Soca musicSoca music (defined by Lord Shorty, its inventor, as the "(So)ul of (Ca)lypso") is a genre of music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the early 1970s and developed into a range of styles during the 1980s and after. Soca was initially developed by Lord Shorty in an effort to revive traditional Calypso, the popularity of which had been flagging amongst younger generations in Trinidad due to the rise in popularity of Reggae from Jamaica and Soul and Funk from the USA. Soca is an offshoot of Kaiso/Calypso, with influences from Latin, Cadence, Funk and Soul.
Soca has evolved since the 1980s primarily through musicians from various Anglophone Caribbean countries, not only from its birthplace Trinidad and Tobago but also from Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Lucia, the US and British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Guyana and Belize. There have also been significant productions from artists in Venezuela, Canada, Panama, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.
HistorySoca began its development in the early 1970s and grew in popularity throughout that decade. Soca's development as a musical genre included its fusion with Calypso, Chutney, Soul/Funk, Zouk, Latin, Cadence and traditional West African rhythms.
A sound project started in 1970 at KH Studios in Trinidad to find a way to record the complex Calypso rhythm in a new multi-track era. Musicians involved in the initiative were Robin Imamshah (guitar, project lead), Angus Nunez (bass), Errol Wise (drums), Vonrick Maynard (drums), Clarence James (percussion), Carl Henderson (keyboards) and David Boothman (strings). Some of the early songs recorded in 1972 at the KH Studios which benefited from this project were “Indrani” by Lord Shorty and "Calypso Zest" by Sensational Roots. Later came the Soca hits “Endless Vibrations” and “Sweet Music” by Lord Shorty, recorded in 1974 and 1975 respectively, and “Second Fiddle” by Ella Andall, recorded in 1975. In 1976, “Savage” by Maestro and “Trinidad Boogie” by Last Supper (composed by Robin Imamshah) also benefited from the improving multi-track recording technology at KH Studios.
Soca continues to incorporate contemporary music styles and trends. Bollywood films, Bhangra, the new Punjabi pop and Disco music in the United States have also experimented with Soca.
Lord ShortyThe "father" of Soca was a Trinidadian named Garfield Blackman, who rose to fame as "Lord Shorty" with his 1964 hit "Cloak and Dagger" and who adopted the name "Ras Shorty I" in the early 1980s. He started out writing songs and performing in the Calypso genre. A prolific musician, composer and innovator, Shorty experimented with fusing Calypso and elements of Indo-Caribbean music after 1965 before debuting "the Soul of Calypso", Soca music, in the early 1970s.
Shorty was the first to define his music as "Soca" during 1975 when his hit song “Endless Vibrations” caused musical waves on radio stations and at parties and clubs - not just in his native Trinidad and Tobago, but also in cities like New York, Toronto and London. Soca was originally spelled Sokah, which stood for the “Soul of Calypso” with the “kah” part being taken from the first letter in the Sanskrit alphabet, representing the power of movement as well as the East Indian rhythmic influence that helped to inspire the new beat. Shorty stated in a number of interviews that the idea for the new Soca beat originated with the fusion of Calypso with East Indian rhythms that he used in his 1972 hit "Indrani". Soca solidified its position as the popular new beat adopted by most Trinidadian Calypso musicians by the time Shorty recorded his crossover hit “Endless Vibrations” in 1974.
In 1975, Shorty recorded an album entitled “Love In The Caribbean” that contained a number of crossover Soca tracks. During the subsequent promotional tour, Shorty stopped at the isle of Dominica and saw the top band there, Exile One, perform at the Fort Young Hotel. Shorty was inspired to compose and record a Soca and Cadence-lypso fusion track titled “E Pete” or “Ou Petit”, which was the first in that particular Soca style. Shorty consulted on the Creole lyrics he used in the chorus of his “E Pete” song with Dominica's 1969 Calypso King, Lord Tokyo, and two Creole lyricists, Chris Seraphine and Pat Aaron.
TerminologySoca simply means the " (So)ul of (Ca)lypso", however the name has nothing to do with the fusion of American Soul music and Calypso, as Soca is rhythmically a fusion of African/Calypso and East Indian rhythms. Soca's history is multi-faceted. Regarding its name, Lord Shorty initially spelled his musical hybrid as "sokah" and stated in a 1979 interview with Carnival Magazine that "I came up with the name soca. I invented soca. And I never spelt it s-o-c-a. It was s-o-k-a-h to reflect the East Indian influence." The s-o-c-a spelling quickly became the popular spelling after a journalist, Ivor Ferreira, interviewed Shorty for an article that was published during the 1976 Trinidad Carnival season. The article was titled "Shorty is Doing Soca" and so s-o-c-a quickly became the accepted spelling for this new modern style of Calypso music.
Related genresSoca music has evolved like most other music genres over the years, with calypsonians, soca artists, musicians and producers also experimenting with fusing Soca with other Caribbean rhythms.
Some examples are the following:
Afrosoca is a fusion genre of afrobeats and soca music and some influences from dancehall. Afrosoca songs typically have a similar tempo to Groovy Soca (110 to 135 BPM), often with West African-influenced melodies. The genre was pioneered in Trinidad & Tobago by Nigerian and Trinidadian artists.
