Soca Music - An Introduction Part 2

There's a constant struggle amongst soca artists to make the soca music genre mainstream. In an effort to make the music more appealing to the world at large, songs are being recorded at slower tempos. These slower soca songs are called groovy soca songs. Tempos range between 100 bpm and 120 bpm on average, as opposed to power soca songs which are very fast at a range of 150 to 165 bpm. Many have argued that the fast tempo of songs is the number one inhibiting factor in the genre going mainstream. There's a huge debate where that is concerned.

Groovy soca songs are often based on love themes, similar to typical pop songs. There seems to be more scope in groovy soca for addressing various topics as opposed to the faster, power soca songs which are largely instruction songs. Soca artists are increasingly recording crossover music and the genre is becoming less and less strictly defined. Alison Hinds' "Roll It Gyal" is a typical example. Other groovy soca songs worthy of mention include Machel Montano's "One More Wine", Rupee's "Tempted To Touch", Bomani's "Wet", Jamesy P's "Nookie" and Mantius' "No Feelings". Soca seems to have gotten an unfair deal because many dancehall and reggaeton beats are derived from soca.

Soca music is centered around a West Indian festival calledCarnival where people dance in the streets on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Traditionally, carnival occurs immediately before Lent with many events held during February or March. Many islands have not kept to this date and carnivals are held at different times of the year in different islands. St Lucia is an example of an island which changed from February to July so as not to compete with the Caribbean's biggest carnival in Trinidad. Carnival events include pageants, as well as calypso, soca, steel drum music and costume competitions. Apart from the carnivals held in the various Caribbean islands, popular West Indian carnivals around the world based on this music, include the Labour Day parade in New York, Caribana in Canada, Miami Carnival, and Notting Hill Carnival in London.

Instrumentation

Soca makes use of typical instruments like guitars, synthesizers, drums, and bass guitar. There is also a brass section which comprises of trumpets and trombones, and sometimes saxophones. Increasingly, bands are doing away with horn players and are using keyboards and samplers instead. This is largely an economically driven decision. At soca monarch competitions however, the brass section features very prominently, in an effort for each soca artist to get the best sound he possibly can. Nothing beats having actual horn players. The sampler has also replaced back up singers in some bands, another economically influenced decision. The drums are perhaps the most important instruments in soca music. Some soca recordings consist of drums alone with no additional instruments.

While live instruments are used in live performances, the same is not always true for studio recordings. Like hip hop music, many of the instruments used in soca songs are virtual instruments. Software has largely taken over. It is very rare for an entire band to be brought into the studio. As with other genres, this one is dynamic and changes with the times.

Soca Music, An Introduction, Part One
Soca Introduction, Part Two
Soca Introduction, Part Three

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