This is my first article and hopefully one of many to come that will chronicle my journey in playing music on guitar. I am writing this because when I was growing up…I didn’t think I would be playing guitar…or listening to R&B music….let alone playing R&B music...let alone share guitar chords of R&B music with you . My hope is that my journey will allow you to open your mind to experiences (be it music, food, travel, etc..) that you would not naturally be drawn to.
This is also for the guitar beginners who can’t yet play barre chords..(you can do it!!! I know it’s uncomfortable but we’ve all been there…once you get that F chord right, oh so many possibilities).
In early 2002, I was trying to find a way to relax in the evening after school. I usually finished school after 8:30pm that year (and the next) which in the tropical African island I grew up in is dark and late, so (wise) entertainment options were limited generally speaking to TV and Radio. I am sure there were other alternatives, but my adult brain can’t remember them now and my teenage brain couldn’t think of them at the time (because it was trying to relax after school…remember)
The TV only had one channel that seemed to only want to broadcast news and commercials, both of which are useful but aren’t exactly known for their relaxing qualities (at least not to the teenage mind).
The only viable option left was the radio (we had the one with cassette at the time…here is what they looked like). So I flipped through the channels one Friday night and came across a station that play an R&B program (which they played only on Friday night). I can’t exactly recall what the song was, but I think it was Faith Evans “Never Gonna Let You Go”.
Then at some point, it had some Brian McKnight (I think Crazy Love and 6 8 12) and Babyface (With Him). Essentially, the station played a bunch of slow jams and I was hooked. The melody, the harmonies and the soulful voices were so soothing, had that type of emotion that touched the heart ( so corny but I can’t explain it in any other way) and brought that much needed relaxation to my brain. I couldn’t sing and I barely spoke English. It was hard to explain what’s going on because the music seemed so unique and was something I have never heard before, yet it sounded so good.
Up until that point, the only international music I was exposed to were pop and pop rock ballads (think Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston) and boyband music (Backstreet Boys)….great music but not R&B (the Whitney Houston stuff on the local radio at the time was the Bodyguard Soundtrack stuff and not the R&B stuff like “My Love Is Your Love“)
Anyway, since that fateful Friday, I would make it a habit to listen to this particular radio station at that specific time and I got to hear some of this really great music….I even moved my mattress next to the radio at some point. For the younger generation, the R&B Music I am referring to is the 90’s stuff (Joe, Faith Evans, Brian McKnight, 112, K-Ci & Jojo, Brian McKnight, R Kelly and the likes).
This was of course a bit weird at the time because in the early 2000s (2002-2004), the Nu Metal genre (Linkin Park, Evanescence) became famous in the island and a lot of cool kids were listening to it…the two genres couldn’t be (or sound) more different. I eventually got to go to the US for university in 2004 and enjoyed the last few years where R&B as a whole was still at its peak in mainstream music. In 2004, to name a few, Usher’s “Confessions” album and Destiny’s Child “Destiny Fulfilled” album were released.
The key takeaway here is that some of the things we come to enjoy in life happen by luck/weird odds/coincidence and if we give them a chance, we might get to enjoy them quite a bit. The R&B program I came upon back in 2002 was a 1 hour program at 9pm every Friday night…it would have been very easy to miss, and if I did ( or my folks didn’t own a radio :-)), none of this would have happened…I am not saying it would have been the end of the world ( I love Bryan Adams and Celine Dion’s music), but I am saying it’s pretty cool that it eventually led me to be able to play “Back At One“.
In any case, I didn’t play any musical instruments then…and I wasn’t thinking about learning any either..I was just enjoying the music (this time through a small CD player and later one a desktop computer) and was fortunate to meet great friends who finally shared my love of the R&B. It wouldn’t be another 3 years before I would get a guitar but that’s a story for another article….stay tuned until next time. In the meantime and between time, enjoy this slow jam…