Endless Vibrations

30 Tunes for Soca Dummies 21-30

Are you a Soca dummy? Can’t tell a wine from a pooch back a jump from a wave? Well here is a list that will help you, 30 Soca songs for dummies. The songs appear in no particular order and are merely numbered to keep you following my blog. So get smart Soca dummy, here we go:

30. Workey Workey (Antigua)

This song from Antiguan super group Burning Flames acknowledges a couple of styles, most notably Zouk, Konpas and Classic Soca. Its form is taken from the first two styles with some (comparatively) long instrumental breaks. The lyrics are suggestive in keeping with the tradition. This track never fails to destroy any Caribbean party and is part of the Soca canon. Speak ill of this tune in the Lesser Antilles and risk expulsion.

29. Differentology  (Trinidad)

Bunji Garlin has been a huge name in Soca since the end of the 90s. This track from 2013 has propelled him into another popular realm. In keeping with the tradition of noticeable popular music borrowing within Soca, there is a healthy presence of (euro) house synths in “Differentology.” It also shows Bunji’s tremendous rhythmic prowess with a verse that is tasty!

28.  Pump Me Up (Barbados)

This mid-nineties song more than any introduced Edwin Yearwood and Krosfyah to the region (important names to the Soca world, go and Google) “Pump Me Up” was at that time a very fresh approach to Carnival music and was responsible in large part for the eventual establishment of Ragga/Groovy Soca as a sub-genre of its own. Edwin’s vocals are unmistakable, and he continued from where David Rudder left off, by placing a R&B singing style into the rhythms of the Anglo-Caribbean.  A must check for anyone interested in what Barbadians term Ragga Soca and the Trinidadians call Groovy Soca.

27.  Turn Me On (St. Vincent)

Kevyn Lyttle’s smash hit is possibly the most popular Ragga Soca/Groovy Soca song ever.  This early noughties number propelled Lyttle to success in 2004 and for a while threatened to open the door to Ragga/Groovy becoming the next ‘big’ thing. That did not materialise however but both the genre and the track live on.

26.  Balance Batty (Dominica)

Bouyon was a style developed by Dominican group WCK. This track is the best representative of the genre and WCK gained tremendous popularity within the region from it. Sung in English, this song still gets the party going with their “Concentration” command. Possibly one of the most important Dominican Soca tunes outside of the influential Exile One group.

25.  Get Something and Wave (Trinidad)

Super Blue/Blue Boy has been one of the most successful Soca artists in Trinidad. This song, “Get Something and Wave,” confirmed his legacy, as it not only won the Road March that year, but started a whole change in partying at Soca fetes, where instead of dancing alone, waving emerged as the thing to do. Described at the time as a fad, this style of partying has been going strong for the last 20 years.

24. Ragga Ragga (Barbados)

This song was not meant to be taken seriously and was in fact a filler on Red Plastic Bag’s 1993 album. However, its impact has been far-reaching with this song being a true watershed recording and being played from Panama to Chicago. It also propelled Red Plastic Bag’s career and put the studio where it was recorded, Chambers studio, run by Nicholas Brancker firmly on the map.

23. Wicked Jab (Grenada)

Wicked Jab comes from Grenadian artist Tallpree and is but one in the long line of Jab songs from Grenada. The Jab Jab is a feature of Jouvert and once again Tallpree pays tribute. Notice the conspicuous conch rhythm which is a characteristic of the Jab songs. Needless to say this one would obliterate any party in the Spice Isle.

22. Endless Vibrations (Trinidad)

For sheer historical significance alone, never mind the killing arrangement, this song would have made the list. However, it remains the breakthrough Soca track which enabled Lord Shorty (Ras Shorty I) to say his (Soca) innovation had arrived. Even though Shorty meant an Indian calypso fusion, this track with prominent guitar and snare drum opened the door for Soul and calypso fusion, on which Soca as a genre became grounded.

