Soca Music: The Importance of Resistance

Soca music is a genre that has been around for 50 years. It was the essence of carnival. The drums, the rhythm, the freedom of its music made it so special. Soca music is a crucial part of Trinidad and Tobago culture.

Natasha TL Norman is a producer, songwriter that grew up listening to the Soca genre. Attending carnival dance competitions, Natasha grew up surrounded by the cheerful music that she specialises on today.

“Maybe it was something I was always going to do.

I always liked writing. Just for myself. I don’t know why, in the back of my school draft books. I would have songs. Just songs. Music was all around.”

When recalling her earliest memories with music she remembers:

“My aunt, who is no longer with us, she was a headteacher. And I remember she used to play for her school, I remember her playing ‘Fur Elise’. She used to always do this thing where she would pass percussion instruments around to the children.”

Natasha was raised with the carnival. The lights, the music, the dancing; throughout her childhood, she was raised to know how to be a performer. She put herself out there and started working on her music. She participated in multiple competitions, producing, songwriting, and eventually led to her start to focus on Soca music.

“I think within me that it’s a sound that and gave me a lot of Joy. If people say it’s happy music, so there’s just something in it that makes you want to dance and feel free.

“It’s not choreographed because the traditions of it are about freedom. When you go on the road and when you go on the stage, essentially you are free to do whatever you want.”

Soca music was first introduced as a mixture of South Asian instruments with Calypso. Calypso functioned as a political protest. People would use it to mock authority using music to express their feelings towards the injustices happening around them.

The Soca genre has birthed multiple highly recognisable hits throughout the years. Some like Who Let the Dogs Out?’, ‘Turn Me On’ and ‘Follow the Leader’. Unfortunately, this remains something unknown by many music fans.

The Soca genre has been struggling for several years. One of the main events in Trinidad dedicated to the cultural music being cancelled last year. The international Soca Monarch competition has fallen out of popularity in recent years, and in other countries will remain over the lack of focus on participating with appropriate music.

With the decrease in the Soca genre listeners Natasha explains:

“There was this massive debate because people have been playing less and less Soca [during carnival] and a lot more genres.”

There is a callout for more artists to try and focus on releasing the genre beyond the Carnival holiday. People are desperate for the Soca genre to persist and for artists to continue producing and making Soca music.

With the Soca genre working as a seasonal reliant genre, without Carnival to solely amplify it, the genre will struggle further to gain listeners.

The possibility of social media applications such as TikTok, to be a solution in increasing Soca listenership, exists. It has been shown that even if a song does not flourish on the mainstream charts it could still prevail on the app. Social Media is seen by Natasha to have “levelled the playing field” for minority women. Despite the industry shutting those women down. These methods of promotion are open to anyone, in which music stays at the forefront of importance.

read more

Written by: Ana Goncalves