Three Ways Buss Head, Bunji and Machel Changed the Story of Soca Music
The soca fraternity was abuzz with chatter on Friday when some random teaser visuals were released on the artistes respective social media pages. No fan- fare. No fuss. Simply Machel Montano’s logo and Bunji Garlin’s logo in one place, at the same time- Nah! Hearts were racing, calls were being made, anticipation levels were high, and the questions would not stop.
Is it true? What was the catalyst for this? What happens to the current Road March contender-because this song is obviously going to blow every other song off the charts? Has the world gone mad? -So many questions.
And then, in less than twelve (12) hours after the understated teaser visuals were released, there it was -the song that changed the course of soca history-Buss Head. It is a musical tribute to the stick fighters who played an integral role in the Carnival legacy of Trinidad and Tobago.
Many are focused on the fact that these two soca kings actually united in song after a long history of discord, but, there are so many other levels to what was done on Friday. Once again, in their unique styles, these two men continue to make history and forge new paths for soca, Caribbean music and Caribbean culture. Here are three things that were achieved with the release of the song-Buss Head.
1)Paid Homage to Carnival History
They both came out blazing paying tribute to the Kalenda (Calinda), one of the oldest Carnival traditions dating back to the 1700’s. They both came out with blustering musical lyrics reminiscent of the best of the braggarts of the era….’tell them we doh fraid nobody…tell them come for meh.’ Just some history, in case you don’t know, the stick-fighting ritual is known to have its roots back in slavery where men would duel with sticks or “bois” in gayelles or rings.* This was done to the accompaniment of drumming and singing, often in patois, the stick-fighters would use their skills in dance-like motions to defend themselves from their adversaries. The prize was the accolades resulting from the wounding and sometimes death of opponents. Stick-fighting was banned in 1880 in response to the Canboulay Riots. In 1937 stick-fighting was re-introduced in controlled competitions. Today, stick-fighting gayelles all over Trinidad and Tobago form an important attraction as part of the annual Carnival celebrations.*
At a time when Carnival history seems to be getting lost in deference to girls wining, bikini and beads, and music enticing the crowd to work themselves up into an alcohol induced frenzy, this song served as a subtle reminder that Carnival has its roots in something much deeper and profound. This song was one small but necessary step to reclaiming the festival from the claws of mass commercialization.
In the words of a wise man-‘You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you come from.’
2) Left room for new blood to pump through the Soca Circulatory
It would have been easy. Two soca heavy weights with access to the best producers and song-writers in the business could have easily come blazing through the soca house and taken every title known to the Caribbean or at least the islands of Trinbago. The Road March title, the Soca Monarch title, the Best of Everything title-it was all in the palm of their hands for the taking. But instead, they introduced themselves as a unit in a space that has been virtually untapped except by our rapso icons. They chose to shine the light on parts of the Carnival culture that are at risk of being extinct.
And whether strategically planned or not, they also did not completely dominate the space but rather left room for the current Road March contenders (Ultimate Rejects) to still claim their well-deserved crown. It is a signal of encouragement and support in an industry that does not always have the best reputation for doing so among fellow artistes.
They both are comfortable enough in their positions at the apex of the Carnival kingdom, to allow other talent to take their place in the ecosystem.
3) Exemplary Leadership & Unity
At a time of staggering crime statistics in Trinbago, when racial tensions are high in the United States and division and separation seem to be plaguing the rest of the world-these two kings showed up in solidarity for their art-form and the country. It was a true testimony to the power of laying aside differences for the bigger picture.
The soca industry is unique in that the artistes have to make a powerful statement at the world’s first Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago to ensure income at the other Carnivals around the world throughout the year. Although there is a genuine love among many of the artistes, there is also an unspoken competition to rise to the top of the Trinbago fete circuit as a way to guarantee that gigs will continue to flow for the rest of the year. This dynamic can sometimes give rise to some cut-throat behavior within the industry, because, at the end of the day, backstage access to fetes and selfies with fans do not pay bills or put food on the table.
These two kings in one evening put a question mark behind all the competition plaguing the industry. In one evening, they signaled to the entire soca fraternity the power of finding common ground and using unity as strength in an industry that encourages otherwise. It was a signal to the island of Trinbago and for me, the world-that unity and togetherness can get us further than any division ever can.
- Citizens for Conservation of T&T
- Pictures Courtesy Google
SOUNDOFF: What do you think of the song, Buss Head? Hit or Miss?
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