Updated: Mar 15
By Moses St Louis
Music is a unique business in that there isn’t really a retirement plan. Septentrional of Haiti and El Gran Combo of Puerto RICO are two of the oldest active bands in the world. We’ve seen some bands in the HMI take their last dance, only to return a few years later…ex Phantoms/ZIN; some with some of their original lineup missing For example, Skah Shah #1, Magnum Band, System Band to name a few. In some cases, we’ve seen some bands disbanded and to reappear under a different name. Shleu Shleu to Skah Shah, Frere Dejean to System Band. We’ve also seen instances of bands like Tabou Combo, Mizik Mizik, Sweet Micky slowing down their musical output to a halt but continuing to perform occasionally their classic hits. There are a few bands that have retired completely, like the former new generation sensations Lakol/ Papash, that called it quit all together.
The thing with music is that, there is really no blueprint for retirement, there’s no set age limit on creating good quality music. Some artists higher than others. It is very common in the HMI for some bands to peak later in their career after struggling from the beginning, ex, Djakout Mizik, Enposib. Some gave up very quickly, some persist and some just never really reached their peak..
With that in mind, when is the right time for a band to retire? And how much does missing that window of time impact a band’s legacy? We often hear that phrase in the HMI, “tan djaz sa pase, yo mèt kanpe, yo fini” (their time have passed). Often you hear those comments if the band has been around 20 years or more. But, does age has anything to do with retirement when it comes to music. Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum rapper Logic announced that he was retiring and stepping away from music at the age of 30 for personal reasons, fatherhood and family. Guns N Roses, after 35 years, they grossed more money in 2019 while touring than any other bands in the world and more in a year than any other years in their career.
A great philosopher once said: “musicians don’t retire; they just stop when there’s no more music in them,” but what if that wasn’t true? Sometimes is it justified for certain bands to retire because they had no more quality music in them? This is very subjective and sometimes it is very tough for a band to recognize that themselves, that they’ve been passed their prime and not worth tarnishing its legacy.
TVice has recently been at the center of such debate, they dominated the HMI market for almost two decades, you can see that they’re a shell of what they once were. The group has essentially been transformed from one of the top band in the HMI onto survival mode. They’re so far removed from what they once used to be.
As the times have changed, people’s musical tastes have evolved as well and the bands must adapt to the changes. But at the same time, we don’t hear people asking for a band like Tropicana to resign, their sound have not changed, and they remain one of the most active band in the HMI. We can conclude that not all changes are good. In trying to adapt to changes, soliciting to different demographics, sacrificing the integrity and quality of their music for increased popularity and longevity, a band can suffer a forced retirement by having the core fans turn their back against them. This deterioration of quality in the band’s music isn’t always the band’s fault. It is sometimes because they are still stuck in the past when they were a dominant force. Sometimes the band is stubborn and refuse to grow or evolve musically and that lack of growth leads to repetitiveness, boring music. Most of the time, those bands, after such long and prosperous careers, they have become less focused on the art and shifting more towards maintaining their relevance.
It boils down to: do those bands stop with their legacies and reputations intact, or do they continue and risk damaging their brands? Some bands chose the latter, for whatever reason, and are taken less and less seriously day by day.
Don’t’ get me wrong, just because a band/artist’ popularity is in a decline doesn’t mean they are finished, it may just be, it’s time to take a little step back, at least for a while, regroup and come back with a bang. After the departure of Gazzman, that’s exactly what Arly did with Nu L ook. Although he toyed with the idea of resignimg, Arly was able to step away for a while and come back with a banging album.
So, when is it the right time for a band to retire for good? It’s possible that there is no right or wrong answer to the question, making such decision comes with understanding each individual situation.. But with all honesty, a band would either recognize their decline as it begins, or soon after and fade away, either temporarily or for good.
In a slow moving industry like the HMI, it’s easy to overlook those signs, but the receptiveness to acknowledge them could save a band's legacy. It’s hard to find a band to go out while on top, but with that self-awareness, a band can come close.
I report, you decide.