapulted her career to a whole new level. Thing is there are no rules that govern song covers.You can do a Kisii version of Kanye’s song and it is a cover. So all judgemental people take a seat and unless you can do an actual cover , take another seat.If you want to do a cover please do but here are some tips that might help;
- Resolution is everything. There are covers that are done using an Infinix 2mp secondary camera and others on Iphone , imagine the difference can be spotted.With a sub standard camera one can only see a vague figure that is moving. It helps if there is a musical instrument because you can tell where the figure is. A good voice will also help you ignore the eye sore.
- Location. You and I know Kenyans can roast you for days for having flowered bed sheets. Now it is necessary that your bedroom is to die for before you decide to use it as a location for your video, otherwise use a park or an extreme close up so that we do not see the location.
- Thou shall not get carried away. In most covers one has to set up their own camera which remains immobile during the recording. Getting carried away, singing with your eyes closed will have you randomly in and out of the shot. So keep steady and imagine you are singing to one person so look into their eyes (the camera) and sing.
- Do not bite more than you can chew.There is a temptation to cover a big hit. As a friend of mine likes to say , lies of the enemy. Start with a simple song , a jingle if you can then move your way up.
- Rehearse. If you are going to put yourself out there, put your best foot forward. This is a performance like any other take it seriously.
- No pressure to have an instrument. There is no need to have a guitar or a piano.Unless you are good at it, leave it be.
- Soundtrack. Try and use a laptop with speakers that are dependable. When you use your phone to provide the soundtrack it sounds like a broken record. So please thou shall have good audio.
Now go ahead and make a killer cover to your favourite song. Please do not take the killer bit literally. While at it watch some of the covers by Kenyans. Next week we’ll address parodies.