Chutney soca is one of the original soca styles started by Lord Shorty that contains strong East Indian musical influences; It is a soca style that originates in Trinidad and Tobago; many of the songs have both English and "Hindi" lyrics. The term Chutney soca was coined by the Indo-Trini artist, Drupatee Ramgoonai in 1987 when she recorded a hit song called "Chatnee Soca". Soon after 1987 the spelling was changed to Chutney Soca. Before 1987 this fusion style was sometimes referred to as Indo Soca or Indian Soca. The term Chutney that is now being used to refer to Indo-Caribbean music did not come into popular use until after 1987 when many Indo-Trinis started to abbreviate the term "Chutney soca" to "Chutney" in reference to those Chutney soca songs that were sung only in the Hindi language.
Ragga soca is a fusion of soca and the former artistic lyrical delivery of Jamaican artists known as "DJing or Chanting". It is a fusion of dancehall and contemporary calypso/soca, which has an uptempo beat with moderate bass and electronic instruments. Bunji Garlin is one of the artists that has sung ragga soca in Trinidad and Tobago since the late 1990s and has been dubbed the King of Ragga Soca. "Dancehall Soca" and "Bashment Soca" are other terms used to refer to "Ragga Soca" music and these other terms are sometimes used depending on the artists and Caribbean country they hail from.
Parang socaParang soca or soca parang is a fusion of calypso, soca, Parang and Latin music. It originated in Trinidad & Tobago and is often sung in a mixture of English and Spanish. The first major Parang soca hit was a track called "Parang Soca" by the Calypsonian called Crazy for the 1978 Christmas season that also gave this soca sub-genre its name. Crazy is viewed as the pioneer of the Parang soca sub-genre and is also dubbed the Original Parang Soca King.
Steelband soca also referred to in Trinidad & Tobago as Pan Kaiso is soca composed for or using steel pans which are types of music drums often used in soca and calypso music; it became so popular that it became its own musical genre. This soca style was mostly pioneered by the late Lord Kitchener whose songs have been played by steel bands at T&T's annual Panorama competitions more than the songs of any other composer. The steel pan originated in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago during the late 1930s. Steel pans are handmade, bowl-like metal drums crafted from oil drums so that different drum sections produce different notes when struck. Steelbands are groups of musicians who play songs entirely on steel drums. There are many types of steel pans, each with its own set of pitches.
Groovy socaThough most of the early soca recordings of the 1970s were done at a groovy pace, Groovy soca was made popular as a trend and soca style starting with Robin Imamshah's composition "Frenchman" in 1990.
The term groovy soca was coined in early 2005 by the ISM organizers as a re-branding of the slower tempo soca styles that had been popular in Trinidad and Tobago since the inception of soca music in early 1970s.
Bouyon soca, sometimes referred to as "jump up soca", is a fusion genre that typically blends old bouyon rhythms from the '90s and soca music. Bouyon soca is a term coined by non-Dominican producers and musicians, mainly from St Lucia, who embrace both Soca from Trinidad and Bouyon music from Dominica and so find it natural to produce blends of both music genres. Bouyon is a music genre that originated in Dominica that is distinguishable from its older "colleague" Soca.
In Dominica while there may have been the occasional fusions, bouyon has always maintained a very clear, recognizable and different style from soca. Outside of Dominica the Bouyon Soca fusion style is popular in islands like Antigua, Saint Lucia, Guadeloupe and Martinique and is a natural evolution from Zouk and Soca fusions that were popular there during the 1980s.
Power socaThe term power soca was coined in early 2005 by the ISM organizers as a re-branding of the uptempo jump & wave soca style that took hold in Trinidad and Tobago during the early 1990s. This fast paced version of Soca music tends to appeal more to the younger generation of party-goers and those who love working out in the gyms getting fit for the Carnival season and playing mas. Calypsonian and soca artist Superblue, formerly known as 'Blue Boy' of Trinidad and Tobago pioneered this style with his 1991 hit "Get Something & Wave". Power soca of today is known for its high bpm (ranging from 155–163) and its aggressive drums/percussions and dark synths. Today, it has transcended from its original sound of darkness into a more light and playful sound but has kept its foundation of fast-paced rhythms.
InstrumentationSoca music is based on a strong rhythmic section that is often recorded using synthesized drum sounds and then sequenced inside computers; however, for live shows, the live human drummer emulates the recorded version, often using electronic drums to trigger drum samples. The drum and percussion are often loud in this genre of music and are sometimes the only instruments to back up the vocal. Soca is indeed defined by its loud, fast percussion beats. Synthesizers are used often in modern soca and have replaced the once typical horn section at 'smaller' shows. Electric and bass guitars are found very often and are always found in a live soca band. A horn section is found occasionally in live soca bands mostly for the 'bigger' shows. It usually consist of two trumpets and a trombone, with saxophones being part of the section from time to time. Other metal instruments may include cowbell or automobile brake drums.
In 2014 the Apple's iTunes Store became the largest online store to recognize calypso and soca as two of its formal catalog genres.