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Rose Beach: Conquering With the Power of Family Love
By Mark Kirby
(more articles from this author)
2007-05-01
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One of the more bizarre occurrences in recent times has been the warping of such warm and fuzzy concepts as the family and love. Family values means that a man doesn't just tell his own family what to do, but you too, especially with what happens in your private life. Love means love me and love my nation, my crew, or else it's on.

Rose Beach, whose blend of folk music tale spinning, hip hop energy and pop sensibility she labels "fusion pop," stands to set things to right on her CD, Family Love, by showing love in its true light, as a force that is our life line. The world view that pumps through her music comes from her family and her native culture and is one where pain, abuse and oppression are countered by kindness and integrity and positive use of the force.

What is the Canadian Aboriginal world view that your mother espoused and how does it come out in or influence your music?

Rose Beach: What can you do after culture and identity are stolen from you? My grandmother, my great-grandmother, and their generation suffered atrocities. My mother experienced racism. Their experiences made me want the dream (of achievement) all the more. I sometimes wish we had a future where these terrible events didn't occur and we were all happy. That would be nice, but I think that we are where we are supposed to be. The native youth are strong survivors and we are proud of our ancestry and our ancestors' legacy. Always positivity through negativity, which is the message of my CD, Family Love.

For an artist so woman-centric, the CD opener, "Testament," is perhaps the best song I've heard about leaving one's own and a father's relentless love.

"He smiled his kind smile / He asked if I could walk a mile in the shoes of poverty / Then waste my talent slovenly / What I want to say ... I didn't want to say goodbye to you / When I left the farm little fresh faced girl."

The music is a powerful contrast to the lyrics and gives the song a dark-edged intensity that fits the modern urban grind. Ms. Beach sings in a sultry, yet strident, voice over an 808-sounding beat, a thick texture of guitar and synthesizer and punctuated by Indian tabla drums. What could be a safe, pleasant acoustic guitar number is turned into a late night altered state revelation.

Family Love is full of these juxtapositions of dark, sometimes grim, yet uplifting, lyrics and tense, phat grooves. The stand out cut, "Window Pain," has Rose's soft sung and whisper-rapped vocals riding over a nice beat with pop hooks worthy of The Matrix production team or The Neptunes, especially in the vocal chorus and plaintive keyboard riffs. Here she shines a poetic light on hustling and life's disappointments, while acknowledging family love as a life line of unwavering support and positivity despite sad circumstances.

"I never thought I'd end up like this ... / Who knew that I'd be dancing in the window, but they say, girl, your body is your in, though / Clutch that tip, f*$%in' shake them hips, your ass is mine if I pay that dime / But, I won't sit on this train and cry ... My niece is a beautiful young one, my brother is a talented someone / And we've still got a great life to live, we've got more than this sad window pain to give."

There are few tunes outside of Bob Dylan's songbook that deal with the working poor's - let alone sex workers' - issues. And how rare is it today, with the sad absence of Biggie and Tupac, to have music that's hard hitting for the jeep and dance floor, but has a keep-your-head-up message that is not a bromide of cornball sentimentality? This song alone is worth getting the CD for, but the rest of the music is equally good, with no bonus out-take tracks, skits or other filler.

When did you first realize that you wanted to play music as your main focus?

Rose Beach: I was really into acting, modeling, writing, dancing and music from a young age. Anything to do with the arts. When I was about twenty (seven years ago) a wise soul gave me a piece of advice: If you want to be a legend, you can't be just good at many things, you have to be amazing at one thing. That was a turning point in my life.

What are your main musical influences?

Rose Beach: I can't stop playing reggae. I am crazy for it; the sound is especially fabulous on the turntables. I love Sizzla, Tanya Stephens, Peter Tosh and of course Bob Marley. I really like Ninnie Starr from BC, Canada. I went to France and I met Tony Fisher. I can't stop playing his song "Rude Boy Style." Wallen is great and from France also. I love Tupac, B.I.G, Alanis Morrisette, Patsy Cline, Aaliyah, Ben Harper, Ani Difranco.

What made you decide to move to Vancouver?

Rose Beach: Small town Saskatchewan is not really the place to be when you are a musician and you dream big, for the simple fact that there are not enough people to come to your shows unless you are playing a festival or you already have a name for yourself. Vancouver seemed like the place to be. My name is Rose BEACH. I guess I needed to be near the Pacific Ocean with quicker access to Japan.

What led you to go to Japan? What is it about Japan that has caused you to have so much musical and personal success?

