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Is Afrosoca set to dominate?

Ragga soca, zouk, reggaeton soca, groovy soca...and now, Afrosoca, pop and techno influences have all bubbled up as trends
Friday, June 17, 2016
Nigerian Timaya is collaborating with soca artistes like Machel Montano.

There was ragga soca—a blend of soca and dancehall music. An experimental reggaeton soca arrived when Barbadian soca artiste Rupert “Rupee” Clarke gave us Tempted To Touch in 2004. It returned in 2007 when American/Bermudian reggae singer Colin “Collie Buddz” Harper sang the catchy hit Mamacita.  

We embraced the R&B type soca in the early 2000’s, later to be called groovy soca. The beat of this fusion was much slower than uptempo soca, more melodious and sweet. This form of soca has stood the test of time and is still quite popular. We have since incorporated pop, techno and other forms of contemporary or trending beats to our soca sounds.

All these beats encapsulate the movement, spirit and culture of our diverse people. Lately soca has seen another influence—the borrowing of African influenced and inspired beats, being described as Afrosoca.

Producers have been incorporating the sound more frequently since 2013. Soca star Machel Montano sought the help of Grammy Award-winning South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo when he collaborated with Kerwin Dubois on the monster hit Possessed. 

The song picked up after the Carnival season that year. The group which sings in the vocal styles of Isicathamiya (which is an a cappella singing style that originated with South African Zulus) comfortably and creatively blended into the soca genre, bringing a unique South African feel to island music.

The merging or collaboration of these two genres continued in 2014, again with Machel Montano. This time he teamed up with Nigerian singer and songwriter, Enetimi Alfred Odon aka Timaya, when a remix was done of Shake Up Yuh Bum Bum, the crossover hit by the founder of South South hip-hop group, Dem Mama Soldiers. 

The Montano song was well received and Timaya was even a featured artiste at the annual Machel Monday event that year.

The Afro beats continued through one of this country’s rising soca stars, Olatunji Yearwood, when his 2015 offering—Ola—stirred patrons at fetes and was on major rotation on various radio frequencies. The well-knitted production paid tribute to the rhythmic dancing of an African beauty, and won the 2015 Groovy Soca Monarch title.  

He stuck with what worked and for the 2016 Carnival season, released Oh Yay. This was another tribute to the hip-moving charms of the African woman. Even though this track did not give him another title, the beat put together by Stadic and Weety Beatz is still a crowd-pleaser even months after the Carnival season ended.

With regional carnivals coming up, the T&T Guardian thought it would be a good idea to find out from producers what the trending beat is. We found ranking in at number one is none other than the Afro beat. 

Yes, it seems Afrosoca will certainly make its name in soca music for some time. But is the beat really new? It may not be, according to some producers.

Gospel singer and songwriter Isaac Blackman, who has always incorporated African beats into his productions, said what is being called Afrosoca does not make sense to him because Afro-Trinidadians are Africans and the sound that we created is from the same origin as African music.

“It is percussive music that comes from the African drums. 

The only difference is the accent between us and a singer from the African continent who sings in English. But the rhythmic structure and the pulse are very close because the origin of soca music came from African music,” he said. He said just listening to calypso music shows the sound is very similar. He singled out veteran calypsonian the Mighty Shadow, saying his early music showed this. “Just listen to the music in Dingolay,” he urged.

Blackman said the outside world does a great job at packaging our own music and selling it back to us because wedon’t know the history of our music. But in the same breath he said he was happy we were finally embracing our music.

Disk Jockey and producer of the very popular 2016 RR riddim Derek “Slaughter” Pereira echoed Blackman’s sentiments. Pereira, who recently graduated from UTT where he studied music technology, gave a more theoretical insight into the beats of soca. He agreed that there was no such thing as a “new” wave of music being classified as afrosoca. He believed calypso music came from the African influence left in the Caribbean after slavery. Calypso which evolved into soca always carried African beats.

He said soca, dancehall, what was called dub music and reggae all have the same syncopation. “They all came from the same origin. 

What we saw was the meshing of genres, but the origin remained the same. That’s why a dance hall song can easily be mixed with a soca or reggae—because they all come from one origin,” he explained.

“I can play you some old maxi taxi dub or soca right now, and then play some of these current songs from African artistes, and you would realise, they are exactly the same. None of this is new and that is a fact.”

He said although we live on different sides of the world, when we hear something that seems to be a new sound or a trending beat, it really isn’t: “Some of these beats we are now familiar with have been existing for sometimes five to seven years already in other parts of the world.” 

He said the music industry in Africa has realised a country on this side of the world has a similar sound in its native music and has just capitalised on that.

Pereira said African artistes like Timaya, Runtown, Flavour and others have all zeroed in on the action.

“Even if you listen to Justin Bieber’s Sorry, you can hear soca in it, as well as a hint of dancehall and reggaeton.” He said you cannot really classify what is trending music as most is a recurrence of what was there before. Rather, the beats we hear are heavily syncopated to give that additional rhythm that we look forward to in music as Caribbean people.


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