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.

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Snapshot in Soca III – A History of Soca – 1982-1990

In snapshot II, we managed to see the creative burst that came about after Lord Shorty’s innovation. In this third snapshot, 1982-1990, what I term the Classic Soca Period, it is my view that a gradual settling down in musical sound occurred, led by the success of “Hot, Hot, Hot.” Before I get to “Hot Hot Hot,” I want to revisit “Sugar Bum Bum.” I briefly mentioned this song in Snapshot II, (where it indeed belongs in terms of time of release) but it needs to be dealt with separately, such is its contribution.

“Sugar Bum Bum” was written by Aldywn ‘Lord Kitchener’ Roberts, who was up to that time, 1978, singing calypso, and very successfully. In fact, Lord Kitchener is generally seen as one of the greatest calypsonians to have ever existed. It is true that before “Sugar Bum Bum,” Kitchener had solemnly pledged never to engage with Soca; however, after the success of “Sugar Bum Bum,” Kitchener never returned completely (if at all) to calypso. The song was produced by Ed Watson and was said to be inspired not by Funk, but by West African highlife, which is in keeping with the experimental period of that time. So here it is again.

The popularity of “Sugar Bum Bum” led, in my opinion, to listeners realising that something new was indeed going on in Trinidad. It opened up the ears of the Caribbean and the world to a ‘fresh’ sound, which featured plenty of repetition, both in lyric and in harmonic structure. This was made all the more apparent because “Sugar Bum Bum” came from Kitchener, a well-known practitioner of the ‘old’ calypso form, which had much less repetition and generally more chords.

The tremendous success of “Sugar Bum Bum” soon led to an Ed Watson Soca ‘sound.’ However, this sound was soon superseded by Leston Paul, the producer of “Hot, Hot Hot,” who, with Arrow (and the other 2 big producers of the 80s), changed the game forever. 

“Hot Hot Hot” is one of the most successful singles created within the Caribbean. According to Arrow, in his interview for the Unesco/Banyan show in 1991, it had sold (up to that time) 3-5 million copies!!! Here he is.

With success comes replication, and the rhythm of “Hot Hot Hot,” the tempo, the general relationship the instruments had with each other, influenced many Soca songs to follow. This influence was further multiplied by the fact that several of the already popular artists  were now seeking out Leston Paul to produce songs for them; this meant that Paul eventually became one of the biggest and most influential producers of the 3rd Soca snapshot period, and indeed of ALL time.  So here they are: “Hot Hot Hot,” followed by “Soucouyant,”  Crazy’s 1985 winning Road March song, arranged by Emmanuel Ector and we should be able to hear the definite similarities.

The other big producers of that period were Pelham Goddard and Frankie McIntosh, with the former producing many hits. These three producers (along with Leston Paul of course), defined the sound of Soca in the 80s. Here are two selections from Goddard— Tambu’s 1988 song, “This Party Is It,” (Road March Winner) and “De Hammer,” by David Rudder from 1986.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t67lXPPtww0

Here also is the Mighty Sparrow, another calypso legend who too vowed never to sing Soca, doing the Soca, “Doh Back Back” arranged by McIntosh.

Incidentally, “De Hammer” won Rudder the CALYPSO competition in 1986; Soca music had infiltrated into the realm of the Calypso in a big way. This showed that what was new and different in the late 70s, was now absorbed into the Calypso by the end of the 80s, at least with the musical rhythms. The difference however, generally remains (and I say this gingerly, as it requires a blog in itself) in the lyrics and the amount of repetition found in each form. Calypso = plenty lyrics + more chords + less repetition; Soca = little/less lyrics + plenty repetition + less chords…sort of. I promise to come back to this.

What I did not mention is that Arrow was from the small island of Montserrat and McIntosh from St. Vincent. In Snapshot IV, I return the regionalisation of Soca, as it becomes the soundtrack to the street element of Caribbean carnivals.

In conclusion, snapshot III, the Classic Soca Period, contains many of my early childhood memories of Caribbean music. The songs from this time, people generally call ‘sweet’ (another blog), and herald them as not only classic songs, but ‘golden’ songs. There are many artists from this time who I have not mentioned, but Baron, Stalin, Duke, Explainer, are but some of the who made this 80s/early 90s time memorable.

 In Snapshot IV, I revisit good old Eddy Grant and the work of his Ice Record label. It was this label that initiated the next movement in Soca, as the Classic Soca Period was shot “Bang Bang” in the chest.  The noise “Ring/rung” out for years!