Rose Beach: I went to Japan the first time as a model. I would do stints in Japan to pay for my music. You can't be flaky here. If you say that you are going to do something, you have to do it. I learned that the hard way. It can bring you down, or you can make it work for you. I make myself seen and I ask for help. My street team is amazing and it consists of really multi cultural people. Japan is changing. It is not so segregated racially or culturally and that is an exciting thing, from an artist's perspective. On the other hand, being thought of as exotic is a definite plus. Also, people work extremely hard here. My father was a workaholic, as well. These two different surroundings have made me more motivated.

The creation of pop music with depth and connection to real life, shows someone who has something to say and is not just after fame and yet, like anyone else, Ms. Beach and her crew like to have fun and celebrate life, as in the song "By My Side." A girl's gotta have fun on her own, right? That's what the message of the song "Stay" is. But here the fun is in having a romp with Rose in a sexy bad-girl mode, the kind of girl that's hot, self-assured and defiantly, confidently so. She whisper-sings in your ear:

"I want it my way, tough luck / My condition, my terms, my wishes, my desire / And don't you dare fight it, 'cause I don't bite / Wait, yes I will, gonna get my thrill."

The song and lyrics, as throughout the CD, are perfectly matched to the beat, here a Jay-Z style beat of deep Middle Eastern drum and sitar sounds. Somebody scream!

Though refreshingly devoid of me-first braggadocio and materialist fantasy, the cut "Remember My Name" finds Ms. Beach giving herself some well-deserved props, and hopes for a richer future. And for a good reason, too:

"I crave a day when they scream my name to the stage at the top of their lungs / I crave a day when the people I love ain't poor, they will be provided for."

A notable contribution comes from O.v, a rapper from Montreal and a former classmate of Ms. Beach's; he busts a rhyme in English and French. For Rose Beach even success is geared toward love, friends and family.

These are also celebrated on the ode to friendship "The Gift," which features harmonica playing by her mother, Arlette, and her good friend Gaye Delorme on guitar. Ms. Beach's sister Belle Chanson makes an appearance on the CD. "Basically, any time I needed any musician, they either went to the school, or had a buddy that I could pay for some session work." Another friend, singer Brandy Johnston, provided back up vocals on several cuts and most notably on the club-hit-in-waiting "By My Side." Both cuts have a hip hop sensibility that is radio friendly and would get mad respect on the streets of my Bushwick/East Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY.

You have a lot of dance/R&B/hip hop aspects to your music. How did you come to be influenced by these styles of music, especially considering your mom played in honky tonks and your step dad was into country music?

Rose Beach: I moved to my dad's house in Surrey, BC. You had better change your style pretty quick out there, or suffer dire consequences. Everybody was listening to Aaliyah and Wu-Tang Clan. Fortunately, some nice girls took my twin and me under their wing before too much damage was done on the dance floor. They taught us the importance of hip-hop and dancing. I am forever grateful Carey and Nat! After that I was hooked and I used to sit around my friend's studio all day and all night in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan writing and recording. They taught me a lot about rap.

The hip hop or fusion pop influences don't overshadow the melodic and well-structured song writing. This comes from her love of reggae, music which nearly always has a tune, and other forms of root-based popular music. This comes through on the lilting song "Crossroads," a plaintive, roots-tinged cut with a sweet sing-along chorus. Ms. Beach's melody (wrapped around lyrics about a long distance lover in Japan), flows in and out of airy pop and hip hop soul. And in and out of English and Japanese. There is also another hardcore, flowing rap that tastefully complements the rest of the song (not some ham-fisted cameo designed to appeal to some demographic), this time from Edge, an MC from Vancouver, BC. Underneath it, though, like most of the CD is the jumpy, twenty-first century groove pioneered by Timbaland and Missy Eliot, among others.

Who are the other producers on the CD? What are their backgrounds and how did you come to work with them?

Rose Beach: Kyhan Smith mixed the entire CD. He's a genius. Richard Harrow did the mastering. He's from Calgary, Alberta, and is highly recommended. As far as the music, I am the main producer for two songs. They are the more acoustic sounding songs. The other ten songs are produced by T. Jay Howe from Vancouver. He was a student at Columbia Academy. At one point, I had completed two fairly serious songs and I was wanting to write a party track. My beats always end up kind of melancholy/tortured soul sounding. He rolled in the studio as I was trying to record "By My Side," which is a song about partying with your girls and whipped out the perfect beat. After that, he was in charge of the beats and I focused all my energy on writing and recording. I edited the entire CD as well.

If Ringo of the Beatles had to get by with a little help from his friends, Rose Beach happily thrives and is inspired by her extended family of relatives, cousin-close collaborators and an international street team in Japan and Vancouver, giving further proof that leading with one's heart is one way to get by in the world of independent music. In other words, Rose Beach catches the flies 'cause she uses mo' honey.


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