*Nah Going Home is actually 11 years old but born after the school year…;)
So here ends the list. If you had gone through all the stages then you should be pretty competent by now. So read and listen through to #1 and be a Soca Dummy never again.
10. Massage (USVI/St. Kitts)
The Northern Caribbean has not been known as a production centre in terms of Soca especially where I live in the Southern Caribbean. However, a movement with a distinctive Soca sound, no doubt influenced by crunk and loud rap, has been going on for the last few years there. Pumpa’s song “Massage” is the best known of its type and managed to penetrate regionally. With lyrics not for the faint hearted, this song rocked many Carnivals, letting people know that Soca artists in the North Caribbean do indeed exist.
9. Tempted to Touch (Barbados)
Barbadian artist Rupee is one of the few Caribbean Soca artists to have received a major record label contract. Tempted to Touch was Rupee’s big hit from this period. This song featured on the soundtrack to the movie “After the Sunset” and remains Rupee’s most popular song to this day.
8. Sugar Bum Bum (Trinidad)
If Endless Vibrations was the watershed, then Sugar Bum Bum was the flood. Despite his large and illustrious body of work, “Sugar Bum Bum” was Kitchener’s most popular work. The bass line alone can cause uncontrollable revelry on over 50 Trinidadians, so play with caution.
7. Big Truck (Trinidad)
Machel Montano is probably the biggest name in Soca. In the 1990s, his band Xtatik had this hit. This song also uniquely features a reggae section which makes it a fairly different.
6. Jumbie (Trinidad)
I know this last list might seem as an ode to Machel but how can any Soca list worth its weight not have a heavy presence of one of its biggest Soca stars? Jumbie is a high tempo Soca song with a level of rhythmic intricacy in the melody that few could execute in the genre. This song and its accompanying imagery were well put together and was merely another indicator of Machel’s ability.
5. Dollar Wine (Trinidad)
Dollar Wine dates back to the end of the Classic Soca Sound and this song and accompanying dance were everywhere. Done by Collin Lucas, it is still a hit with many a hotel band throughout the Caribbean with tourists unable to pay the ‘dollars.’ And you know a song is big when it can set off related songs in other genres like Lil Rick’s Dollar Wine.
4. Fly – (Trinidad)
Destra is one of the female artists that emerged in the early 2000s along with Fay-Ann Lyons and Patrice Roberts. This song “Fly” shows her breakthrough sound, half-time melodies (borrowed from Euro-American pop music), and generous use of R&B singing.
3. Band of the Year (Trinidad)
Machel Montano is again on the list this time in a duet with Patrice Roberts. This song, with its half-time melody, was massive, introducing Roberts to a wide audience. It also won Road March in Trinidad and Tobago in 2006.
2. Tiney Winey (Jamaica)
Tiny Winey is from Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, an uptown Jamaican band that over the years made a killing from remaking popular carnival hits. This song is one of the few that was actually theirs and was arranged by super producer Leston Paul as well.
1. Carnival Train (Antigua)
Burning Flames is here again with another Antiguan Special. This song bears the usual imprint of Flames—ripping instrumental breaks, prominent drum machines and great hook combinations. This too, like Workey in list 21-30, managed to cross over in the 1980s to the other Carnivals.
So that is it my friends. You can pick up your qualification by going out and supporting Caribbean Soca artists whenever they are close to you. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
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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.
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.