The following is an opinion piece from DJ JEL. This is written from my perspective as an International Soca DJ, someone looking in from the outside. I am not of Vincentian descent, however I’ve watched and created content for Vincy Mas over 10 years now and I make it my mission to play Vincy soca across the globe.
For as long I could remember, I’ve been an avid fan and listener of Vincy soca (soca music originated from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines). I grew up to the styles of Winston Soso, Kevin Lyttle, Touch, Bomani, Troots N Ice and Jamesy P. Over the years I’ve watched the transition of the artform and the growth of two most prominent artists, Skinny Fabulous and Problem Child.
There’s a lot of talented people in SVG and they all have an equal role in the success of the music. Personally, I think that Vincy soca can be much better than it is now, and there’s a lot of factors that is holding SVG back from reaching further than it is now. Let’s go through them!
6. Consistency in the production, mixing, writing, mastering and sound engineering of songs
There are a few new producers on the scene, but there isn’t much of an investment in finalizing the production of releases. The arrangement of some releases don’t have a proper musical structure. The vocal production and harmonies/melodies are missing and the kick and percussions aren’t always aligned. In the last couple of years, the lyrical content also fell dramatically.
It seems like artists don’t invest in the production of their songs and/or get it rushed to a point where the song isn’t ready for consumption. Production value can make or break the success of a song.
J-c Jeanie Patterson
Jelani, it's crazy that you said this. Let's discuss, why has this issue arise?! (Vincy DJs what y'all take)
5. Creating a balance between ragga soca and power soca
There’s an ongoing debate that Vincy soca is power and that because Vincentians doh party normal, power should be to envoke the energy that is Vincy Mas. Although Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is popularly known for power, ragga soca is also just as popular. Matter a fact, ragga soca releases like “Wet” by Bomani, “Turn Me On” by Kevin Lyttle and “Nookie” by Jamesy P, put Vincy soca on the map.
Kevin Lyttle’s, “Turn Me On” was an international ragga soca hittopping charts across the world.
In 2005, “Nookie” reached #14 on the UK Singles chart and #54 on the US R&B and hip hop bill board charts
There’s a trend in putting out energetic power soca and creating more local Vincy songs that can mash up rural carnivals. The thing with this is when you saturate one market, the others are left out. I do think a balance between the two can help the music. Artists like L Pank, Mason, Maddzart, Hance, Jamesy P, Nikki D Diva and a few others have brought out quality ragga soca songs. Sometimes they are often overlooked in the season because of power soca.
4. Making music that can live beyond carnival and Vincy mas
Though there’s nothing wrong with singing about jump, wave, strong rum and mashing up everything, there are more topics to touch on in soca music. I get that some of the topics is traditional to the culture and mas, however soca music has evolved to be much more than that. Soca music is much more than carnival now, it can affect anyone in any given place. A few artists have explored the realm outside of what was traditionally done.
3. Increasing access and distribution
Distribution for Vincy soca is almost non-existent. The majority of Vincy artists that release for the season usually blast out a YouTube link and it stops there. There needs to be more ground work so that people in Vincy and outside of Vincy can hear their songs.
From a digital perspective, artists should create an email list for DJs, radio, press and influencers. Vincy soca should be published and distributed on digital platforms such as Apple Music (formerly iTunes), Google Play, Soundcloud, Spotify, Amazon, Pandora, etc….
For DJs in the soca music industry, Vincy artists should blast their music out on Julianspromos, The Bass (Formerly known as Lee’s Designs), The Soca Vault, Vincy Connect, Vincy Powa and Riddimstream.
Julianspromos also offers digital distributions across various platforms.
2. Embracing and encouraging the younger generation when they do something against “the norm”
There’s a lot of talented artists in Vincy who don’t want to be boxed into just doing what the generation before them have done. This year, a handful of artists went outside of what was traditional and fused traditional Vincy soca with sounds from the other islands.
Skinny Fabulous and the Black Rave team created the “Shell Down Boss” competition, this encourages younger artists to put on their best performance and encourage a fiery crowd response. I think this a step in the right direction and pushes artists outside of their comfort zone.
1. Encouraging women in the industry
Women in the industry are often discouraged from singing due to attitudes related to general public. Some women are chastised when they sing their contributions and are often ridiculed into not singing at all. Though soca music on a whole is a male dominated industry, there is room for women there. I’ve heard stories where some women are degraded and they are told that the only reason they are doing well in the industry is because of “she bull man to get where she is.”
Carnival is woman, regionally artists like Nikita (Barbados), Patrice Roberts (Trinidad & Tobago), Nadia Batson (Trinidad & Tobago), Kisha (St. Lucia) and Claudette Peters (Antigua) have made strides. They release music on an annual basis and though there’s a level of fight down in the soca industry, they are still persistent.
Artists like Reka Gaymes, Fya Empress, Zoelah, Shaunelle Mckenzie, Sita and Danielle Veira are a few of Vincy’s best. Given the right opportunity, they will play a major part in how the music grows and travels outside of SVG.
There you have it! I encourage feedback and your own views. Leave them in the comments below.
The originally appeared on Di Soca Analysts