One thing that cannot be said about the 2012 Carnival season is that it is lacking music. In previous years, the music would be limited to a few key artists. There was even rumored to be a soca mafia controlling song releases. Well, thanks to the Internet and the power of marketing, artists have been releasing track after track. That is not the new story. The new story is the release of riddim after riddim.
Madmen Producers, Precision Productions, and Maha Productions have been leading the charge in letting fans know that it is not only the performers that are hard at work at this time, but also the production teams. Listen for the artists shouting out the 40-foot Riddim, the Cosmic-Shift Riddim, the Popso Riddim, and the Antilles Riddim. Producers are not discriminating against performers. The afore-mentioned producers have worked with Bunji Garlin, Machel Montano, Kes the Band, Destra Garcia, Swappi, Maximus Dan, etc. Recent releases are not just jump-and-wave fete songs, but also songs for clubs, parties, and perhaps for those of us tuning in from the U.S., London, and Canada.
The move toward pop music in the islands of course will have its critics. There are some who feel that Carnival time is the time to shift from popular foreign sounds to music that is organically Trinidadian. This is a valid point. After listening to Jamaican reggae and American Hip-Hop for nine months of the year (I figure 1 month for Christmas/Parang music), it can be frustrating to find that local music is indistinguishable. Also, the role of the calypsonian is to bring attention to the issues concerning the nation. “Island Pop” has not done this. It is less in the vein of Mighty Sparrow and more comparable to Popcaan (who is featured on Shurwayne Winchester’s latest track and will be performing in Trinidad 2012).
So, why create pop music for Trinidad? Well, it might be easier to reach an international audience if the music is more familiar to the foreign ear. Deejays are getting songs that they can mix with other kinds of music without clearing the dance floor of anyone who does not want to get bounced or run over. Artists are now getting so many different beats and melodies that they can create individual albums instead of having one or two songs featured on compilations.
So, should the international market be a focus for soca artists? Is it possible for soca purists to embrace popso as simply another facet of soca rather than something altogether foreign?