Does The Plague of the Soca Industry Come from Within Its Own Community? (Part 1)
In my opinion Bunji Garlin is a soca ambassador extraordinaire. He has established a brand as one of the strongest lyricists in the soca field under the moniker the ‘Viking of Soca’. He can flow on any rhythm like a surfer riding a wave, smooth and silky, going wherever the rhythm takes him. As an extension of his musical brand, he has also established a wholesome image as an artiste committed to uplifting his (Vi) Queen and fellow artiste, Fayann Lyons, and daughter. He is articulate and self-contained, knows the history of his industry and is always willing to shine a light on and guide the work of deserving upcoming artistes. So with that background, its no surprise that I was excited to hear his interview on one of New York’s premiere radio stations, Hot 97 FM. I took my time to do so because I didn’t want to get caught up in the inevitable hype. I wanted to listen to his gems of wisdom with an unbiased and objective ear. And I was not disappointed. His discussion points were solid.
In a world of fleeting attention spans, Bunji’s interview is now old news, but for soca music enthusiasts, its worth referencing continuously because he addressed many issues that are plaguing not only the soca industry but the Caribbean music industry at large. He honed in on one particular issue that has been the bane of the soca industry’s existence for years. That is, the lack of support that soca artistes receive from their own community in Trinidad and Tobago.
BUILDING THE MOVEMENT FROM WITHIN
In his interview, he mentions the ability of other Caribbean musical movements to cross borders because they built strength and support from within. From his perspective, the overwhelming support of Jamaicans for reggae and Latin Americans for Reggaeton forced the world to sit up and pay attention to the music.
On the other hand, he believes Trinidadians have a different approach to musical success in that they want the music to ‘build abroad first and then see if anyone else likes it’.
One of the solutions he offered up was for artistes to create music that have universal themes versus relying as heavily on songs that are so closely tied to a ‘Carnival’ experience that not everyone around the world has been exposed to.
THE MISSED OPPORTUNITY
Up to maybe two years ago I would have agreed with Mr. Garlin wholeheartedly. But as of late, I have a different perspective. You see the argument of Trinbagonians not supporting their own has been around from at least the time I could understand words, over three decades ago. And yet, every year, I see soca artistes struggling to break through the clutter of the soca market with marginal success, struggle to get booked at the diaspora Carnivals throughout the year so they can ‘eat a food,’ and struggle to manipulate the sounds of their music to be more digestible internationally so that they can open more opportunities for income stream. But you see, it seems like the artistes are taking the same approach to an age old problem, banging the same doors and seeing little to no movement. What do they call that again…doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?
Oh yes, that’s it-Insanity!
BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY
Although I definitely share Mr. Garlin’s opinions about using more universal themes for music and about leaders in the industry taking the bull by the horns to build the industry, I also see some low hanging fruit that always seems to be glossed over when discussing expanding the market and brand recognition for the soca industry. Check out our post on Wednesday for more…….
SOUND OFF: What did you think of the Bunji Garlin interview? Check it out below.
MISSION: To elevate the brand of Caribbean culture in the fields of MUSIC, BUSINESS and the ARTS by celebrating the work of cultural ambassadors while advocating for upcoming Caribbean talent1.