Dabian Olton of D Lab Productions is no stranger to the soca scene having co-produced and written the 2017 and 2018 winning tunes for St Maarten Groovy Soca Monarch, Kenyo.
His partnership with rising soca star Jus D has given him a bird’s-eye view of what makes a successful track. He is also the co-writer for Jus D’s 2018 single Hole and his latest tune for Crop Over 2019, So What.
The multi-talented artiste has put on his singer cap this Crop Over with his latest singles – Unique and Too Bad. He has also produced the Dark Horse Riddim featured on Drew Sharp’s Sample and Tito’s Nuff Talk. He has also worked on the bashment soca single Corporal Punishment by Mongrel.
The 32-year-old’s soca journey began in 2003 when he participated in the Junior Calypso Monarch Competition.
“During school days, I was more focused and interested in cricket at school but the music was also a love as well. I remember my teammates, when we were at school, we would play the old songs by Gabby and Grynner at the games,” Dabian told Bajan Vibes, adding that soca has been his passion from a very young age.
However, his educational pursuits brought his soca journey to a temporary pause. Returning to the scene over the past four years, the producer/songwriter/singer recognizes that he has a long way to go in the process of honing his craft.
“I came a very long way in terms of writing, being a vocalist and production. It has been leaps and bounds from when I started,” he said, adding, “Once you practise it more, you start to improve and you start to perfect your craft. I do a lot of sitting back, listening to what other producers and other writers are doing. I do a lot of research, I look at past artistes. The more you record a song, the more you spend time in a studio, the more you sing, the more you become better at it, eventually.”
Speaking to Bajan Vibes from D Lab Productions, Rendezvous Christ Church studio, Dabian disclosed that while he’s wearing his producer’s hat, he only sought to embrace the music and ‘catch a vibe’. For him, music is energy, like a battery in his back. Music isn’t a seasonal job for him or his 9-5 job but he produces 365 days a year.
“I want to bring something new, something different to the industry; let the public know the new artistes have a part to play in bringing a new sound to the industry which would ultimately benefit our music industry and help put Barbados on the map when it comes to the soca. I hear all the artistes talking about putting soca on the map so we all have a role to play.”
Broaching the topic of the evolution of the soca music in Barbados and the Caribbean, the 32-year-old producer stated that this evolution was a sign of the changing taste of today’s listeners, musicians and artistes. Therefore, one had to sink or swim in capturing the interest of regional and international listeners.
“For us [Barbadians], we have to market our stuff to compete with the international market so the direction is similar to my sound. Other producers are doing the fusions as well, taking the music more mainstream in terms of the BPMs (beats per minute), the structure of the melodies, the instruments. We are moving from the generic type of soca to the fusions; this creates a better opportunity for us to market our music internationally,” he shared.
The young artiste also mentioned that there should be more learning experiences and the promotion of young artistes.
“It just takes for a producer to hold on to a younger producer who he may see and like something about and then make arrangements where they could work on a project for the season. The younger artistes get to benefit from that experience and it is a win-win for everybody,” Dabian stated.
“Seasoned artistes and new artistes working together ensures that when the artiste moves on that we don’t have to be scrabbling for where is the next Edwin, where is the Lil Rick where is the next RPB. We have something in place where eventually other artistes come to the forefront,” he continued.