Bogle Move (Jamaican Dancehall) (2010)

String Quartet // 5 mins
[Commissioned by The Smith Quartet]

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Programme Note

Jamaican Dance-hall, or Ragga (as I used to know it), or Raggamuffin, or Bashment as it is also called, is a dance-form that emerged in Jamaica in the 1980s, and can always be guaranteed to get any party or club crowd dancing.

The driving syncopation and charismatic minimal grooves of dance-hall have a warmth and energy which is rarely found in modern dance music, and I’ve been a fan since my teens. One of the first tracks that really got me hooked on Dance-hall was ‘Bam Bam’ as performed by Chaka Demus and Pliers, and it’s sister tune ‘Murder She Wrote’ which were both set to the classic ‘Bam Bam’ riddim (backing track) back in 1993. When I was a student I started listening to Reggae pirate radio stations which played continuous dance-hall DJ mixes, and then began collecting Dancehall compilation LPs, even DJed dancehall a bit at parties, and incorporated some of the ragga rhythms into music of the bands I was playing with at the time.

So when the Smith Quartet asked me to compose a Dance piece for them, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d use the opportunity to have some fun with a style that I already knew and loved.

Continuing an approach I’ve developed in my previous String Quartet writing; the Quartet are frequently required to play in a very percussive style, often recreating the type of sounds that are normally produced by electronic instruments, so that terms such as spiccato molto sec, glissando and col legno appear very regularly in the score.

The score also uses DJ and studio type effects that can be found in much modern dance music, such as looping, echoing, re-triggering, stretching and bending; but these are taken beyond their normal limits so that the piece doesn’t become too predictably stuck in a groove; as I was keen to compose something that fuses dance-hall rhythmic feel with a more classical approach to form and development. Towards the end of the dance, the piece even slips into a more ‘classical’ style with trills in the Violins and legato  ‘sighs’ from ‘cello and Viola before descending back into a final caught-in-a-loop reprise of the groove.

The title comes from one of the oldest dancehall dance moves which is called the ‘Bogle’, a winding gyration from the shoulders down to the hips to the ground; riding to the beat, it was invented by the late great Jamaican dancing king: Mr Bogle. I would love to have seen him dance to the Smith Quartet.

© Gabriel Prokofiev 2010

The first performance was given by The Smith Quartet, in October 2009

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