I report today from the sunny shores of St. Thomas with the sounds of “SoCa” music still ringing in my ears. St. John’s music carnival is going on – just a 15-minute ferry ride away – and I can hear the music loud and clear. I plan to attend Tuesday night and I could not be more excited. This is my 21st year coming to the island, but it will be my first ever St. John’s Carnival. Luckily, I will not be alone on this adventure as I will be joined by a new friend who will be my tour guide for this yearly music event. Since I cannot compare the artists at the show to more popular ones quite yet, for this week’s blog I have decided to share my first encounter with SoCa music, and give a brief glimpse of the Carnival lineup. You might not have never heard of the bands I will mention, but try to keep an open mind and give them a listen after the read.
“SoCa” music – as it was explained to me by new friend and carnival guide, Amanda – is “an upbeat, very rhythmic musical style similar to calypso with hints of hip hop and reggae.” She explained that it is very difficult to compare the bands I will hear to the ones stateside, but Bob Sinclair would be the closest. After listening to a few tracks by an unknown artist on our way to meet some of her friends – pros when it comes to SoCa – I realized that the music of the Caribbean really is something totally unique. Sure I have heard similar sounds at local bars in the area, but I have never had the chance to really listen to the beats, and to hear how easy it is to get wrapped up in the groove.
Her friends tried to explain the difference between Michael Montano and SugarBand to me, but after seeing my glossed over eyes, they took to simply playing their favorite songs on the car radio… “You’ll get it mahn — have a listen.”
From what I could gather, SugarBand is more hip-hop than Michael Montano, but with fewer vocals. Destra, who I will be seeing on Tuesday night, could be considered the Beyonce of SoCa music with her great vocals and incredible stage presence. Burning Flames is a bit of a mix between hip-hop and reggae but, like Sugarband, they sing in a language I am barely able to comprehend. Destra on the other hand, combines Caribbean slang with American English in perfect harmony.
After about an hour of music, each song blended into the next and it became difficult for me to differentiate between the bands. However, I was assured that by Wednesday I would have it down — but I have my doubts.
The rest of the day was spent on a secluded beach with no access to music but it didn’t stop them from giving me the inside scoop on what to expect at the carnival. “Get ready for a night filled with loud music, Caribbean love, flashing lights and of course, the SoCa dancing: swaying back and forth in unison,” they said. Bring it on.
Now I won’t give a SoCa inspired poll for the week but stay tuned for next week when I try to compare these artists to some popular ones we have stateside. In the meantime, here’s a poll about an artist everyone knows and loves:
“Burnin” (“Get up Stand Up”, “Rasta Man Chant”)
“Catch a Fire” (“Stir it up”, “Midnight Ravers”)
“Exodus” (“Jamming”, “Three Little Birds”)
“Uprising” (“Could you be Loved”, “Redemption Song”)
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