|Rum & Soca|
Crochet Ass-out Biniki
I love Soca. Something about soca caresses my soul. I can only describe this soul connection through feeling; my skin crawls with delight, a toothy grin slowly creeps across my face, my hands find them selves up in the air, I taste mango-pineapple-sugarcane sweetness, and my hips start swaying. Finally my eyes close and I am transported to dreams of warmth, sunshine, cool breezes, sun kissed brown skin, sweaty bodies, bright colours, rolling waistlines...pure sweetness of the most intimate kind. The baselines, uptempo rhythms, and carefree lyrics free my spirit in a way that no other kind of music ever has. In my many imagined fantasies, I've always believed that I was a soca kween in my past life, and if I had a life soundtrack 90% of it would be made up of soca...but in all my soca fantasies never have imaged where this spirit freeing sweetness originated from. In my imagined fantasies I have created an entirely fictitious and self-centered representation of soca music. After reflecting on this feeling/fantasy, I started to feel wrong about enjoying and consuming something for so many years without having a basic understanding of its origins. Why? Because far too often African, Caribbean and Black realities and genius are appropriated for the entertainment or gaze of others. To realize how I have participating in the process of erasing the origins of soca music by creating a romanticized self serving understanding of it did not sit well with me. So I looked up the history of soca!
In her 1997 essay titled The Politics of Labeling Popular Musics in the Caribbean, author Jocelyne Guilbault gives a brief history of soca music. Trinidadian musician Ras (Lord) Shory, born Garfield Blackman, originally coined the term Sokah. For roughly 10 before coining the composed sound of Sokah, the musician had been mixing Calypso with Kadans (Caribbean creole uptempo music polarized by Hatian sax player Webert Sicot) and various east Indian sounds/instruments. Ras Shorty invented Sokah as a rebirth of Calypso which he claimed "was dying a natural death" with he rise of reggae music, but he also believed that through fusing east Indian and African music he could end racialism between the two largest ethnic groups in Trinidad and encourage young Trinidadians to consume the sounds of their home (Guilbault, 1997).
As explained by Ras Shorty, the term "Sokah" is a combination of syllables: The 'so' comes from calypso. The 'Kah' is to show the East Indian rhythm, the syllable represents the first letter of the Indian alphabet (Guilbault, 1997). It is also said that Sokah means the 'soul of calypso'. Over time as the instruments used in the composition and rhythms of Sokah changed (attributed to a lack of positive response to east Indian instruments), so did the name of the sound. More contemporarily spelt 'Soca' the "so' is said to represent the fusion of soul music and 'ca' Calypso. The change in instrumentation and spelling removed the original contributions of east Indian sounds intended by Ras Shorty (Guilbault, 1997). From 1978 onward Soca has transformed to include sampling of zouk, american music, and afro-beats to name a few and it still maintains original inspiration through was Rash Shorty says is the east Indian drum-sets that "punch out the bass line on the drum set" (Guilbault, 1997). Despite the shifts in the sound, Ras Shortys really did revive calypso in a lasting way that speaks to the spirit. Soca is sound found throughout Caribbean islands, there are diasporic collaborations between continental African and Caribbean soca artists, soca is institutionalized to include soca morach competitions and is a key element in bringing sweet sounds and inspiration to carnivals internationally!
Every year I have played mas in Toronto Caribana I have wanted to wear a thong bikini and be ass out, but every time something came up; I was either too self conscious about my cellulite-stretch marked booty, they ran out of thongs, they were never delivered, or they weren't an option. So while sipping on some rum & mango juice and listening to soca I made this crochet ass-out bikini to externalize my desire to be ass-out, and externalize the most deeply felt to love for this genre of music that has always brought me so much joy and given me renewed confidence to be/feel myself. For me the most important part of externalizing that joy was also prioritizing internalizing the meaning of the art of soca and learning about its origins! Check one of my 2015 soca jams below!
Barbados Crop Over 2015
Barbados Crop Over 2015
WRITTEN & PRODUCED BY JASON "SHAFT" BISHOP. MIXED & MASTERED BY ANDREW DENNY
Guilbault, Jocelyne. 1997. The Politics of Labeling Popular Musics in the Caribbean.found at: http://www.sibetrans.com/trans/articulo/265/the-politics-of-labelling-popular-musics-in-english-caribbean