Soca Music Introduces The East To The West For Japan Soca Weekend
At first, it just seems like a mismatch. A culture traditionally perceived as being very conservative meets a culture that is decidedly not. Soca in Japan? Is that even a thing? Apparently it is. It is a big thing! It first came on my radar when 5 Star Akil posted about his 2018 performance there and even shot the music video for his song, ‘Personal’ in Tokyo. It caught my attention and I started looking into the connection between Japan and the Caribbean.
Not completely surprising that there has been a collaborative cultural exchange between Japan and Trinbago for what seems like decades. Japanese people have long displayed their love for steel-pan music, and have sent contingents of budding musicians to participate in the islands’ Panorama* activities. I guess I did not realize that the love for steel-pan had spilled over to soca music and general Carnival culture as well.
This love gave birth to Japan Soca Weekend founded by Kegon Toussaint, owner of Soca in Japan, the parent company of the event. It is a three to seven- day affair that pays homage to Caribbean Carnival with a very representative immersive cultural experience that includes a seaside soca fest (boat ride), J’ouvert and mas. This year the event ran from September 13th to the 16th.
The cynic in me is a bit skeptical. In an age where the information highway is allowing more and more access to what was once hidden and protected, cultural appropriation is at an all-time high in my opinion. On the flip side, the business person in me acknowledges that this move is a brilliant way to open up new markets for soca music consumption.
You see, even with the presence of monthly Carnivals throughout the diaspora, the market for musicians is still very saturated. Many soca artistes do not get the opportunity to perform as much as they could as there is a bias by most promoters to book whatever talent is believed to be popular on the music circuit for that year. That means artistes who are not forerunners at the first Carnival for the year (Trinidad and Tobago) often do not get as much gigs at other Carnivals for the rest of the season. Opening up non- traditional markets (such as Japan) creates additional performance avenues and revenue streams for soca artistes.
I must admit I am curious. How does Carnival culture and soca translate in Japan? Do participants understand the lyrics? Do they know how to buss a wine ? (From the videos I’ve been seeing-they definitely can). We can only hope that this continues to develop into a mutually beneficial relationship for the cultural artisans of the Caribbean and the people of Japan as we continue on the never ending quest to take soca global.
For more info: https://www.socainjapan.com/2019tour
*Panorama: Largest steel-band competition in the world.
SOUND OFF: DO YOU THINK ‘SOCA IN JAPAN’ IS A POSITIVE MOVE FOR SOCA MUSIC?
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