The new sounds of soca

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Soca music ranks high on the list of things that make Caribbean people happy. Soca seems to emit vibrations that enable us to let loose, uninhibited; to break away for just long enough to enjoy it but not so long that carnival tabanca sets in; to allow us to feel bigger than ourselves. And now soca is evolving. There’s been a growth in fresh faces in the arena over the past five years. These younger artists are returning to soca’s origins – that blend of East Indian and African sounds – and mixing in strands of dancehall, hip-hop and more to develop a new sound that’s resonating both in the region and across the diaspora. Artistes such as Nessa Preppy, Patrice Roberts and Nailah Blackman (granddaughter of Lord Shorty, creator of ‘Sokah’) have developed a new vibe that nods to their roots and has real authenticity, but crosses over boundaries. The sound is relevant, fresh and authentically Caribbean.

“I want to preach consciousness and happiness”
Nailah Blackman, Trinidad & Tobago

Who are your musical inspirations?
Lord Shorty. He called himself a musical scientist, and was always extremely innovative. That’s what I am inspired to do. I always want to push boundaries, make people feel uncomfortable, make them expand their minds. Also, the message in the music is so important. Lord Shorty always preached consciousness and happiness. I want to do that with my music.

How would you sum up your sound and style?
Two different things: Sokah, which is really and truly the origin of soca music as we know it; and Caribbean folk, which is a different side of me, more storytelling and alternative. Also, I sing more sweetly than traditional soca artistes; I flow with my sound and have a lot of melody. Much soca music just repeats the same words in different ways; I like to use different words to express myself because I don’t feel the same way everybody does. I use words that reflect who I am.

Is there a deliberate move to evolve traditional soca music through your sound?
Yes, it is deliberate, because soca as it is isn’t very palatable for the rest of the world. It’s great for us in the Caribbean but not everybody’s going to understand. I want to make soca more appealing to everyone so that it becomes popular worldwide.

What has been your biggest track so far?
‘Baila Mami’, because it has a lot of international appeal. People from all walks of life could relate and understand.

Which track should we listen out for in 2018?
‘Dangerous Boy’, which I recently did a remix for with Tarrus Riley. It is going to be one of the biggest songs for 2018.

• nailahblackman.com; www.facebook.com/nailahblackmanmusic; Instagram/Twitter: @nailahblackman; bookings@nailahblackman.com; Tour dates: 1 Jul, St Lucia; 8 Jul, Trinidad; 13 Jul,
St Lucia; 14 Jul, Orlando, Florida; 28 Jul, Rhode Island; 31 Jul, Antigua; 4 Aug, Canada; 5-7 Aug, Barbados; 8 Aug, Grenada; 11 Aug, New York; 12 Aug, Six Flags, NY

“It’s time to cover other topics”
Kevon Alleyne aka KEV, Trinidad & Tobago (lives in St Vincent & the Grenadines)

Who are your musical inspirations?
Chris Brown, because of his versatility. The man can sing, rap, dance, paint and act, bruv! Machel Montano, because he is my definition of what soca music is and he continues to evolve and grow.

How would you sum up your sound and style?
Sensational. I tend to play with my sound a lot. I blend hip-hop and R&B sounds into my soca pieces, and my writing structure is somewhat different. Prime example – I just put trap ad-libs into a soca song to add personality. I always strive to evolve sonically so that I never become predictable. I mean, who doesn’t love a surprise?

Is there a deliberate move to evolve traditional soca music through your sound?
I don’t consider it deliberate. Due to the influence of other genres, the end product tends to differ from what is deemed traditional. What is deliberate is my selection of unconventional subject matter. I think it’s time for us to move away from jump and wave soca and actually cover other topics.

What has been your biggest track so far?
‘Small Thing’, released in 2015. The song was very relatable to begin with and people gravitated towards it because of the visuals.

Which track should we listen out for in 2018?
‘No Gravity’. I am extremely excited about this one because it is my first collaboration with a fellow Machel Music Academy winner since the camp. It’s a vibe.

• www.facebook.com/KevonAlleyneMusic; Instagram/Twitter: @iamdakev; kev.bookings@gmail.com

“I try to make positive music”
Aaron St Louis AKA Voice, Trinidad & Tobago

Who are your musical inspirations?
Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin. We come from the same place, and to see how far they’ve gone and the heights to which they’ve taken soca music always encourages me.

How would you sum up your sound and style?
It is soca music, definitely, but I like to infuse different genres as well. I try to make positive music to which people can relate. It is not so much different to traditional soca as it is progressive. When you listen to some EDM, CDM, Island Pop, World Music and Afro Beats there are strong elements of traditional soca in it. I think this can be a good tool in taking soca to places it may not have been before.

Is there a deliberate move to evolve traditional soca music through your sound?
I’m not sure if evolution is the right term. Soca is already very diverse musically. My focus is the lyrical content being applicable in any situation or at any time of year instead of being
restricted to Carnival.

What has been your biggest track so far?
Definitely ‘Cheers to Life’. This track was one of the biggest songs for Trinidad Carnival 2016. It launched my career as a performer. It still gets a great response whenever I perform it.

Which track should we listen out for in 2018?
‘Year for Love’. This song is the theme for 2018 as I continue to try to spread a positive message through my music.

