For the older generation, the name Brian McKnight stirs some fond memories of a type of music that could be said to have been swept away by the winds of time.
Reputed as one of the most vocally gifted and superbly talented instrumentalists of his time, the singer embodies an era when contemporary R&B was all the rage.
His recent attempt at a comeback, however, is a differently disastrous story altogether. Other notable names from this era include the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and a host of other singers credited for popularising the genre globally.
But even before contemporary R&B became so popular, the previous generation of artistes such as Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige were recognised for introducing the world to the soulful genre that was the original rhythm and blues.
However, a cursory glance at the present day music industry reveals that the once popular genre of R&B is certifiably on its deathbed.
Like with its predecessors Soul and New Jack Swing, R&B musicians from the 1990s are increasingly finding themselves irrelevant in the current musical scene. Many have hit their sell-by-date. And not even collabos with youngsters can bolster their already faltering careers.
The fact that many of them have failed to release successful singles and/or albums over long periods of time is proof.
However, some artistes like Mary J Blige, Mariah Carey and Toni Braxton have made an effort to remain relevant and even put out some moderately successful collaborations with newer artistes such as Justin Bieber, Pitbull, Ne-yo, Trey Songz and Rick Ross.
In this case, the younger artiste leans on the experience and the fame of the older artiste while the older star tries to connect with the younger generation by bringing together the different worlds they each represent.
The newer acts such as, Fantasia Barino, Robin Thicke and even T-Pain have often been criticised for lacking the soul and flavour of traditional R&B hence diluting it’s originality.
It is the same case with Reggae. The Roots and Culture diehards weep whenever they listen to the new sound from Jamaica called Riddims and are very vocal in their hatred of the sound saying it is killing the “true” sound of reggae.
Closer home in South Africa, the Kwaito genre is facing a similar fate. This uniquely South African genre can be traced back to the early 1990s when young township music lovers increasingly tuned in to the sounds of foreign house music.
It was during this chapter that revolutionary DJs such as Christos Katsaitis and Oscar ‘Oskido’ Mdlongwa began popularising the slowed-down house sound mixing it up with hip-hop, R&B and Ragga with some African melody and percussion. Thus Kwaito was born.
As Kwaito grew, acts like Boom Shaka, TKZee, and Bongo Maffin, were established, keeping the mid tempo Kwaito culture alive. These would later be followed by the likes of Mandoza and Zola.
However, over the years, the genre would transform almost completely to become what is today popularly referred to as South African House, as new artistes completely threw the old Kwaito sound into the bin. On the front line of this new sound were the Durbanites, Tizozo and Professor among others.
Some South African music critics described this new sound as “house instrumentals mixed with pertinent lyrics that have sing-along hooks”, the latter being a distinct characteristic of traditional Kwaito music.
Even hip hop, arguably the world’s most popular music genre has fallen victim to this fate. Once adored rappers such as Bow Wow, Ja Rule, 50 Cent and his G-Unit crew, have been relegated to musical archives as they no longer draw attention like they did in the past.
The main reason for this is simply their inability to keep up with today’s prodigious music production which has almost entirely altered the face of hip hop and music in general.
On the other hand, many have argued that it is the musicians who are to blame for their present woes since music, like most other things, is constantly changing. In which case the onus rests upon the respective musicians and inadvertently, fans, to keep up with the shifting trends and patterns.
In any case, even what are today considered traditional genres are themselves derived from previously existing styles of music.