My Track for Trinidad Carnival 2015

EDM (Electronic Dance Music) is huge in Soca for Trinidad Carnival 2015!

This is not a surprise as Soca has ALWAYS followed the trends in American Pop music! The influence this time around is reflected in the texture of the works (synth sounds, drum sounds, dropouts, build ups etc.).

My song for the season which follows this EDM trend is the Kes track, “General Don,”  which tries to squeeze in house, and a little dubstep as well. This song is also considerably faster than the other Carnival songs which use the EDM fusion. Check it out below.

Although not a big hit, this piece sums up where we are now in Soca and it just cranks action!

So if you are in Trinidad and the other Carnival spaces, enjoy!

If not, remember…

“Carnival is very critical.”

 

In the Classroom with New Soca Writers

At the Barbados Community College I teach Caribbean music. In class, in keeping with my creative-centric approach, which like the Americans I have give a name, creativincism, I try to get the students to write in the styles taught. Given the fact that Soca has become confined to such a limited  range of compositional choices, I provide my students with the necessary ones and see what they come up with. Of course this stuff is graded, how else would they participate?  First up are two groups composing in the style of Destra circa early 2000s. I call this Power Soca (which of course puts me in contradiction with others but I grade the papers right?).

Here is another one. By the way, Lennox seen here is not a Soca/Calypso practitioner by any stretch of the imagination.

 

In my view, even though the audio and video are quite rough, they manage to at least provide you with a good understanding of the style the students are working with. The same could also be said of the next two videos which are written in the Bashment Soca style.

 

I have chosen the last two guys, Kevin and David, because they are as far removed from this music in terms of what they do regularly as any two musicians could be. However, given the guidelines and the space, they too managed to create something that is cool.

To end, I think that creativity lies in many humans. It just shows that once given the boundaries within style and a bit of space, what can be accomplished. It also shows that Soca can have new writers, just that the closed nature of the Caribbean media limit this.
Anyway, let me end with Lennox, “your Rum is my Rum, and my Rum…”

Being Featured: A Really Cool Web Show for Caribbean Culture

The best thing about being an educator is seeing your former students grow.

One of them, Randy ‘Joe’ Moore, has gone into media and is currently producing a web series on Barbadian and Caribbean artists.

I asked Randy to answer a few questions on what the series is about. His extract is below along with a clip featuring the Bajan duo Porgie and Murdah a.k.a. Lead Pipe and Saddis from the show. Enjoy!

 

Being Featured started in January  2014 by Randy Moore (Host) after many years of constantly watching and being blown away by many of the talk shows on the international scene. After

completing a course in mass communication at the Barbados community College, an interest also grew in videography/photography and Randy decided to put the knowledge and resources

together and start an interview series called “Being Featured”.  This series is here to further highlight talented individuals in their respected field (fashion,

 music , film ,sports etc) and also an alternative medium to get talent out to the world. The program seeks to ascertain from the guest, information pertaining to how they got into their

field and any information fitting to influence a young person who would be interested in that area. The show has featured many well known persons which includes; Rhaj Paul ( fashion) ,

Biggie Irie ( reggae and soca artiste) , Sherwin Gardener( Gospel singer). In the future, viewers can expect to see and hear from those people who influence each and

every one of us and hopefully it will be an inspiration for some person to start to work at living their dream.

 

 

What is Bashment Soca? Crop Over Blog 1

lil rick

For those of you that have never heard of Bashment Soca, it is one of the most divisive forms of Soca coming out of Barbados, and thus Crop Over; people either hate it or love it, or in some cases hate themselves because they love it.

Bashment Soca, like many other types of Soca, does not have a clearly defined date of creation, because as I have argued, a genre only happens when others start imitating the prototype recording.

In this case, the prototype recording was “Hard Wine” done in 1996 by Lil’ Rick, who at the time was known primarily as a Bajan Dancehall performer and DJ*.

From this recording a number of traits become clear:

  • Rick’s prominent use of Bajan dialect.
  • The lack of harmony.

