Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 21st 2014 Contents 5
Friday, March 21, 2014 • Issue 132
By Cate Young
Tune in to your favourite radio station
right at this very second, and you're
more likely to hear Vybz Cartel or
Beenie Man than Machel or Bunji. It's
only one week post-Carnival and the
tabanca is still strong, but for what-
ever reason, we've already adopted
the unspoken rule that Soca music
should not be played past Ash
Wednesday. Carnival came and went,
and so it seems, did our attachment
to playing and promoting the music
created by the artists we have born
The Carnival we know today histori-
cally began as a Christian celebration
meant to allow adherents a two-day
period to "excise their demons" in
preparation for the heightened piety of
the Lenten season. It was conceived as
a yearly spiritual purge that acknowl-
edged the existence of our most basal
desires, and allowed them release. Ca-
lypso music (and now soca in turn) has
been closely associated with the Carni-
val season, and thus gets caught up in
the moral panic of the festival.
If I approach this "musical morato-
rium" from a historical perspective, it
makes sense that soca and calypso
would be considered inappropriate for
Lent. After all, our local music is part
and parcel of the Carnival experience.
But if the reason for the ban is to pre-
serve the religious sanctity of the
Lenten season, why replace soca on the
airwaves with... dancehall? No shade to
Cartel, but his music is... slightly more
raunchy than even the most scan-
dalous of Machel's hits. Why is it that
dancehall music is appropriate for the
season, but soca is not?
The argument has been made that
soca and calypso are contextual. They
exist within the bounds of the Carnival
season because the nature of the genre
is to directly invoke the euphoric antici-
pation of chipping down the road on
Monday and Tuesday. Think about it:
Can you easily name three soca tunes
that don't literally mention the Carnival
experience in some way?
This position makes sense to me.
Soca is music that evokes a certain
mood. Out of context it falls flat. Soca
is music that makes you want to move;
it is a full body experience. One does
not simply "listen" to soca. You experi-
ence soca by the way it makes you feel,
and how quickly the beat translate to
the swaying of your hips. Is it even pos-
sible to listen to soca without experi-
encing the urge to wine and jam?
This is one of the reasons why our
major artists are moving into Soca fu-
sion tunes that adapt our unique sound
into a product that can be enjoyed by
listeners who are deprived of the con-
text of Carnival. In order to be interna-
tionally marketable, soca has to be
music that stands on its own; separate
from the anticipation of the next Carni-
While I understand this perspective
however, it doesn't explain why dance-
hall has become the defacto replace-
ment. There are many local musicians
and artists who are producing amazing
music that needs an audience. The
months before bands start launching,
and the anticipation begins anew is the
ideal time to promote them; the public
gets to slowly come down from that
blissful Carnival high, and new artists
get a wider audience. Not to mention, it
would help divorce soca music from the
seasonal release cycle, and normalize
our music as a high-quality standalone
entity regardless of the time of the
Perhaps Mr. Famous has the right
There is an idealised vision that people
around the world have of the Caribbean.
They seem to think we spend our days
lazing around on sandy beaches; sipping
cool drinks to the soothing sounds of the
steel pan. Sigh. If only.
Life in the Caribbean is EXACTLY the
same as everywhere else. Which is funny
because we spend so much time trying to
be like the rest of the world while the rest
of the world would love to be like US! Un-
fortunately, this world view of our life has
lead to me being asked some VERY
strange questions over a lifetime of visit-
ing other places.
As a result, I've decided to clear the air of
some of the misconceptions of life in the
Caribbean and also to post what I hope will
be a simple FAQ for people who are think-
ing of coming here. Whether to visit or to
stay WAY beyond the stamp date on their
passport. Speaking of which, is it me or are
ninety percent of the people working secu-
rity in this country now from Africa and Ja-
maica? I swear asking for directions from a
guard these days consists of me spending
half the time trying to sort through their
accent to understand what they're saying.
With that in mind, I've decided to an-
swer the Top Ten questions I've been
asked by people abroad about life here.
They say that truth is stranger than fic-
tion. Well the truth is that these questions
were actually asked of me on different oc-
casions. So without further ado I present
my top ten questions and my answers in
the future if anyone asks me these again.
Yes. And I hate when it rains because
everything gets wet.
2. Do you guys drink coconut milk a lot?
Sure we do. But we like to throw in a lit-
tle avocado milk and sea shell cereal to mix
3. Are you guys close to Jamaica?
Sure. We're also about 200 miles from
Nairobi and a one hour boat ride from Aus-
4. Are you guys all Catholic or do you do
other religions too?
Nah. We mostly practice voodoo and
stuff like that. It makes it easier to get
things done when you have a doll of some-
one in your hands while you're talking to
5. Do you drive cars down there?
Cars? What's a car? Is that like a donkey
6. Does everyone there speak English?
Que? No comprende senor. Habla es-
7. What schools do you go to down
Well. There's tree climbing 101 in the
morning, then Cutting Nuts 102 after
lunch. Saturdays are spent on Shark Fish-
ing and Lobster Retrieval lessons.
8. Do most people wear short pants even
to go to work?
Yes we do. It makes it easier to climb a
coconut tree at lunch time and not get our
9. Do you guys have the internet down
Nope. We use drums for messaging and
smoke signals to send and receive pic-
10. Is everyone there black?
Yes they are. Because we're closer to the
sun everyone who comes here turns black
after three months living here.
Please understand. It's not that I'm tired
and getting sarcastic. It's just that there IS
such a thing as Google people. They even
have pictures if you need them.
By Anthony Petit
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