Tue | Dec 11, 2018

How to play soca in Jamaica - Djs offer suggestions, describe experience

Published:Thursday | January 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Gleaner Writer
This reveller was quite the spectacle as she was spotted pirched atop this column during last years carnival road parade in Kingston.

Though soca music is prominent across the region, many fans of the genre complain that Jamaican deejays struggle to transplant the eastern Caribbean euphoria to the Jamaican soca parties. There are some deejays who appear to have adopted the small-island vibe well, and are billed as staple mix-masters for many events on the local scene. But is there a true difference in how deejays mix along the Caribbean archipelago and in Jamaica?

"The difference is with the presentation," DJ Richie RAS told The Gleaner. To learn the eastern Caribbean style, he suggests that dancehall deejays immerse themselves in the culture of their neighbours. Comparing their revelry to the West, he said: "It's fun and carefree. But to understand it, the level of energy - I'd recommend taking a trip, to go appreciate it firsthand. It's about familiarising yourself with respective cultures and how they're put on display," he said.

However, Kurt Riley has another idea.

"Soca versus dancehall is actually ridiculous. I knew from a very long time that there isn't a separation between dancehall and soca. They are like Siamese twins separated at birth," Kurt Riley said.

"For the eastern Caribbean, it's their main genre and culture. Here in Jamaica, it's not our thing, but the appreciation by the masses has grown tremendously," he said.

Appreciation has grown among producers as well. In the 2016 edition of Trinidad's Soca Monarch competition, Riley placed in the top 10 with the song Non-Stop featuring Pternsky. For this Carnival season, he is promoting the Jambian Riddim (a fusion of dancehall and soca), joining forces with Barbadian soca artiste King Bubba FM for Bubbaling.

"It just so happens that it fits in both cultures and beyond," Riley said.

By his observation, soca and dancehall have been intertwined for years.

"There's influence from reggae. It's fast music, so they just double it up," he explained. According to Riley, one outstanding contributing factor to increased local appreciation of the small island music style, is the work of Byron Lee.

Riley says, "Given the birth of bashment soca - stuff like Bam Bim, Split In Di Middle, Monster Wine, they are influenced by dancehall, but it's their version."




Pulling on the example of Ragga Ragga by Red Plastic Bag, it had become a crowd-pleaser in both dancehall parties and soca fÍtes.

"All him can see is people putting them hand in the air, but all him can hear is 'ragga ragga ragga!' Even the song Go Down by Lil Rick [Woi! Bashment in town!], people up and jump to it , but how many people know it was a sample of a dancehall song, just sped up?" he iterated.

As Riley marries the genres, his best lesson in the presentation of soca came from a smal-island experience. Riley tells The Gleaner he once witnessed class deejaying from DJ Darell (Trinidad).

"I waited for him to finish mixing, because you know it's distracting when people talk to a deejay while they're playing. But after, I asked 'how did you do that? How you know when to stop that song and play that one?'"

"Well, what do you love?," the Trinidadian replied. "Dancehall," Riley said.

"This is my dancehall," was the answer.