To celebrate #InternationalMusicDay, we've picked three Rockschool tracks, from three different artists, from three different countries! We start off our trip in sunny Barbados; stopping off at the beaches of Brazil; before dancing the bal-musette in the streets of France.
The International Music Council was founded by UNESCO in 1949 and since 1975 it annually hosts International Music Day, a global event that features hundreds of performance hosed in various cities across the world. Roughly 150 countries worldwide organise free events where people can enjoy music and appreciate its importance in everyday life.
Robin Rihanna Fenty was born in 1988 in Barbados, West Indies. She grew up listening to reggae and started singing around the age of seven. In her early teens, Fenty formed a girl group with two classmates who caught the attention of holidaying songwriter/producer Evan Rogers (N Sync/Boyzone/Christina Aguilera) in 2004. The group was invited to audition for Rogers, who has been quoted saying: “The minute Rihanna walked into the room, it was like the other two girls didn’t exist.”
For a year, Fenty travelled back and forth between Barbados and Rogers’s home in Connecticut, USA, where the experienced hitmaker mentored the fledgling performer. When Fenty turned 16, she relocated to America and moved in with Rogers and his wife. By 2005, she had a four-song demo, which Rogers shopped to record companies, quickly landing Fenty a contract with Def Jam. By August, Def Jam had released her debut album, Music of The Sun, which propelled the start of a recording career that has made Rihanna one of the most successful female singer of her generation.
‘Stay’ was co-written by guest vocalist Mikky and Justin Parker. The duo has worked with a string of successful recording artists, including David Guetta, Lana Del Rey, Bat for Lashes and Ellie Goulding between them. Ekko says he was “freaked out” when he found out ‘Stay’ was going to be recorded by another artist, as it has such a personal meaning to him. However, he came ‘round to the idea after he met Rihanna in person and listened back to the vocal she had recorded for the first time. On the whole experience Ekko said, “The track had become so special to me as well, and knowing what the track means to me and what I think it means to her too, it really worked. It speaks to such an intimate side of her that is so rare and so far-removed from what people think of her.”
Having sold over 250 million records, Rihanna is one of the world's best-selling music artists working today. She has earned 14 number-one singles and 31 top-ten singles in the US, and 30 top-ten entries in the UK. Her accolades include nine Grammy Awards, 13 American Music Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, and six Guinness World Records. Alongside a successful music career, Rihanna is well known for her involvement in humanitarian causes, entrepreneurial ventures and the fashion industry. She is the founder of non-profit organization Clara Lionel Foundation, cosmetics brand Fenty Beauty, and fashion house Fenty under LVMH. In 2018, the Government of Barbados appointed her as an ambassador with duties promoting education, tourism and investment.
Antônio Carlos Jobim was a Brazilian composer, pianist, songwriter, arranger and singer. Born in 1927, the musician started his musical journey at a young age and soon began playing in bars and music clubs as a means of supporting himself. Performing live soon led to composing his own material, which is where his career began to take off. In 1965, Jobim appeared on the album Getz/Gilberto. With many of the tracks composed by Jobim, he also featured as a pianist for much of the recording sessions. At the 1965 Grammy Awards ceremony, Getz/Gilberto became the first jazz album to win a Grammy, being awarded ‘Album of the Year’. Jobim is believed by many to have popularised the Bossa Nova genre, making him a key player in the jazz movement during the 1950s and 60’s.
The phrase bossa nova literally translates to "new trend" or "new wave. A lyrical fusion of samba and jazz, bossa nova acquired a large following in the 1960s, initially among young musicians and college students. Within the artistic beach culture of the late 1950s in Rio de Janeiro, the term "bossa" was used to refer to any new "trend" or "fashionable wave". Bossa nova has at its core a rhythm based on samba, which combines the rhythmic patterns and feel originating in the former African slave communities in Brazil. Samba's emphasis on the second beat carries through to bossa nova; however, unlike samba, bossa nova doesn't have dance steps to accompany it. Overall, the rhythm produced has a swaying feel rather than the swing associated with jazz.
‘Desafinado’ – now considered a bossa nova standard – was written Jobim with original lyrics by Newton Mendonça. The title of the song translates to ‘Out of Tune’ or ‘Off Key’, and was composed in response to critics claims that bossa nova had been created for singers who can’t sing. Jobim decided to prove them wrong. Mendonça’s original lyrics were of course in his native language of Portuguese and featured on João Gilberto’s original recording. Jon Hendricks and Jessie Cavanaugh later wrote English lyrics for the piece; as did Gene Lees as few years later, whose version is said to be closer to the true translation.
Jobim’s original composition has been recorded and released several times every decade since the 1950s.The first artists to achieve success with the bossa nova were Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd, whose early November 1962 release peaked at number 11 on the UK singles chart. This was followed closely by Ella Fitzgerald’s version which was released just 2 weeks later and peaked at number 38.
Yann Tiersen – a native of Brest, France – has seen his musical career split between studios albums, collaborations and soundtracks for film. His compositions often include a rich and original combination of instruments, such as the melodica, xylophone, toy piano, harpsichord, accordian and the typewriter.
Tiersen's music is influenced by the classical training he received when he was a child alongside the music he listened to as a teenager, including the American and British punk of the time. His musical style is deceptively simple to recognize but difficult to catalogue. It varies greatly from one album to the next and with the passage of time. His melancholic tone and compositional techniques combine elements of Classical and folk music with pop and rock. His delicate but deeply emotive style has been linked to Frédéric Chopin and the great masters of Romantic music. A lot of his sound also owes a lot to Erik Satie – the colourful figure of the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde – whose work was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd.
La Valse d’Amélie is taken from Yann Tiersen’s award winning soundtrack for the French romantic comedy, Amélie. Tiersen’s beautiful composition features on the soundtrack twice, both as an orchestral and a piano piece. The composer also included the orchestral version in his fourth studio album, L’Absente, shortly after the release of the soundtrack in 2001. Much like the film, the soundtrack to Amélie was well received worldwide, topping the charts in its home nation of France as well as the second spot in the US Billboard Top World Music Albums chart. The release was certified Gold in the UK with sales of over 100,000 and 3xPlatinum in France with sales over 900,000. Worldwide sales stand at just over 1.5 million, a number which reflects the regard in which this beautiful soundtrack is held.
The soundtrack went on to include some of Tiersen’s existing works, taken from his three previous studio albums, as well as pieces written especially for the film. These newly commissioned works include the piece ‘La Valse d’Amélie’. Tiersen won two awards for his soundtrack Amélie, in 2001 he took the award for Best Original Score of the Year at the World Soundtrack awards and in 2002 he was awarded Best Music Written for a Film at the César Award ceremony. The release also received nominations for BAFTA’s coveted award for Best Film Music in 2001, World Soundtrack’s 2001 award for Soundtrack Composer of the Year and Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Original Soundtrack of the Year.