Snapshot in Soca IV – A History of Soca – 1990s – Present

The last snapshot in Soca is taken from the early to mid-nineties and runs right up to the present. This period can be broken down further but is not necessary given the musical similarities of songs called Soca in the last twenty years. In this time, there have been generally two musical styles in Soca composition and performance: Power Soca and Groovy Soca. These terms come from Trinidad, with Barbados referring to the latter as Ragga Soca (a term which Trinidadians generally use to refer to another modern sub-genre of Soca, but that is another blog for another time). It is interesting that Barbadians, and much of the rest of the Caribbean for that matter, have no name for the faster Soca and generally refer to it as just Soca, but that too is another blog for another time.  I want to look now, however, at how these two forms of Soca—Power Soca and Ragga/Groovy Soca—came about. Firstly, here are two examples of both these types.

Power Soca

Ragga/Groovy Soca

 

It is my view that the Power Soca has its foundations in RingBang, at least musically anyway. Ringbang was a musical style and way of life devised by our good friend Eddy Grant in the early 90s, as a sort of concocted style-life culture which was supposed to introduce a new way of ‘cool existence’ to the Caribbean. Ultimately, this Ring Bang entity ended up influencing mostly music and sounded as below.

 

The most striking thing about RingBang was the stripped-down nature of it. The drums and voice were purposely in the foreground and there were no horns or keyboards nor guitar strumming.  This differed considerably from the work of the producers of Classic Soca who were operating the same time as Grant. Listen to another track below, this time by Super Blue from 1994, who was obviously influenced by the Ring Bang vibe as this song is on Grant’s Ice label.

 

What Ring Bang sound did, in my opinion, was to open the door to increased tempo. In music, the more harmonically light a song is, the faster it can be played. Just think of dance trance music, for example, or some traditional Indian music. In addition to the suggestion of quicker tempos, the songs that came after RingBang used a similar drum beat.

Some of the later nineties songs are as follows:

 Machel Montano Xtatik and Big Truck

Square One with Raggamuffin

Eventually Soca songs increased from less than 120 b.p.m, with the classic Soca songs, to over 150 b.p.m.! (See Jumbie above). This was mostly due to the new emphasis on rhythm.

 

The other style to come to the fore in the 90s is the form known as Ragga/Groovy Soca. Ragga Soca owes much of its early development to the work of producer Nicholas Brancker. The first recordings of the style that became known as Ragga Soca are below. These two works are what I consider, even to this day, some of the most important songs in the genre.

 

What these two songs have in common is their tempo. In addition, they both have the same musical influence—both these songs are of medium tempo and are influenced by Jamaican Dancehall. These stylistic properties are in essence the core of the Ragga Soca style (along with other stuff which I do not have time to deal with here).

 

Here are some other examples of Groovy/Ragga Soca.

 

 

Currently, most Soca artists operate within either style, Power and Ragga/Groovy Soca, and there are now established competitions in both sub-genres in most Caribbean carnivals.

 

So here end the Snapshots in Soca’s life. I hope you have enjoyed viewing the album. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel, STEFAN WALCOTT, which has the snapshot songs in playlists as well as my book, Caribbean Composers Handbook for further elaboration.  And stick around for the other blog articles to follow, including the promised blog on other Eastern Caribbean Soca groups and their influential songs.

 

8 comments

  1. Just learned of this site! I thoroughly appreciated your Snapshots. I remember hearing Maestro’s “Bionic Man” and feeling a surge of electric energy and excitement. Your “shots” are thoughtful, both informative and educational (definitely not the same thing!), and written in a style that is easy to read. Your links are well organized. Just a question. What role do you think “Burning Flames” and its distinctive style and at the time, novel approach played in the evolution of Soca? I remember the first year they slammed Antigua with their drum-machine fuelled music with a hitherto unknown frenetic pace. There were howls of the destruction of Western Civilization and the return to barbarism when the purists were confronted with this “crazy noise”! “Left to Right / Stylee Tight!” was the battlecry of Wadadli Carnival 1985. To me, Soca was never the same again. The leader, Oungkou, was Arrow’s bass-man for a time prior to the conflagration, “Burning Flames”. I’d love to get your take on the phenomenon (?) of Burning Flames.

    I look forward to reading much more from you and becoming more educated in this realm. Thank you for your work and contribution. And all the best in your studies.

    1. Thanks for the comment Leslie. One reason I started this blog was to get feedback such as this. I will take a look at Bionic Man and I do share your view on Burning Flames. Look out for what I consider the 30 most influential Soca recordings, Flames are present.

  2. This blog is a fantastic resource for students of Caribbean music… Congratulations Stefan! Where may your book “Caribbean Composers Handbook” be purchased?

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