It’s that time of the year again, when the lure of Ansa McAl cash prompts a rush of ‘talent’ to the soca stage. With a few exceptions, over the years, there has been an endless repetition of “wave yuh rag”, wave yuh flag”, “jump and wine”, we could go on, but we’re in danger of also being repetitious and we know you’ve got the point.
It appears to us that there are some soca singers, who seem to feel that the lyrics are secondary and that it’s about a stage show where wining is a must. Not so. Soca is in fact a modern form of calypso with an up-tempo beat. It is still a calypso or should be in terms of the lyrics, while the accompanying music would be faster, more rhythmic. And yes it should make you want to gyrate but that should not be its main purpose.
The late Ras Shorty I, a Trinidadian was credited with discovering soca. It was said that he fused Indian rhythms — using Indian musical instruments, such as the dholak and tabla — with traditional calypso music to create soca, which means the “soul of calypso”. He reportedly had become very upset and disenchanted when some years later, other musicians who took up soca bastardised it with the overuse of innuendo about the female form. He complained that they were writing and performing songs that while popular were not being used to uplift had no real social purpose.
It must have been from musicians such as these that most Guyanese soca artistes take their cue. But then soca fans too seem to prefer the meaningless lyrics. Some of the more popular soca songs – and not just local ones – over the years have really been about nothing. Lord Kitchener’s 1978 “Sugar Bum Bum”, now deemed a classic; Arrow’s 1983 hit “Hot, Hot, Hot”, which even made it into the 2002 British film Bend it Like Beckham; Byron Lee and the Dragonaires 1985 hit “Tiny Winey” and Machel Montano’s big 1998 tune “Toro Toro” featuring Shaggy are some which fall into this category.
However, that is not to say that there should not be moves to uplift the genre to return it to its original purpose. We must say that we believe some local acts are trying to do this and can point to Adrian Dutchin’s “No Place Like Home” as one such attempt.
What we would like to see though is more local soca artistes being soca artistes before Ansa McAl announces that the competition is on. We know that there is no copyright legislation and that they probably will not be amply compensated, but whoever truly loves the art form will not be satisfied with grudgingly putting out a single song a year and hoping to win the big money.
We can’t help, therefore, but to applaud Burchmore Simon, Kross Kolor Records and his flock of artistes for keeping at it and showing the tenacity in face of all the challenges.
We must also express admiration for local calypsonians who persevere in keeping the genre alive, even if it sometimes limps along because it does not get the financial and other support that soca, for instance, receives. Keep on keeping on is what we say to them, your day will come, sooner rather than later, we hope. (firstname.lastname@example.org)