The entire world dances to Psy’s “Gangnam Style” and Michel Teló’s “Ai Se Eu Te Pego”… without understanding a lick of Korean and Portuguese. Bob Marley transports us to Jamaica’s Blue Mountains with his “Songs of Freedom”, Alicia Keys lets us wander through her concrete jungle in her “Empire State of Mind”… We “feel” these songs: their meaning transcends words. Yet many of us pick up our first Spanish, French, English words through music. Music transports us, introduces us to different cultures, opens our minds and facilitates understanding and exchange.
I’ll never forget seeing Kuenta i Tambú live on Lincoln Center’s summer stage in Manhattan in the summer of 2012. Tears streamed down my face as the music I grew up on moved my soul, standing there in the shadow of silver skyscrapers, an immigrant in a country that doesn’t always want to understand me. I took a deep breath and turned to face the uninhibited crowd of gyrating hips and waving arms… fighting the urge to embrace them all, one by one. You see, though we weren’t on a first name basis, they were no longer strangers: the music had united us… and the more they listened… the more they enjoyed our tambú music… the more they were able to understand me… understand us.
That’s when it dawned on me: my music, my language – Papiamentu – spoken and enjoyed by a mere 500K in the world expresses our beautifully diverse identity and is more than worthy of broad international exposure… and that’s exactly what yu’i Kòrsou Gino Jacobs (26), Boudino de Jong (25), Kendrick Bakhuis (23), want to achieve with their new innovative online music streaming service: Skèmpi. Slated to launch in early October 2013, their team of 5, including Mohamed Turki and Djigo Cardoze, has been acquiring music rights by partnering with various artists and developing an easy-to-use music streaming and discovery engine accessible to members on PCs, laptops, mobile devices, as well as tablets.
As of May 2013, Skèmpi’s servers host 60 artists ranging from Chin Behilia to Rudy Plaate to Edsel Juliet to Juliana Martina to Izaline Calister to Caché Royale, in every genre from folklore, tumba, tambú, salsa antillana, mazurka, ritmo kombiná, representing thousands of titles, the oldest dates back to the 1950s… and they’re just scratching the surface!
Skèmpi was conceived two years ago, when Gino found himself cycling through the streets of Rotterdam, “all of sudden ‘Dugu Dugu Sin Sous’ by Rudy Plaate popped into my head. I ended up humming it all day… I wanted to hear it so, so badly!… I asked around to see if people had it, where I could find it… it took me over 2 weeks to find a recording! Playing the songs we love shouldn’t be such a hassle!” says Gino.
Unfortunately, most of us have been there.
Dutch Caribbean music is so hard to find (online and otherwise) due to pesky piracy: artists invest their time, energy and money recording albums and posting music videos on YouTube only to find myriad (free) pirated copies distributed among their fans, making it impossible for them to cover their production costs. Non-existent copyright law enforcement makes it extremely difficult for artists to prevent piracy. Bigger artists tend to move to the Netherlands and the US, often compromising their culture and musical integrity. Others are left to make ends meet by way of live performances at clubs, bars and hotels. Needless to say, these circumstances pose a serious threat to the Dutch Caribbean music industry and severely limits our music’s international reach.
Skèmpi differentiates itself by emphasizing the artists, essentially managing an artist “cooperative”.
“Our success as a platform depends on our ability to compensate artists for their work and bring them closer to new and existing fans,” says Boudino. “Take Grupo Tipiko Pasa Bon (a folklore group from Curaçao), Skèmpi’s fan analytics might tell them for example, that folks in Nijmegen, Utrecht and Groningen really enjoy their music. Who knows? Maybe the numbers will give them the confidence boost they need to pursue a concert tour in the Netherlands!”
Skèmpi’s founders plan to offer a subscription-based music streaming service, much like Spotify. “We figured that if we package music as a service, then people will actually pay for it,” says Gino. Skèmpi will launch with a ‘freemium’ subscription model: VIP members can pay a low monthly subscription fee in exchange for unlimited music streaming and free accounts will be subsidized by intermittent targeted advertisements. Skèmpi plans to redistribute most subscription and ad revenues to artists in the form of royalties.
(You may have already picked up on the fact that) “Skèmpi” is a deliberately nonsensical name much like “Google” and “Yahoo”. Ultimately, Skèmpi’s founders look to create a community-driven music experience, where members are actively engaged in creating playlists, vouching for their favorite artists and introducing new artists to the platform. So in that sense, Skèmpi’s meaning is whatever its members want it to be… and the more members — from all over the world — the merrier.
Skèmpi’s team is currently heads down focused on improving functionality and adding new artists. In anticipation of their official launch, Skèmpi has opened their Beta (pre-launch program) to more users, so feel free to sign up on their website (www.skempi.com), test them out, tell them about your favorite artists and help stretch and revolutionize Dutch Caribbean music distribution!
The next big global sensation might be “Curaçao Style”!
Don’t forget to LIKE Skèmpi’s Facebook page to stay up-to-date.