SoCa = Wha?

I get nervous about our global village when it comes to “third world” nations. Imperialism of any kind, being from a region that was just so recently colonised (and in parts, still is), makes me very uneasy. I worry for our region and others, whose cultures and artforms can be exoticised, misrepresented, and ultimately, diluted and distorted to the point of painful parody.

And for better or for worse, despite some cautionary tales from the 30s through 60s and an American company patenting the steel pan (at least the recent progress with the G-pan has mitigated that disgrace somewhat), Trinidadian Soca stars are determined to get onto the Billboard charts. Montserratt-born Arrow made a breakthrough with the music in ’83 with the now-ubiquitous “Hot Hot Hot”. But since then, and particularly in the last decade, there has been a near-stampede to match or exceed that level of success.

I was interested, then, to see a press release I just got from 1720 Entertainment, an Atlanta-based company that’s doing the PR for British-born Barbadian singer, Alison Hinds, and her upcoming Soca Queen album. I love the lead single from the album, “Roll it Gyal” (produced by Trini magician, Sheldon “Shel Shok” Benjamin), and a lot of Alison’s and Square One’s music over the years, so I not disputing her contention for the title despite half a dozen other soca singers who are called “Soca Queen” or “Queen of Soca”. But then the hype went somewhere from whence it cannot return. The release states:

Having established superstar status amongst the Caribbean audience, the British born ALISON HINDS is on an unstoppable roll to introduce the rest of the world to the power and passion of SOCA (SOuthern CAribbean) music.

Say wha?

I’d thought Arrow already did that back in the 80s. And I had always believed Soca is a fusion of Soul and Calypso music (hence so-ca), pioneered by Trini legend Garfield Blackman, aka Ras Shorty I, about three decades ago. Thus corrected, I decided to take a look at the page they’ve made for Alison on their website. The bio begins:

Alison Hinds is to SOCA music what Celia Cruz is to Cuban Salsa.

My mind runs on Calypso Rose, Singing Sandra (Des Vignes), Ella Andall, Denyse Plummer, and then Sanelle Dempster, Fay-Ann Lyons, and Destra.

I worry about the way our music, our people, our artists are represented, misrepresented, or not represented at all in this new push to “globalise” soca. I sure hope they get the record right. (Pun intended)

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3 thoughts on “SoCa = Wha?

  1. The term SOuthern CAribbean music, is a new one..but not entirely wrong. Many of the artistes I have interviewed over the years opt to use this description. Most english speaking caribbean islands produce their own styles of music that all fit into the soca genre. they have their own unique styles…and the elements of soul and calypso…or even African and Indian Rhythms are not always clearly identifiable.I don't think only the Southern Caribbean can make a claim on Soca Though. I do, however believe that we as consumers of the culture have to define what it truly means to us, so that we are not left subject to the arbitrary labels administered by the less informed.

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  2. Nah man! Dey serious?! I too was taught by my uncle, an extensive music historian and archivist, that Soca is the fusion of soul and calypso, the artistic creation of Ras Shorty I. How dare they misrepresent us and miseducate others with such an erroneous definition of our culture. I agree with Ms. Mc Intosh, was Alison and her crew sleeping when this was published? Have they continued slumber since then? This is unaccetaple.

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  3. That definition od soca that the PR firm gave is totally wrong. Furthermore, they have a responsibility to present the genre properly in order to maintain the integrity of the artiste.The real question here though is, is it the PR firm to blame or the artiste and that artiste's manager? Surely, they got to see the final draft before it was published?

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