Trinidad and Tobago

Carnival Songs I Like -2018 (Trinidad)

Trinidadian Carnival has rolled around again. And here are a few songs that I really like. These songs are not necessarily the most popular songs of the year but just ones that caught my ear.

  1. Olatunji – Bodyline

This song is by far my favourite of the 2018 class. Olatunji, known for his previous experiments with Afro-pop, divorces that style for a joyous romp into swing music. I love the concept and the video is even cooler especially considering I was involved with one like this in 2017 with the 1688 Collective and Jabari Browne.

2. Kes – Hello

I know I said in the intro that this list might not include the most popular songs, but this one by Kes is definitely one of the front-runners of 2018. Here Kes the Band is on the Afro-Pop fusion vibe and this one easily calls out to the work of Flavour, Davido and the other members of the Afro-pop legion.

3. Full of Vibe – Voice and Marge Blackman

Kes is has a great voice and once again I like his contribution with Marge Blackman. This one fits into the more traditional Ragga Soca/Groovy Soca model.  It has a solid beat and great vocals which means that it fits neatly into any Soca playlist.

4. Machel Montano and Superblue

The of the biggest names in Soca in Trinidad have joined forces this year and this song pretty defines the genre in 3 minutes and 22s. There is nothing more Soca than this. It probably will win road march as well.

Ok, so I chose some really popular ones here…

What songs do you like?

 

Crop Over Blog V – The Aural History of Calypso

The wide genre known as calypso has been a major part of the Crop Over festival in Barbados since its inception.

Here is part I of  a video that traces its aural history in Trinidad.  Unlike most Calypso history documents that I have come across,  this one actually has music. Enjoy and educate yourself, in fact, enjoducate yourself!

Here it is below.

 

Subscribe to my channel if you like what you see so you won’t miss part II.

 

*Oh yeah and here is the slide presentation from it in case you want to teach this or have really great parties.

 

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.