Some of us know this situation all too well – whether it is a friend, a co-worker, a significant other, or a random stranger – teaching someone about Soca and Carnival can be tricky. Whether you choose to let them dive right into the music or you give them a historical backdrop before letting the bass drop, the joy of sharing our culture can be viewed just as much as a spiritual journey as it is a musical one. I have been a DJ in the United States for over 10 years and anyone who comes to my shows can tell that I am 100% Trini (even though they may not know exactly what that means). By having a few tunes in each set to educate the ex-pats to the new releases, a major part of my career has been both a teacher and an ambassador. In fact, I truly believe that sharing our music with the world is not only what makes us unique, but it is also our responsibility. And besides sharing is caring right?
Nonetheless, here are 5 steps that you can do to introduce someone to Soca:
Step 1: Explain that not every song that originates from the Caribbean is Reggae.
This may seem like an obvious step, but TRUST ME, IT IS NOT. For some reason, many non-Caribbeans assume that Reggae is the only genre that comes from our islands. In fact, it is safe to say that many even assume that every island country is either Jamaica or part of Jamaica. It may be a frustrating task to convince someone that there are other artists besides Bob Marley that hail from our respective tropical paradise(s), but the payoff is well worth it. And while you are doing so, make sure not to confuse them with the wide range of other genres that we also have including dancehall, ska, zouk, kompa, chutney, calypso, steelpan etc. I know this is tempting, but stay focused my friends. It will pay off in the end when they come back begging you to teach them more about the various types of music that we have to share.
Step 2: Start with something remotely familiar and show how they have heard Soca in the past but never realized it.
With the inception of Calypso in the early to mid 20th century and the birth of Soca (also known as the soul of calypso) in the 70s by Garfield Blackman (aka Ras Short I), Soca has evolved over the years and has a number of tracks that crossed over to the mainstream. This includes the famous “Hot Hot Hot” by Arrow in the 80s which peaked at #11 on the US Billboard charts and featured in dozens of movie soundtracks, and “Defense” by Machel Montano, Pitbull and Lil Jon in 2006-2007. In my experience, the most recognized soca songs that have crossed over successfully in recent years are “Turn Me On” by Kevin Lyttle and “Tempted to Touch” by Rupee. If you start with these songs, you already have started to associate their view of Soca with a positive memory of dance and good vibes. One word of advice, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT start any conversation about Soca with any mention of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men. Trust me on this one.
Step 3: Explain some of the common concepts found in most/many Soca songs.
It’s always fun to try to break down the lyrics of your favorite Soca song and explain them to your friends. My girlfriend is American and while she knew about Soca before we even met, she had no idea what some of her favorite songs were about. This is not an unusual situation since Soca is more about the vibe (aka the energy or the feeling) than it is about the lyrics. However, it is important to note that many Soca songs are instructive and have elements of call and response – so learning about the concepts is not only important, but it can be fun. See below:
Fete – a fête or fete is an elaborate festival, party or celebration
Wine – whine, wine, winding, all refer to the gyration of the hips in a rhythmic pattern.
Bacchanal – to have a good time/drama; commotion, a wild party, or raucus event between neighbors, family or friends.
Bumper – or bumpah, is a booty, typically female.
Lime – to party and hang out
A quick review of the top songs of 2016 shows that at least one of the above concepts is featured throughout the music.
Step 4: Illustrate that Soca is an experience. Some people listen to Soca while driving to work, others only during the Carnival season.
During this step, your goal is to show that listening to Soca is directly connected to your current state of mind. Many people listen when they are feeling frustrated or upset to help them get out of their funk, others swear that it is the best music to listen to while working out. Regardless of your reason, it is almost physically impossible to listen to this high energy music and not feel compelled to move your body (even if just a little bit or mentally). A perfect example of this is a video from 2010 Soca Monarch song “Palance” by JW and Blaze:
The fact is, Soca makes people happy. And in some cases, it grants the listener super powers.
Step 5: Play at loud volumes preferably at an event or party.
The best way to experience Soca is with all your friends around with heavy libation in rotation. Even if you skip steps 1 through 4, this step is probably the most effective. If a non-Caribbean person can experience 100, 200, or even 500 people jumping up, waving a “flag”, having a great time and being moved by the music, this should be enough to show that there may be something to this Soca thing. This is also the best way to introduce Power Soca in my opinion. Rupee’s “Jump” and Destra “Celebrate” have been staples in my Dj set and even those who are not from the Caribbean seem to embrace the Soca experience.
Have I left anything out? Do you have any stories about how you introduced someone to Soca? Let your voice be heard, send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and join the Radial community.