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Community Voices: The soul underground

Craig A. Eleazer

A Boston music producer riffs on the soul of the music industry

Over the last decade or more the music industry has been slumping in overall sales and profits.  It is my belief that this is a result of their abandoning their “Old School” philosophies and business practices.     

Artists are no longer signed to multiple record deals where they are allowed to mature and fine tune their music. In the early 1970s Earth Wind and Fire made several low selling albums before making the smash hit “That’s the Way of the World.” P-Funk, Kiss, Prince, Bob Marley and many more all travelled the same long road to success.

Back in the day DJs would play everything that was released and the request line was a more accurate barometer of what the listeners actually liked. Nowadays businessmen without musical backgrounds believe they can pick hit songs. Their decisions are more driven by sales and the bottom line. Artistry is often not a part of the conversation. You have to look no further than our national award shows to see that lip syncing, dance routines and entourages are now more important than musical ability.

Before I go any further I must disclose that I am an independent song writer/producer for the local artist Ashanti Munir and others. This is not an admission of bias but instead a piece of evidence to support my points. You see, Ashanti is one of thousands of independent Soul music artists who are faced with the task of being the artist and record company simultaneously.     

This is because the music industry made a decision to market hip hop exclusively for the last 25 years to soul music’s detriment. They allowed Soul music to be branded with the “Old School” moniker like it is not being created any longer.

The industry has also ignored fans from three genres of music that prefer to buy their music than to copy it. The high cost of a single CD has also discouraged music lovers from purchasing their products.

I returned to the recording studio in 2008 after an eight year hiatus. I had the opportunity to accompany Munir on a week-long trip to England. Di Lee from Soulchoonz.com had four shows booked for Ashanti in London and Warrington when we arrived.  We witnessed first-hand what we had heard all of our lives, “If you want to make it in Soul music then you have to go to London.”

Their appreciation for the music was so obvious that you would have thought that they invented it!  Many in the crowd were singing the words to Ashanti’s songs along with her!  Many of the Presenters (DJs) that we met in the U.K. have dedicated their twenty-plus year careers to American Soul. The difference between there and the States is that they are just as excited about the new soul music as they are about the old. It is because of this experience that I still listen to Solar, Starpoint and Stomp Radio stations to this day.

It may take a little research on your part but you will find plenty of quality new soul music via the internet. Soultracks.com, Soulchoonz.com and Soul Commune.com will quickly get you up to date with the latest music releases and artists.  

If you Google “Soul music radio stations” you will be given a choice of stations to listen to from around the world.  These stations will expose you to wonderful female artists like Angela Johnson, Lenora Jaye, Selena Johnson, Trish Andrews, Hil St. Soul and Chidi.  

There are wonderful male artists like Une`, Eric Roberson, Rahsaan Patterson, Marc Staggers, Alexander O’Neil and Miles Jaye making great new music. You will also hear new music from Boston artists like Lori Dow, Ashanti Munir, Leon Beal, Ahmir and Athene Wilson being played worldwide!

Hopefully this will change your perception about the state of soul music. Soul music is not dead!  It has gone underground and can now be purchased direct from the artist in most cases. Soul music was always a big part of American culture not just African American culture. The children of today need to be exposed to a more positive form of musical expression.  Music should make you feel good and the best artists should receive the most exposure. So the next time that you are surfing the worldwide web take the time to sample the websites that I mentioned earlier.