Grading Grenada’s 2016 Soca

Arley Gill

by Arley Gill

Last week in my article, I made mention that there were some good songs for Spicemas 2016. Now, over the last few years we have been fortunate to have at least one smash hit coming from Grenada, which augurs well for our music and our carnival.

However, for us to make a sustained impact in the world soca market, I am of the considered view there are two things that need to happen:

  1. The breakthrough artiste of the year needs to have an excellent follow up song the next year, with wide Caribbean rotation, very much like Vincentian Skinny Fabulous. He has been able to maintain a good standard, year after year. Skinny Fabulous is no one hit wonder.
  1. We need more than one artiste breaking out at the same time; something similar to the phenomenon of the Bajan invasion of some years ago. That will make everyone get up and take notice of our music and we will be able to garner more respect; not to mention, more visibility in the soca world.

I would like to mention some songs that stand out so far this year, not so much for regional breakthrough, but just because I think they are good. Now, soca is something that “grows on you”; you can hear it for the first time and dismiss it; but you hear it again and again and then you say to yourself: “Well, wait nuh, that song ent bad after all”.

Lavaman has always appealed to the youths with his style and infectious hook lines and I think that some aspects of his music are overlooked. Lavaman’s “Jab rolling with a big snake in a cukus bag… when we drinking rum is they we badd”, is one of the hit songs so far. However, let us not overlook the poetic brilliance of the song and the vivid imagery it creates, as well as that traditional aspect of Jab Jab that it depicts. The snake in bag is now forbidden and should be discouraged; but it was a mainstay of Jab Jab in the past.

Shortpree is sizzling hot this year. I am not sure what’s preventing him from being a premium regional artiste. I suspect it’s his management and marketing; certainly, not his music which is world class.

Shortpree’s music is mature and sophisticated; rich in freshness in theme and melodic variation. His “Set the Mood” is a song made for great gastronomic satisfaction. Simply tasty. I wish the world will be hearing it. I am enjoying “Mas Well Played” also. Love the concept.

Shortpree and Lava have a fair market outside of Grenada. However, they just need that one song like Cloud 5, Killa or Tallpree, to go the next level. What is going for them is that they already have a good catalogue of songs to draw from.

Then there is a youth, who calls himself “Dash”, with a song titled, “No Company”. Oh, what a song! Brilliant. Nice freshness in melody, but yet a simplicity of theme that all revelers can relate to. It is a modern and mature song. His other song, “Party Habit”, is probably being overshadowed by “No Company”. But I will urge readers to listen out for it. It is of respectable quality as well. Dash is good!

Laura Lisa is making steady progress with her music. Take a listen to “My Darlin”. She sings it well; nice vocal range and voice intonations. Sweet song. Then another of her songs, “Dis Carnival”, is a tune that may not get wide rotation; but it’s a song that will play after carnival is over. That song brings out the maturity in the artiste. It is a commendable effort.

Lil Vaughn featuring Sandman “OTNO” is tastefully done, as is Brother B’s “Whining Champion”. To me, the niche for Brother B must be grooves. He is much better there. Skinny Bantan’s “Jab Forever” is by far one of the better Jab Jab songs, despite only having two verses. It is a song with some depth, poetic excellence and there is a nice touch of melodious accompaniment. It is an applaudable effort. The producer must be commended for his work.

In my opinion, the most impressive artiste of the season thus far, will have to be the “old war horse”, Finley Jeffrey – the Scholar. In “Clip My Wings”, he has produced a soulful philosophical masterpiece, accompanied by the strings of an acoustic guitar. It is a tune that persons in adversity can identify with. Therein lies good use of language as well.

Then Scholar sings, “Ah Coming”, although I get the impression that he is already in the house party and he is bent on entering elsewhere. It is a beautiful groove, laden with double entendre and sumptuously teasing sexual lyrics. The pace of the song, I find at my age, is easy to dance to.

And there is, in my considered view, the best written song by some distance so far, “Take jab”, also by Scholar. With its pace, bounce and irresistible hook lines, you will forget that it is a social and political commentary. It offers a staunch defense of the Jab Jab mas’, in a fiercely dismissive and arrogant manner, while “throwing word” for all them hypocrites. It has a recipe of Jab Jab chant, Shortknee Chantwell, and traditional lavway.

“Take jab” is a supremely constructed song. One almost has to study it to fully understand its nuances. The Grenadian dialect is so effectively used in the chorus; I will like to hear the verdict of the foremost expert in Grenadian language, Clyde Belfon, on the use of language in “Take jab”. Scholar is arguably our best writer. Others have faded over the years.

Then, there is a haunting and tantalizing baseline, with an almost lazy use of a horn in the chorus of “Take Jab”. I love it. It is a song of near perfection, only because perfection does not exist.

These are some of the songs that “jump out” at me thus far. I will keep listening.

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