21. Hot, Hot, Hot (Montserrat)

“Hot Hot Hot” is possibly the biggest selling Soca track of all time. Arrow, from the satellite Soca region of Montserrat, conservatively put its sales in the millions in the mid-80s and the remake was even bigger causing many a Caribbean cruise ship and hotel band since then to have to play it. For me this track IS the Classic Soca sound and highlights the arranging style of one of the big three producers of the time, Leston Paul. (see Snapshots in Soca)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkGgdIBX1to

Hit follow so you won’t miss tracks 20-11 for Soca Dummies. I promise thee more big TUNES and an end to Soca ignorance.

Snapshot in Soca II – A History of Soca Late – 1970s to early 1980s

The next stage in the life of Soca, is in my view, one of the most interesting periods in its history. To recap, in Snapshot 1, Trinidadian Lord Shorty had  introduced “Endless Vibrations” to the musical world as an example of his Sokah; it, however, did not end up sounding like what Shorty had intended. In the period of Snapshot II, we have a situation where producers and other artists sought to go through the musical door Shorty had opened. However, and this is why I call this period interesting, even though “Endless Vibrations” was commercially successful, these artists and producers did not attempt to exactly replicate the textures, rhythms and harmonies within it. In other words, the songs that came after “Endless Vibrations” were, in my view, influenced more by the philosophy of it rather than a thorough Xeroxing of all its musical qualities. So here are some of the songs from the period  so you can see/hear what I mean.

Firstly we have Maestro, who had Shorty as his band leader doing “Soulful Calypso.”

On hearing this, we can hear that it does not sound exactly like “Endless Vibrations.”  Maestro was introducing the bass lines and drum beats of the popular Afro-American styles at the time to Calypso, similar to what Shorty did in “Endless Vibrations,” but not sounding EXACTLY like “Endless Vibrations.”

Shorty also did other songs in this period, similar to Maestro,here is  “Sweet Music,” from 1976.

A few years later, and using the same philosophy of experimentation, was the artist Super Blue, formerly known as Blue Boy.

 Merchant was also involved “Dr. Soca” 1979

 Then of course we have the incredibly popular “Sugar Bum Bum,” from 1978.

I purposely put these songs from these artists, Boy Blue, Merchant, Kitchener and Maestro, because I want to show how different songs were from each other that were considered Soca (late 70s -early 80s).

So where does the one that was not meant to be taken for Granted come in?

Well, the one I was referring to in Snapshot 1 is Eddy Grant, the international pop star of the 1980s who wrote the monster hit “Electric Avenue” and who proclaimed himself to be the father of Soca. This statement was controversial at the time and Trinidadians were up in arms (not arms in the air, that is later in the life of Soca) as it was made. “How dare this non-Trinidadian lay claims on our indigenous creation!” they screamed. Well, Grant’s point was/is this: since the essential contribution of “Endless Vibrations” was a mixture of Soul/Funk and calypso, then I, Eddy Grant, had done that same mixture four years earlier with “Black Skin Blue Eye Boys.”

To me, from “Black Skin Blue Eye Boys,” the Funk presence is prevalent; the normal musical codes of what is known as Calypso, maybe not so much. However, it is difficult to disprove an artist’s intentions due to how subjective music/art actually is. For example, Eddy Grant might tell me, “I was inspired by Kitchener (Trinidadian calypsonian) and wrote “Black Skin, Blue Eyed Boys” while wearing one of Kitchy’s hats and eating rice with a Bajan who took my meat (joke spoiler: reference to one “Tek Yuh Meat Out Muh Rice” by Lord Kitchener).” All I would be able to say to this is, “well Eddy I don’t hear it.” So while it may be hard to musically disprove Grant’s claims of invention, in mixing Funk/Soul with Calypso (“Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys”), it is even harder for him to prove that “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys” STARTED Soca, because most producers identify “Endless Vibrations” and not “”Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys,” as their inspiration. In other words, as I said in Snapshot 1, it is the ones that come after who write the history, who construct the genre and ultimately create the ‘origins’ of it, and for them, Lord Shorty, through “Endless Vibrations,” was the ‘inventor’ of Soca. * 

*Check my academic article to be released next year for an expansion on this.