As this prototype was copied due to its overwhelming popularity, artists too copied the subject matter (wukking up) and added another one of their pressing issues, drinks.  Here is Fraud Squad:

We can once again see the strong use of Bajan dialect and the generally “odd” harmony.  Here is another classic Bashment Soca hit, “Boom Tick Tick.”  It sings about dancing, wukking up, which Hard Wine did and it is also mixed very raw in comparison with other professionally produced songs.

In summary, most of these Bashment Soca songs are from the early 2000s and it is my view that it is a sub-genre that is quickly disappearing as Bashment Soca artists get more “musical” (see Gorg ). However, for better or worse, it remains one of the clear sub-genres of Soca to come out of Barbados. **

* The input of Eric Lewis and his work with MADD was also important. Lewis employed heavy use of Bajan dialect throughout his compositions see “Tribute to Grynner.”

* * See my Stabby post to come for another example of Bashment Soca in action!!!

Why Can’t White People Dance? (To Caribbean Music)

We have all been there as Caribbean people. We are in a club and our favourite Soca/Dancehall/Zouk/Calypso/Konpa/Merengue/Timba jam comes on. As we pull our partners or absolute strangers close, or in the case with Tambú, at a respectable distance, we glimpse out of the corner of our eye some obvious non-natives moving. Are they dancing? You ask. They must be since they are not foaming at the mouth.  For those unfamiliar with this scenario watch the following clip.

Also for those unfamiliar, here are Caribbean people dancing to Soca.

And finally, for those unfamiliar to the general issue, here is Eddie Murphy from his legendary “Raw” stand up commenting on it.

Unlike Murphy and Chapelle, who also does a seriously funny take on this, I will attempt to apply some sort of meaningful analysis to answer the question why can’t white people dance to Caribbean (black music) music?

The (an) Answer

Dancing and responses to dancing show more than anything how much of a learnt behaviour listening is. For example it is obvious that in both the examples above, both sets of individuals were responding to the sounds they were hearing. However, it is apparent that

  1. They were not responding the same way to the sounds they were hearing.
  2. They were not choosing the same sounds to respond to.

From the clip, Murphy suggests that “white people” listen to the lyrics and dance off of those. I however, think that is more than that. Let us look for example at a song that is tremendously popular “Monster Winer” by Kerwin Dubois and Lil Rick. I have used this example for a reason which shall be revealed in a bit.

From the song, there are four distinct rhythms that are played together:

  1. The rhythm of the melody as sung by Kerwin.
  2. The rhythm of the horn like synth thingy.
  3. The kick drum (deepest drum sound)
  4. And the snare drum.

Conceivably, you can dance to any of these rhythms. However, Caribbean people generally perceive the bass kick as the most important one to dance to and keep time with. Why did they choose this? Well because that is what they saw their friends, family, bad influences at school doing from the time they were little ones therefore they do it as they saw it/heard it being done. In other words, they LEARNT which one of the rhythms was the most important as well as HOW to respond to that rhythm.

Of course they can!

So that is why it is said that white people can’t dance because they don’t grow up in the same cultural environment as Blacks and Caribbean people do. This does not mean however that they will never be able to dance like Caribbean people because dancing and listening are learnt behaviours and lack of melanin has nothing to do with it.  In fact, there are millions of white people, including many Caribbean whites, whose dancing will not look out of place on any dance floor in the region. To prove it, let’s go to YouTube.

Here is a video from the Siberian dance group doing “Monster Winer.”

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

It is obvious that someone here spent their time studying and listening to Caribbean music and imitating how Caribbean people respond to it. Whoever they are then transmitted this method of listening to others. I therefore bet that if any similar song to “Monster Winer” plays, these dancers will be able to execute moves like Caribbean persons without their skin colour causing them to “regress” in to hapless shaking.

In summary, white people can dance (there is no one correct way), and can dance LIKE Caribbean people to Caribbean music; all it involves is them listening LIKE and moving LIKE Caribbean people. The videos on YouTube prove this as well as the Bajan Blue Box Cart band every Crop Over*. Dancing has nothing to do with melanin, but instead how people choose to live out the culture of race.* *

* Please Google them.

**There are fantastic academics who deal with this, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy for starters.

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).