Soca music is definitely loved and appreciated by many people in Jamaica and the events of Jamaica Carnival this past weekend showed and proved this is true beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Thousands of Jamaican nationals joined tourists from across the region and outside of it and participated in numerous Carnival and Soca-themed events over the past two weekends in the land that’s renowned for reggae and dancehall music.
Kes The Band’s live concert hosted by SunNation at Sabina Park last Thursday and the first-ever “WI Fete” at the same venue last Saturday night attracted thousands of willing and eager participants, even as Trinidad staple events such as Private Ryan’s “Soca Brainwash”, Scorch’s “Duck Work” and Caesar’s Army’s “A.M. Bush” J’ouvert also drew massive crowds to different locations in and around the capital city of Kingston.
Creative Carnival decor, themes, customs, aesthetics and soundscapes prevailed throughout the festivities with sprinkes of dancehall and reggae for good measure, similar to the mix experienced during Trinidad Carnival. Soca superstar, Machel Montano made note of the evolution of the carnival music dynamic during his first performance with a full band on the island in many years, on Saturday night.
BUNJI GARLIN RECALLS BEING DISSED IN JA
Meanwhile, T&T Road March champion, Bunji Garlin also shared a story of a time when Soca artistes were not so readily accepted on the island. “The year is 2023,” he related after applauding the massive crowd for singing his hit song, “Differentology” word for word. “The last time I set foot inside here it was 2000. I didnt understand Jamaica dem times and ah come here with muh arrogant self and feel ah coulda do wha ah want. Delano from Rennaissance gimme de microphone and ah say gimme that dancehall riddim and ah woman in de crowd say ‘come offa dat, who is you’ and boo me straight off de stage. Ah fly back home to Trinidad that night and ah say ah never coming back to Jamaica again…”
Buni Garlin during his performance.
Ding Dong Ravers with Jules Sobion
Nailah Blackman with Jadel
The definition of Soca Squad.
Garlin freestyled the second half of the story in time with his hit song and the crowd’s response was tremendous. Performing with his live band, the ragga soca artiste showed masterful crowd control, stage presence and potent delivery, alongside his trademarked free-styling skills.
Nailah Blackman and Skinny Fabulous also enjoyed their time on stage, as did three-time Soca Monarch, Aaron “Voice” St. Louis when he appeared during Montano’s closing set. Jeffrey “Agent Sasco” Campbell who sings on the new Caribbean Airlines theme song “Welcome Home,” and rising star, Raheem “Valiant” Bowes were among the few Jamaican, non-Soca performers on the night and both were greeted warmly by the audience, but the Soca stars were definitely the highlight and main attraction at Wi Fete.
T&T EVENT COORDINATOR TALKS CULTURAL INTEGRATION
Similarly, at Kes’ concert two days prior, recent collaborator, reggae and dancehall star, Busy Signal was welcomed and enjoyed by the masses assembled, but it was Iwer George’s 2020 collaboration, “Stage Gone Bad” that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Event Coordinator, Damian Archie has been producing events with Caesar’s Army and others at Jamaica Carnival for over a decade and says the cultural integration is still a work in progress. “The Jamaicans have their own way of doing things generally, but over the years, they have observed us and taken stock of how we do things and so now they’re more willing to collaborate and trust us more to handle certain aspects, and there are still things that can be improved on all sides, but the music is there – Soca is at a level now where we have two and three different generations of talent who are professionals and have hits and catalogue and varying degrees of stage experience, so there are about two generations who have grown up loving them and loving Soca music as much as they love any other genre.”
Archie admitted that Jamaica’s Carnival is not on the level of Trinidad and Tobago’s in terms of size, organization and logistics just yet. He noted that Jamaicas are a very expressive and confident people, adding that their parade of bands is on a different level all by itsel, at the same time.