“Dear NCF, I write to inform you that power soca is dying! DJs hardly play it in fetes and if they do it is older music. By and large groovy SOCA is in, so your brilliant idea to set Party Monarch BPM at 140 is kind [of] putting that tempo in no man’s land. The trend in groovy soca now is 128-135 BPM, so if you are serious about Party Monarch as a power soca competition the BPM should be 150, because hardly anyone nowadays records songs at 136-149 BPM.”
The above Facebook post recently made by popular deejay Alvin Toppin has reignited the conversation not only about the fate of power soca, which refers to most uptempo or fastest form of soca music, but what it means for the future of this island’s Party Monarch competition.
The outspoken Toppin went as far as to suggest that Crop Over organizers should revert to having one competition at the annual Soca Royale event, which was the case pre 2009 before the contestant .
He reasoned that even though groovy or ragga soca songs never won the competition previously, they did well across the board.
“I am not saying to copy what happened in Trinidad, but let the record reflect that [the International Soca Monarch organizers there] realized the demise of power soca and reverted to one competition where all the finalists songs were groovy soca. Not one power or fast soca song was in the finals,” he noted.
Another popular deejay, Obrian Hitman Ward said as far as he concerned power soca was already dead.
“I hardly ever play power soca. If I do it would be one from 2008 and back, no further up. I think that power soca is dead. It has been dead for about two years now. I have been trying to tell artistes that for a while. I just think it’s a generation thing. The times have changed because years ago you would have never heard raga soca in fetes, you would hear mostly power soca. Times have changed in soca, I don’t know if they would ever change back, it makes no sense recording power soca now,” Hitman stressed.
However, popular entertainer Hypasounds, who is most popularly known for his groovy soca, begged to differ. He told Bajan Vibes he was not about to write off power soca, even if it has been forced to take a back seat for a while.
“I wouldn’t say power soca is dead or dying, I would just say music has its time. Before power soca was the main thing and no one was saying groovy. It’s just that music has its own way of changing, so it all depends on the time. There are still a lot of good power soca tracks out there [but] right now groovy raga soca is dominating in the market. Every year things change.”
Ruel Ward of Pyramid Entertainment also weighed in on the debate. He told Bajan Vibes more artistes were gravitating towards the groovy soca music because of the cross over appeal.
“The fast songs on the international market don’t do very well. Persons say they are not able to understand it, so some artistes believe it’s more profitable for them to do the groovy soca. Power soca is struggling though. In order for the power soca to be saved, the onus is on producers and artistes to produce higher quality music,” Ward said.
Calypsonian Adrian Clarke suggested that the tempo could be adjusted somewhat.
“Slow the tempo down and make the songs more danceable and melodic. That could help. Lately the rhythm poetry bashment-chanting artistes are appearing like a rash. Quality not quantity! Sift them out,” Clarke advised.
As for Toppin’s suggestion that the National Cultural Foundation reveryts to having one Soca Royale competition, Clarke, whos is regular competitor, said it would be a wise move.
“I told NCF they need to go back to one competition party wise. It was an issue with sweet/ragga soca being left out but that’s not the same anymore. The lyrics and ideas leave much to be desired and artistes just need to be creative, which most are not. Car parts and jucks and stabs are overused, plus [there are a lot of songs about] consuming alcohol. Find other ways to say it without being so direct about it,” he said.
However, Mistah Dale, who is also no stranger to the Soca Royale stage, believes there is room for both competitions.
“There’s no part of soca that I would say is “dead”. Soca is still a very young baby. Power soca is still an integral part of how we move, talk, dance and celebrate.
“The faster paced drums is what makes our entire culture so special and unique. The effort to slow down is a reflection of the perceived need to make our thing more palatable for international audiences. Whether this is right or wrong I can’t say, simply because there’s really no right or wrong in musical, cultural expression. There will be arguments both for and against. What I know for sure is that we need both,” Mistah Dale told Bajan Vibes.
In fact, he went on to argue for the introduction of a third Soca Royale competition.
“I don’t know who’s turning a blind eye to it, but a Bajan Soca subgenre has emerged in the form of “Bashment Soca”, and from the looks of things will be here for a while. From an artistde and promoter viewpoint, why stifle creativity when you have an opportunity to showcase three different genres, possibly three different shows? That equals three revenue sources,” he suggested.