• www.facebook.com/Voicetheartiste; Instagram/Twitter: @voicetheartiste; bookingsforvoice@gmail.com; Upcoming tour dates: 1 Jul, Long Island, NY; 3 Jul, Houston, TX; 5 Jul, St Lucia; 7 Jul, Martinique; 13 Jul, St Lucia; 21 Jul, Antigua; 27-28 Jul, New Jersey; 4 Aug, Toronto; 5 Aug, Barbados; 8-11 Aug, Grenada; 25 Aug, London

“You have to love it from your heart”
Keith Currency, St Vincent & the Grenadines

Who are your musical inspirations?
I am naturally inspired. But musicians that inspire me include Tupac, Lil Wayne and Bow Wow.

How would you sum up your sound and style?
Very New Age.

How is this sound different from traditional soca?
It is a fusion of dancehall, soca and R&B. Music is a true feeling and if you can’t feel your music, it won’t move beyond that stage. In order for it to evolve you have to love it from your heart and it will evolve naturally.

What has been your biggest track so far?
No doubt ‘Wine Fi Me’. It’s the reason why Max Gousse, who owns Artistry World, and Ivan Berry, from Artistry 360, reached out to me about the song after its release. I only did that track because I feel a love for it; people responded positively.

• www.facebook.com/keithcurrencymusic; Instagram: @keith_currency_music; Twitter: @Keithcurrency1

“It’s not where you’re from but where you’re going”
Nicki Pierre, St Vincent & the Grenadines

Who are your musical inspirations?
Destra Garcia, Alison Hinds, Rihanna – inspirations to women all over the world. The first time I heard Alison Hinds, I fell in love; I’d never heard anyone sing that type of soca. Destra has a voice that gives me the chills every time. Rihanna helped me see that it’s not where you’re from but where you’re going.

How would you sum up your sound and style?
My sound is very different. It has a mix of soca, R&B and pop. My songs have a more modern beat that’s current with our generation but still connects with the traditional sound. I won’t put a label on it just yet.

Is there a deliberate move to evolve traditional soca music through your sound?
Yes. Traditional soca is where it all began, and we as Caribbean people cannot just forget that. It’s up to us to make sure that the tradition lives on through our music.

What has been your biggest track so far?
One I released this year called ‘Can’t Get Enough’, written by myself and produced, mixed and mastered by Parry Jack. The radio stations love it and the fans love it.

Which track should we listen out for in 2018?
Another of my favorites, ‘Pepper’, written by me and produced by Mark Cyrus of Master Room Studios.

• www.facebook.com/iamnickipierre; Instagram @iamnickipierre; nickeishapierre@gmail.com

“My focus is great music to move the masses”
Patrice Roberts, Trinidad & Tobago

Who are your musical inspirations?
Calypso Rose – she is still full of energy and determination. I love Rihanna’s music and style. Also, dancehall artiste Spice – her energy on stage is insane.

How would you sum up your sound and style?
Unique. My voice is not like any other, and the way I carry a song cannot be done by anyone else.

Is there a deliberate move to evolve traditional soca music through your sound?
Over time, the sound of soca has changed because of technology, which is fine. My music and style incorporates elements of what many would consider traditional fused with more modern sounds and tones. My focus is to create great music that would move the masses. If that means that at the time the sound changes, then no crime is being committed. Ultimately, we’re all hoping to see the day when soca makes it mainstream.

What has been your biggest track so far?
That is a tough one. My first soca release, ‘The Island’ with Bunji Garlin, set the tone for me entering the soca world. However, the best received is a toss-up between recent releases such as ‘Old and Grey’ and ‘Big Girl Now’.

Which tracks should we listen out for in 2018?
‘Sweet Fuh Days’, ‘Criminal Wine’ and ‘Like It Like That’.

• www.facebook.com/PatriceRMusic; Instagram: @patriceroberts1; Tour dates: performances scheduled in USVI, BVI, Bermuda, Bahamas, Grenada, Barbados, Guyana, St Vincent, Canada, St Lucia, London, Belize, Dominica and others

“A bit sexy, a bit playful”
Vanessa John aka Nessa Preppy, Germany / Trinidad & Tobago

Who are your musical inspirations?
Sade, Nicki Minaj, Lauryn Hill, The Weeknd. Even with their commercially successful songs, there’s still so much meaning and emotion.

How would you sum up your sound and style?
My sound is Caribbean. Not just soca but multifaceted. I embrace all sounds from the Caribbean and would use these influences to mix and match appropriately. My style is unique – I combine a bit of sexy with a bit of playful. Many say my delivery doesn’t match my look, which I embrace as an element I can utilise to capture new audiences.

Is there a deliberate move to evolve traditional soca music through your sound?
Yes indeed! World music is evolving, which means the ears of listeners have evolved. Our culture is important but culture evolves with time, so I see no reason why we can’t promote the evolution of our soca music in order to keep moving forward with the listeners around the world.

What has been your biggest track so far?
Definitely ‘Tingo’, my release for Trinidad Carnival 2018. I’m still overwhelmed at the response, but yet to pinpoint exactly why this song in particular was so well received. My assumption is that it’s just one of those addictive tracks you cannot get tired of hearing.

Which track should we listen out for in 2018?
We have a couple more releases planned, which will allow me to display my versatility and uniqueness. Also, look out for a lot of visuals, from vlogs to music videos.

• www.facebook.com/nessa.preppy; Twitter/Instagram: @NessaPreppy; contactnessapreppy@gmail.com; Tour dates: July, St Vincent, St Lucia; August, Toronto, Barbados

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