Soca music

Soca music

Soca is a form of dance music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago from calypso music. It originally combined the melodic lilting sound of calypso with insistent percussion (which is often electronic in recent music) and local chutney music. Soca music has evolved in the last 20 years primarily by musicians from various Caribbean countries including Trinidad, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, United States Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Haiti and Jamaica.

The nickname of the Trinidad and Tobago national football team, the "Soca Warriors", refers to this musical genre.


The reputed father of soca was Lord Shorty (born Garfield Blackman), whose 1973 recording of "Indrani" started the trend. In the 1970s he began writing calypso songs for other young calypsonians including "MAESTRO" and his cousin "BARON" who had a hit called "SEVERE LICKING" produced by Shorty. Trinidad and Tobago has been renowned for its magnificent carnivals, calypso and the steel pan. A prolific musician,composer and innovator, Ras Shorty experimented the fusion of calypso with east Indian rhythms for nearly a decade before unleashing "the soul of calypso,"...soca music. Shorty had collaborated with Dominica's 1969 Calypso King, Lord Tokyo and two calypso lyricists, Chris Seraphine and Pat Aaron in the early 1970s on a visit to Dominica. Soon after Shorty released a song, "E-Petit" with words like "Ou dee moin ou petit Shorty" meaning "you told me you are small Shorty", a combination of calypso, cadence and Creole(as reported in Exile One Gordon Henderson's book, "Zoukland" 1999 edition). It would be Lord Kitchener who would begin the noticeable and accredited transition. According to Lord Kitchener's former manager Errol S. Peru, a pioneer in the promotion of calypso & soca music, "Kitch had a knack for Kaiso... anything he composed was instantly a hit." Byron Lee & the Dragonaires made soca a West Indian social wave, but the Baha Men, Kevin Lyttle, Machel Montano, Burning Flames, Krosfyah, Rupee Walker and others in the 21st century brought it to American recognition.

Like calypso, soca was used for both social commentary and risqué humor, though the initial wave of soca acts eschewed the former. Lord Shorty was disillusioned with the genre by the 1980s because soca was being used to express courtships and sexual interests. Like all things related to sexual freedom, it was embraced because of its ability to reflect the desires of a society that was sexually repressed. Soca music became an expression of sexuality through metaphors in the West Indies. Soon after, Shorty moved to the Piparo forest, converted to the Rastafari movement and changed his name to Ras Shorty I. There he created a fusion of reggae and gospel music called jamoo (Jah music) in the late 1980s. In the 1990s, and now the new century, soca has evolved into a blend of musical styles. Machel Montano's collaborations with Jamaican musicians (Red Rat and Beenie Man), American musicians (like Walker Hornung) and Japanese artists have pushed the boundaries of modern Soca. Machel Montano would be the first mainstream soca artist to sell out venues all over the world including the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Notable artists

Some of the greatest soca artists of all time are Shadow, Lord Kitchener, Mighty Sparrow, Rikki Jai, Machel Montano, The Baron, Krosfyah, Burning Flames, Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, and more recently artists such as Alison Hinds, Destra Garcia, KMC, Shurwayne Winchester, Bunji Garlin, Maximus Dan, Jamesy P, Kevin Lyttle, El-A-Kru, Krosfyah, Square One, Patrice Roberts, Rupee

Hit songs

Some soca songs that have become worldwide hits:
*"Soca Dance" - Raffaella Carrà
*"Hot Hot Hot" - Buster Poindexter (originally recorded by Arrow)
*"Follow the leader" - Soca Boys (originally recorded by Nigel and Marvin Lewis), a more recent version by S.B.S.
*"Sweet Soca Music" - Sugar Daddy
*"Turn Me On" - Kevin Lyttle
*"Tempted to Touch" - Rupee
*"Who Let the Dogs Out" - Baha Men (originally recorded by Anslem Douglas)
*"What I Want" - Fireball, produced by Bob Sinclar
*"Soca Dance" - Charles D. Lewis
*"Open D' Gate" - Shurwayne Winchester
*"Island Girl" - Burning Flames. Used in the 90s movie Weekend at Bernie's.
*"Game Of Love and Unity"-Shaggy/Rupee/Fey-Ann Official ICC cricket 2008 West Indies World Cup Anthem
*"Turn It Around" - Tony Matterhorn
*"You" - Machel Montano
*"Unconditional Love" - Machel Montano
*"Old woman we taking home" - TALPRE

Related genres

Soca music has evolved like all other music over the years, with Calypsonians experimenting with other rhythms, some examples are the following:
# Rapso : Eastern Caribbean dialect hip-hop with smooth calypso melody and bold lyric
# Chutney Soca: Original Soca performed with a more Chutney styled form; mainly performed by Chutney musicians
# Ragga Soca: A fusion of Jamaican Dancehall and Soca (Chutney music is replaced with Dancehall music) so it is Dancehall and Contemporary Calypso, which is an uptempo Calypso beat with moderate bass and electronic instruments. A Trinidadian form of performing Dancehall Reggae.
# Parang Soca: A combination of Calypso, Soca, and Latino music. Parang originated in Venezuela and is most often sung in Spanish.
# Steelband-Soca: Steel Pans are types of drum often used in Soca and Calypso music; it became so popular that it became its own musical genre--Steelband. The steel pans are hand-made, bowl-like, metal drums that are crafted so that different sections of the drum produce different notes when struck. Steelbands are groups of musicians who play songs entirely on steel drums. There are many different types of steel pans, each with its own unique set of pitches.

Soca has also been experimented with in Bollywood films, Bhangra, and new Punjabi pop.


Soca music is based on a strong rhythmic section done by a drum set. The drum and percussion is often loud in this genre of music and is sometimes the only instrument to back up the vocal. Soca is indeed defined by its loud fast percussion beats. Synthesizers are used often in modern soca due to the fact that most songs carry a variety of instruments not used often in the Caribbean. Electric and bass guitars are found very often and are always found in a live soca band. Brass instruments are found occasionally in live soca bands mostly for the 'bigger' fetes. The trumpet is used as the main instrument in the brass line (most soca brass sections contain at least 2 trumpets). The trombone is also found in a brass section and always acts as a counterpart of the trumpet which purpose is to add texture to the brass line. Saxophones are occasionally found in a brass section and also play the brass line.

See also

* Caribbean music bands
* Caribbean Carnival
* Riddim
* Sam'O

External links

* [ Soca and Calypso music history] - the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago

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