One of the things that people have really responded to about the weekly Soca show that myself, Dub Boy, Atki 2 and Jonesy Wales present on Ujima Radio, is when we explain a little more about the artist we’re playing, the island they’re from, or the idiosyncrasies of the music in general. We’re very aware that we’re not just catering for the hardcore Soca fans out there and in fact most are curious bystanders at best, so with that in mind, here’s a little more info on my brand new Power Shower mix, as I’m sure for the uninitiated it could be just as intimidating as it can be exciting.
In many ways, this was one of the easiest mixes to put together, these are mostly tracks I’m super hyped about hearing when I head to Trinidad & Tobago in a couple of weeks for my first Carnival there, which as a DJ who plays as much Soca as I do and co-hosts a radio show dedicated to the music, I almost feel ashamed admitting. Believe me, it’s only the starting point too really, there’s still many more Caribbean carnivals to be initiated into. Although Soca was birthed in T&T, its influence has spread much further afield. On this mix alone, there are also artists from St Vincent & The Grenadines, St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and Dominica, all of which have their very own specific takes on both Soca and Carnival.
There are in fact many different styles of Soca: the R&B inspired Groovy Soca (or the arguably same styled Sweet Soca in Barbados); Afro-Soca with its West African Afrobeats influences; Chutney Soca with its strong East Indian elements; the bouncy Barbadian sound of Bashment Soca; and St Lucia’s fiery fusion of Soca with Angolan Kuduro, known largely as Dennery Segment; are some of the more popular. As the name suggests, this mix concentrates heavily on the high energy, fast tempo Power Soca, however there is also a strong presence from Dominican Bouyon, whose influence has really make an impact on the wider Soca scene this season, and the murkier tones of Grenadian Jab Jab, which should be familiar to anyone who’s followed my sporadic output of mixes (if not check out my Jab Jab Party mix next).
These influences are certainly apparent in this year’s contenders for Road March, a long-held tradition that essentially determines the biggest track of the year by which tune is played most at the judging points across the carnival. There are a few hopefuls in this mix, probably the favourite for this year is ‘Famalay’ a link-up between T&T’s leading artists Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin, and St Vincent power house Skinny Fabulous. It would be hard to think of a deadlier combo for a Power Soca track to be honest and it certainly doesn’t disappoint, however you can’t deny that the track also holds Bouyon at its core, with production from Dada Muzic out of Dominica.
For more on what Bouyon actually is, it’s worth checking out the Dominican special section on our radio show (from just after 1hr16mins here), but the other tracks you can hear in this mix are: ‘Canavalist’ from Carlyn XP, a fantastic track but perhaps the one I’m least sure about crossing over from Dominica into Trinidad & Tobago; ‘Waist Pun Fire’ from Skinny Fabulous again and Marzville representing Barbados; and those on the Simon Says Riddim (‘Simon Say’, ‘What A Mess’ and ‘Dutty Bad’), produced by Brooklyn based St Lucian artist and entrepreneur Motto, CEO of leading recording label Team Foxx music, pioneer of Dennery Segment (which he touches on here with his Skinny Fabulous collaboration ‘Pick Your Position’) and an undoubtedly dominating figure in this season’s big tunes.
Aside from Carlyn XP and Dada Muzic the only ‘proper’ Bouyon artist on the mix is Asa Banton, fast becoming the genre’s most recognisable export. Not only does he join Motto on ‘Simon Say’, but he also has his Motto produced track ‘Wet Fete King’ on the mix.
A ‘Wet Fete’ is probably quite self-explanatory, a party which involves soaking everybody in sight, often with the help of huge water trucks and hoses. There’s a couple of other dedications to these soggy celebrations on the mix, I briefly mentioned Motto’s ‘What A Mess (Get Di Party Wet)’ and there’s also the big bad Bunji Garlin himself with ‘Wet’ on the Anti-Stush riddim. These tracks were largely the inspiration for the name Power Shower, it’s also a pun that matches nicely with Super Soca Show, our weekly radio outings. Sadly, there’s a water shortage happening in Trinidad that might put paid to many of the Wet Fetes this carnival, with police promising heavy fines to anyone who ignores it, so I’m not sure I’ll get to indulge this time around.
Power Soca grew from a style called Jump & Wave and there’s echoes of that classic sound in here too, particularly from the originator Super Blue, who joins with rapso legends 3Canal on ‘Rag Storm’, predicting the mass waving of ‘flags and rags’ that such a song might inspire. Super Blue is credited for originally instigating this widely accepted sign of Soca appreciation.
Super Blue also opens the whole mix with his Machel Montano collaboration, ‘We Now Start To Party’. This is a particularly potent pairing as both have won the Road March more than any artist since the days of calypsonian ‘Grand Master’ Lord Kitchener (who at 11 wins before his death, still beats Super Blue by 1 win). Last year it was the pair’s first collaboration ‘Soca Kingdom’ that got the title, their 9th and 10th respectively, and you can learn more about that from another track on this mix ‘Road March Bacchanal 2’ by Iwer George.
It’s the track I left play the longest as it tells a story, plus with its reggae breakdowns it fooled my tiny attention span. Iwer was in the running for Road March last year with his track ‘Savannah’ but when ‘Soca Kingdom’ dropped, there was no hope for anyone else really. Iwer’s managed to turn his bitterness about this, into one of my favourite tracks of the season (there’s also been some pretty great but cutting follow ups by both he and Machel). I’d like to think it was in the running for Road March but Iwer’s putting his weight behind the next track on the mix, ‘Go’.
My other favourite for Road March would definitely be Run Wid It by Mr Killa, but the rules state that the majority of artists on the track must be from Trinidad & Tobago and he’s Grenadian (the rule does allow for Skinny Fabulous being from St Vincent on Famalay however). There is no doubt that it’s going to be a crowd favourite however, one of the reasons it’s my final tune on the mix.
If you hadn’t yet heard, the track is already causing a commotion both in T&T and back home in Grenada as people are literally taking the song at its word when it says to “pick up something, anything…. run with it”. After his performance at the Soca Monarch Semi Finals, the police had to put out a statement saying “There are a lot of offences that could stem from some of the actions taking place of being allowed by this particular song…. the song is a nice song and persons are very charged up when that song is playing (but) we are asking party goers to please be mindful and do not violate the rights of others.”
The track produced by another of the most prevalent producers on this mix, Stadic, borrows heavily from the Grenadian Soca style of Jab Jab and the main pioneer of that style Tallpree pops up on the same riddim (Planet Jab) with Fay-Ann Lyons, another force of nature on the scene who went from the family tradition of winning a Soca Monarch title (her dad is Super Blue who won the Power Monarch title 7 times), to this year running the competition herself. Her life partner in crime and fellow Soca Viking, Bunji Garlin (who incidentally has won the Power Monarch title 4 times) is also on the riddim.
There are a number of other fantastic tracks on here I haven’t covered but hopefully this has giving you a starting point to find out more if you’re in any way interested. Enjoy the mix, feel free to ask me any questions and don’t forget the Super Soca Show every Saturday on Ujima 98FM. I’ll be back to tell you all about my Carnival adventures when I get home.