Caribbean music infectious as bees to a honey comb, or a jar of honey, it could make you laugh, bawl, cry, even cringe and shout, lose control, gyrate your hips, prance up and down the streets, dance all around, freedom to sing just because you can!
In Trinidad & Tobago our music have transcended boundaries, jarred the limits of history a profound element of our culture the incubator of our existence, and the interpretation of our soul.
According to Dr. Hollis Liverpool better known in the Calypso world as “The Chalkdust”(his sobriquet), Calypso became our national folk song and the music of the Caribbean after the slaves were freed.
West Indian custom ‘griots’ bore its roots deep within this land, giving birth to the characteristics of the art form of Calypso such as The percussive rhythmic beats; The call-and-response pattern; Extemporaneous singing (A musical dual, battle) and Satire.
Furthermore in the early days the songs were sung in patois, in the extempo genre and usually involved colourful and aggressive language. There was also the trading of insults among performers, a form called ‘Mepris’ that later developed into the ‘war calypsos’
According to Nalis Gros Jean, an African slave is reputed to have been the first calypsonian, having been named ‘Mait Caiso’ (Master of Caiso) by the Diego Martin estate owner Begorrat in 1790.
Calypso music the vibe, the rhythm and the beat the chant of many voices who echoed the sentiments of freedom, yes finally we can express our thoughts, ideas into feelings, paying tribute for a worthy cause, people, the art-form and country truly a magnificent gift to the nation!
In 1963 Ras Shorty I, the creator of Soca Music, wanted to experiment with calypso, therefore, he fused music from Indian musical instruments such as the dholak, and tabla and dhantal. He uniquely incorporated these beautiful tones, beats into Calypso music, with a mission in mind to leave a golden legacy, which some could only emulate, but amplify . He won his first title in South Trinidad with a song entitled “Cloak & Dagger” capturing the King of San Fernando title.
Ras Shorty I continued to experiment with the soca beat for nearly a decade, then produced his first album ‘Sweet Music’ followed by ‘Endless Vibration’ which produced a major controversial song “Om Shanti”. Audiences around the world loved the beat, the merging of two cultures and their influences, African & Indian heritage.
Today Soca music continues to be integrated with other genres of music such as rap, R & B, pop, reggae, techno, disco, even rock elements. This music has influenced soca ambassadors such as Machel Montano, Faye Ann Lyons Alvarez, Bunji Garlin, Kerwin Du Bois, Kes Dieffenthaller , Patrice Roberts and Destra Garcia just to name a few.
Soca music feisty, vivacious , powerful enough to take control of your feet, chipping to the beat, singing because the melody an accessory to the hype, cannot be measure but understood and appreciated for many more decades to come.
So much so, sheer faith is a commodity which we must value as a people. Believing someday, somehow, Soca could retrieve a ‘Grammy Award’ not because it sounds good, but rather say to the world this musical composition creates a common thread which binds us as one people, one colour, one race, one nation, total unity building true prosperity for all!
So if you’re visiting our gracious shores for Carnival next year, jump in your section, listen to the footsteps, a exact representation of a liberal movement to uninterrupted independence, then you will have no choice but to say “Lord this melody sweet”!
by Nicole Fisher