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Rising soca star Nailah Blackman featured on Al Jazeera

Published:Monday | July 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Gleaner Writer
Nailah Blackman

It is a long-held view that soca music is seasonal and restricted to tropical environments squashed with sequinned, feathered and gyrating bodies. However, the genre has made its debut in the presumably modest Middle East.

On July 16, calypso artiste Nailah Blackman was invited to share the progression of her blossoming career on The Stream, a live online programme of the Al Jazeera English US broadcast centre.

"It feels amazing. It feels like I'm fulfilling my legacy, my lineage from my grandfather to the wider Caribbean. It's just part of my culture. I'm proud of it and I'm happy that I'm doing something," Nailah told The Gleaner.

Never mind that the network's focus is providing news and views, particular to Asian and the Middle Eastern societies.

The rising soca star was not solely invited to the programme in the capacity of an entertainer, she was also engaged as a point of reference to her country's musical history, and how that reflects Trinidad and Tobago's modern societal construct.

"Putting soca on that platform impacts Caribbean people I can reach a wider audience and this impacts the people it comes from," she continued.




In speaking to The Stream's anchors Fema Oke and Malika Bilal, Blackman outlined her legacy as a direct descendant (the granddaughter) of the patriarch and inventor of soca music the late Garfield 'Lord Shorty' Blackman, aka 'Ras Shorty I'.

The discussion expanded to include social media commentary from fans.

Trinelle Bartholomew commented: "I think soca is the dancehall of calypso. I believe it was created to be a band-aid to the knife wound of racial tension and racism. It is usually sufficient for the duration of the songs or the season but that is about as effective as it gets."

Amilcar Sanatan said: "Nailah is a critical voice of a caste of young voices who blend now 'traditional' calypso expressions and current global music trends with a global Caribbean aesthetic. [Nailah] is soca royalty, as she should be recognised. Her family [is] like the Marleys in Jamaica... recognised for their national cultural contribution. No different from the Pantin family in Trinidad and Tobago [in] social and civic leadership."

Earlier this year, Blackman was nominated in the Viewer's Choice: Best New International Act at the BET Awards. She was the sole Caribbean nominee in a pool of artistes hailing from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Ghana, France, Nigeria and South Korea.