It must be noted, that AFTER “Endless Vibrations,” Eddy had this song that was largely similar to the others being produced in that period. However, “Neighbour Neighbour,” from 1977, does not sound very much like “Black Skin Blued Eyed Boys” either.

 

In summary, the late 70s- early 80s, was one of the most restless periods in Soca’s life. It was in fact similar to a human’s development, where after birth a period of relentless experimentation goes on. In Snapshot III – The Massive Hits, I will revisit this period again, as I consider Kitchener going back on his word and looking like a sugared bum bum,(pronounced boom boom, for my non-English-speaking Caribbean readers) and examine how “Hot, Hot, Hot” things began to get.

Snapshot in Soca I – A History of Soca Beginnings

Despite the general agreement that Soca has been around since the seventies, few attempts have been made in looking at Soca through the years. This is not really an earth-shattering observation, as the English -speaking Caribbean tends to always overlook its cultural knowledge, but given the fact that Soca is so old, one would have thought that differences in performance and compositional styles would have been compiled. To me, it is like having a 30 year old child and assuming this how he/she always looked and always was. This blog (these posts of this blog at least) intends to rectify this in Webspace and the ideas here come from my research and can be found in my Caribbean Composers Handbook, which I use in teaching Caribbean music on the Associate Degree programme in music at the Barbados Community College. I am doing this because whether I like it or not, I am kind of an expert here, and also because the Wikipedia article is so damn lousy –  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soca_music. I must say now that this blog is not a complete directory, but it contains some prominent Soca stops and addresses. I will be doing this mostly through YouTube uploads as well, as musicians and people in general have little time for text these days. And  besides, I need to put this stuff in some ultra dry academic article first.

Beginnings- The muddying by Sokah

The origin of Soca, which is presented as a clean coherent starting point (Machel – What is Soca on YouTube as but one example), is anything but.

I am going to get into trouble with my Trinidadian friends here, but to state that Ras Shorty/Lord Shorty/Garfield Blackman is the sole innovator of the genre is misleading. I say this because I believe that musical genre NEVER starts at the point of innovation. So, while you might start your style of Bangrasocakaiso Funk on your Akai MPC, it only becomes a genre if your fellow MPCers take it up and use generally the same musical approaches as you. Until that point, your song “Something New,” the Bangrasocakaiso Funk ORIGINAL, will continue to be a novelty at best or a testimony of madness aka “artistic expression” at worst ;). To make it utterly clear, A GENRE ONLY STARTS WHEN OTHER PEOPLE START DOING IT!!

I will return to this later, but back to Soca. Specifically, Shorty claims that Soca was a mixture of Calypso and Indian traditional music forms found in Trinidad. This definition more than any causes confusion because despite heavy repetition, not many people can locate where exactly the Indian influence was in what became known as Soca! Shannon Dudley, an academic and a musician threw in the towel (Judging by The Beat 287), noting that the early Indian influence is not discussed much these days. However, I believe though that Shorty VERY MUCH intended Soca to be Sokah, the original name he had for the genre, as can be heard in “Indrani.” Here the Indian and Calypso fusion can be argued for.

 

“Indrani” doesn’t sound much like what most people know as Soca and is not looked at as the starting point of Soca, at least not in any academic or Facebook argument I have heard. So where does Shorty as the father of Soca come in to play then? The track that is seen as the beginning of Soca, (in the backward-looking origins story)  is Shorty’s “Endless Vibrations.”  In this track, Shorty takes out the heavily identifiable or coded Indian instruments and places the rhythms on “Western Instruments.” The end result? It ends up sounding like American Funk/Soul (Guibault Politics of Labelling).

And there, my friends, we have the muddied beginnings explained–simple?…..Not quite. Check this space for Part II when the genre actually becomes a genre and a guy turns up who people definitely did not take for Grant(ed).