In Praise of the Afrobeat-Soca Collaboration
Music is forever changing and evolving. One of the best examples of this is looking at music by people from the African diaspora; there is an element of creolisation in our music.
Soca and Afrobeats come from a creolisation of traditional music rooted partly in Africa. High life originated from Ghana in the early 20th Century merging jazz, traditional rhythms and chanted vocals. Similarly, Soca, which stands for soul calypso merging Calypso, indo-Caribbean music, funk, cadence and soul, originated in Trinidad. The roots of Calypso originated in West Africa and was brought over during slavery. Many elements of Caribbean culture can be traced from the various African cultures that slaves held on to in the New World.
Both Soca and Afrobeats were used to ‘ modernise’ their respective traditional music forms with great success. Soca has had some worldwide popularity with hit songs such as ‘ Hot, Hot, Hot’ by Arrow from Montserrat and ‘ Sugar Bum Bum’ by Trinidad’ s Lord Kitchener, someone who was already a Calypso legend when he made that Soca classic.
In recent years there have been many collaborations between Soca and Afrobeat artists. For example, Nigeria’ s Timaya featuring Trinidad’ s Machel Montano –“Shake up your Bum bum so” a remix of song originally sung solo by Timaya. The remix shows the compatibility of the two genres. Again in 2015, there was yet another remix, by Timaya featuring Destra Garcia from Trinidad –“Sanko”. Upon watching the video to Timaya’ s ‘ Sanko’ it was clear that popular dance moves in the Caribbean had rubbed off on him during his visit.
These collaborations exemplify the fluidity in the creativity of both genres. So much so that a new category of Soca has emerged called ‘ Afrosoca’ . The International Soca Groovy King of 2015, Olatunji’ s winning tune “Ola” shows the influence of African culture in Soca. Olatunji has continued in this direction into the Trinidad Carnival 2016 season with his song “Oh Yay” in which he confirms the popularity of the new category with his lyrics “I doh know about you but when I’ m down in the band me and ah woman and we chanting oh na na we dancing to Afrosoca”. To further push home the connection, Olatunji has taken to wearing African attire in all his stage shows.
Other additions to this sub-genre can be seen in the afro soca riddim (rhythm) produced by Jesse John. It features Jamaican Dancehall artists like Blak Ryno, who performs “Inside”, JW & Blaze ft Kimba Sorano with a track called “Feeling It”, Screws with “Wine & Go Down:”, Spyro with “Champion Bubbler” and lastly Shradah and Nessa Preppy with “Caribbean Girls”.
On my visit to Ghana, it became apparent how much both my cultural influences intermingle when I heard Machel Montano’ s “band of the year” playing on the radio in a restaurant and again I noticed that between the Afrobeats and Azontoing (Azonto, being the Ghanaian-originated dance craze that swept the globe) I encountered, there was a steady stream of Soca playing. Ghana has a connection with theCaribbean. Samini, a Ghanaian artist who performs Soca, reggae, hip hop and R’ n’ B, brings his African roots and influence into Soca music. His track ‘ Where my baby dey?’ brought an African flavour to Soca.
During carnival season in the St Lucia, I have always noticed an appreciation for African music. African movies and music are extremely popular with vendors selling them on the street. The first year Azonto came to St Lucia, people were still trying to figure out how to dance to it. But as time went on, the dance moves have been transported over too. Azonto, (foot drop dance) were all the rage at the local street jam. The dance floor fills for Yemi Alade’ s hit song ‘ Johnny’ and Iyanya’ s ‘ Kukere’. I write this as we move into 2016 with the king of the Caribbean carnivals just around the corner (Trinidad) and looking forward to more Afrosoca tunes.