What is SOCA?
In a world where so much music is focused on faux-angst and aggression, it’s always a pleasure to discover a genre where the only important thing is supplying great tunes and having a good time! SOCA offers both, mixing the classic rhythmic styles of the Caribbean with stunning pop melodies to create a style of music that is the perfect soundtrack to any summer.
Most genres have their pioneering act – the one group or artist that defined it: pop had The Beatles, grunge had Nirvana, rap had the Public Enemy and NWA. The first pioneer of SOCA was Garfield Blackman, otherwise known as Lord Shorty (and then later as Ras Shorty). He first developed the unique combination of sounds that make-up the SOCA sound (so named because the initials spell out ‘soul of the Caribbean’) which combines the classic calypso beats and rhythms developed within the region with classic Indian instruments such as the dholak, the table and the dhantal. With those of an Indian descent making up quite a high percentage of the Caribbean population, it’s no surprise that Blackman sought out these unique instruments when seeking to further evolve the music he loved.
One of the reasons for the power and pure danceability (if that’s a word) of SOCA is the relentless groove that drives almost every song within the genre. Calypso has always been renowned for the wealth of percussion instruments that form the backbone of the rhythm section, and SOCA takes that concept further, often adding computerised synth drums to a mix in order to further bulk out the thumping beat (for live shows, bands will typically rely on electronic drums in order to trigger samples).The other prominent instruments are similar to those found within a standard pop band, with electric guitars and bass high in the mix, alongside a strong horn section (which is often replicated by keyboard for smaller live shows). Steel drums are also a big part of the sound, in their way the perfect SOCA instrument, able to add both rhythm and melody to the song.
You’ve heard it!
If you’ve never heard the term SOCA, you might think you’ve never heard the music before. However, it actually leaks into the western charts quite frequently, often in the form of samples. The Baha Men’s 00 hit ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ sampled the renowned SOCA artist Anslem Douglas. Other renowned RnB artists have also sampled the genre, such as 50 Cent, Aaliyah and even legends such as Lionel Richie (whose track “All night long” was strongly influenced by Caribbean music).
One of the key events to promote SOCA music is the renowned St Lucia Jazz Festival, which has been running for over twenty years, and shows off the very best in both local and international music. The festival is one of the key St Lucia attractions, and has been playing host to artists from the genre for many years, with some of the biggest international stars (such as Wyclef Jean) themselves influenced by the music of the Caribbean. The festival will enjoy its biggest year yet in 2013, with international legends such as Akon and R.Kelly sharing the stage with some of the best up-and-coming acts from the local area.
The Big Names
Some of the biggest names from the world of SOCA:
Michael Montano – As a singer, songwriter and producer, Michael Montano’s influence can be seen all over the genre. Montano has worked with many world famous artists as Shaggy, Beenie Man, G-Unit and Busta Rhymes, as well as selling out shows all over the world, including at the prestigious Madison Square Gardens in New York.
Destra Garcia – Based in Trinidad and Tobago, Destra Garcia is one of the most exciting talents to arise in the SOCA genre, and is well renowned for her thrilling live shows, not to mention her stunning ability to harmonise. Described by Caribbean Beat magazine as “the kind of sound that living at the crossroads of cultures and technologies that is Trinidad and Tobago today is likely to produce” her music is well known throughout the Caribbean.
Alison Hands – Described as “the Queen of Soca”, the influence of Alison Hinds is apparent all over the genre. Originally a vocalist with the popular local group Square One, she released her debut solo album Soca Queen in 2007 and the follow up Caribbean Queen in 2010, the latter of which contained collaborations with other well known artists including Shaggy, Richie Spice and Jah Cure.
In the UK
Soca music has become a bigger and bigger part of the UK music scene, with events taking place every week within the London scene. The UK Soca Scene website is regularly updated with the latest gigs and festivals, as well as a wide variety of info on the various UK-based artists who continue to promote the genre all over the country.