The hard work of mak­ing sim­ple magic

Mu­sic should ring true, says Tracker Boo­gie cre­ator

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING - BREN­DAN SEERY

MU­SIC is some­times re­garded as the Cin­derella of the mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion in­dus­try: a cute jin­gle or a catchy tune as a back­ground to the work of clever copy­writ­ers or art direc­tors.

Yet, at its best, mu­sic can lift a com­mer­cial from good into the realms of memorable – and ad mu­sic has some­times gone on to find pop­u­lar­ity in the main­stream mu­sic world.

In re­ally great ad­verts, mu­sic is not sim­ply a tacked-on “nice to have”; it is an in­te­gral part of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion, em­pha­sis­ing a brand story or its val­ues.

Joburg mu­si­cian and com­poser Adam Howard is one of the lead­ing lo­cal ex­po­nents of mu­sic for mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“Mu­sic has to be ap­pro­pri­ate for the mes­sage be­ing con­veyed or the story be­ing told – and if it is help­ing to recre­ate an era or a feel­ing, then it must be ab­so­lutely his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate.”

For ex­am­ple, if you’re telling a story that has com­po­nents of 1960s rock, then don’t chuck in riffs more ap­pro­pri­ate to the disco decade that fol­lowed, says Howard.

A clas­si­cally trained mu­si­cian, he came to South Africa – after com­plet­ing his stud­ies in Lon­don – to play first trum­pet in the Jo­han­nes­burg Phil­har­monic Orches­tra.

“Just be­cause I come from a clas­si­cal mu­sic back­ground does not mean I don’t ap­pre­ci­ate all other gen­res… but hav­ing that rig­or­ous pro­fes­sional train­ing and dis­ci­pline means I can not only an­a­lyse mu­sic tech­ni­cally, but that I can get my head down and work to dif­fi­cult dead­lines when I need to.”

Howard says mem­bers of the South African mu­sic com­mu­nity who are pro­duc­ing work for com­mer­cials are the equal of any in the world.

“You may not al­ways see them fronting a band, but we have some amaz­ingly ta­lented peo­ple.”

Howard rel­ishes a chal­lenge in a mu­sic brief, and says he tries to un­der­stand in de­tail the mar­ket­ing mes­sage con­veyed in the ad and the place of the mu­sic within that.

He will also of­ten be called on to pro­duce a com­po­si­tion sim­i­lar in style to that of an era.

Such was the case when he was briefed by com­mer­cials direc­tor Kevin Fitzger­ald of 0307 Films for the cur­rent com­mer­cial for Tracker car re­cov­ery.

The ad, con­cep­tu­alised by House of Brave, echoes Tracker’s cam­paign line, “To care is to pro­tect”, and tells the story of a young Ray Charles, the blind pi­anist and singer who went on to be­come one of the most in­flu­en­tial mu­si­cians of his, or any, gen­er­a­tion.

The story of Charles would be nothing with­out Wi­ley Pit­man, the man who dis­cov­ered the pi­ano-play­ing abil­ity of the young ge­nius.

The ad shows Pit­man at first chas­ing the young boy away and then, later, help­ing him to play some boo­gie-woo­gie riffs.

Pit­man, the ad says, took the time to nur­ture and pro­tect Charles’s love for mu­sic and in­her­ent tal­ent.

Howard was briefed to com­pose two pieces of mu­sic.

First was to com­pose a typ­i­cal “boo­gie-woo­gie” pi­ano piece.

Says Howard: “Wi­ley Pit­man was pro­fi­cient in the boo­gie-woo­gie style of pi­ano play­ing. Most boo­gie-woo­gie pieces are in the tra­di­tional 12-bar blues form – all hav­ing a dis­tinc­tive ‘hook’ that gets re­peated over the 12-bar form.”

The re­sult was the “Tracker Boo­gie” – which is vir­tu­ally in­dis­tin­guish­able from the boo­gie-woo­gie mu­sic of its era and which the young Charles would have started out play­ing.

But it is that dis­tinc­tive “hook” that runs through the whole spot – and which was, says Howard, “the in­stru­ment of change for Ray Charles”.

At the end of the com­mer­cial, we see the young Ray Charles, just be­fore he be­comes fa­mous, per­form­ing for a small au­di­ence.

“I had to com­pose a piece that would sound typ­i­cally like a piece Ray would have per­formed at that time – and typ­i­cal of the rhythm and blues-soul sound of that time.

“But the crunch was to weave mu­si­cally the hook of the boo­gie- woo­gie into the new piece – be­cause this is the point in the com­mer­cial where he pays tribute to his men­tor – those few notes he was taught in the be­gin­ning and which changed a life for ever.”

The mu­sic pro­duc­tion it­self was, as it turned out, com­par­a­tively easy, be­cause find­ing some­one who could do the unique Ray Charles voice was a huge task.

Howard re­calls: “We ini­tially au­di­tioned a few voices in South Africa… and to most peo­ple, the re­sult was close.”

But most peo­ple are not direc­tor Fitzger­ald, who was not happy with the singers found.

Howard adds: “We looked over­seas and got our choices down to four singers – from the US, UK, Italy and Slove­nia. Yes – Slove­nia. Through con­nec­tions in the UK, Howard was ad­vised to check out Uros Peric, a 39-year-old jazz singer. “We all couldn’t be­lieve how close Uros got to Ray Charles.

“Uros just gets that style – and of course is deeply in­flu­enced by the mu­sic of Ray Charles and has his own tribute show.

“He was an ab­so­lute dream to work with – and the re­sult is a piece we are all proud of and a piece that hope­fully stays au­then­tic to the mu­sic of Ray Charles.”

Mu­si­cal direc­tor and trum­peter Adam Howard be­lieves in mu­sic for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, even in ad­ver­tis­ing.

Jazz mu­si­cian Uros Peric from Slove­nia pro­duces the au­then­tic Ray Charles sound in the Tracker ad.

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