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Trinidad and Tobago Carnival: Part 2 – Soca Music


It is hard to imagine Carnival without music. And the definitive music of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is soca. So what is Soca Music?

Well, why not let Soca Superstar Machel Montano say it in his own words?

From Caribbean Music 101 (the original link no longer works unfortunately):
What is Soca?

Soca is a modern form of calypso [1] with an up-tempo beat. There is a popular misconception that soca is a fusion of American soul music and traditional calypso. Hence the name “so-ca,” soul/calypso. Though this sounds plausible, it is simply not true. Soca music originated as a fusion of calypso with Indian rhythms, thus combining the musical traditions to the two major ethnic groups of Trinidad and Tobago.

Unlike calypso music [1] (which revolves around social and political commentary), soca is usually about partying, escapism and feel good vibes. Unlike reggae and dancehall music, soca and calypso have not made an imprint on the international mainstream the way that many think they should have. Whether this is due to poor marketing or a cultural barrier is something that no one can really agree on. However there are some soca tracks that have been breakout hits in North America and Europe. Most notably,

* “Hot Hot Hot” – Buster Poindexter (originally recorded by Arrow)
* “Follow the leader” – Soca Boys (originally recorded by Nigel and Marvin Lewis), a more recent version by S.B.S.
* “Who Let the Dogs Out” – Baha Men (originally recorded by Trinidadian Anslem Douglas)
* “Sweet Soca Music” – Sugar Daddy
* “Turn Me On” – Kevin Lyttle
* “Tempted to Touch” – Rupee
* “We Not Givin’ Up” – Machel Montano and Xtatik (Trinidad)


Trinidad Chutney Soca FeteThe best places to see, hear, experience soca and calypso are the numerous fetes, reviews and tents that pop up over the Carnival season. Growing up there really was only competition that mattered, that was the one to be named Calypso Monarch on Dimanche Gras night. However nowadays, as the genre has grown and splintered, numerous concerts and competitions have popped up to meet the demand for musical expression and recognition.

Additional Soca/Calypso Links:

TriniSoca.com: Trinidad and Tobago Calypso, Soca, and Carnival [2]
Muriel’s Treasure [3] (a virtual encyclopedia of calypso links!)
Trinidad and Tobago: National Geographic World Music [4]


Nowadays Trinidadian Soca music (itself a sub-category of calypso music [1]) has spawned 3 distinct sub-categories.

1. Rapso : Trinidad dialect ‘hip-hop’ with smooth calypso melodies and bold socially conscious lyrics

Rapso Artist Brother Resistance – Cyar Take That (classic tune!) 

2. Chutney-soca: A fusion of traditional Indian percussion and style of singing and Calypso; Tempo usually around 154 BPM

KI – Runaway (Chutney Soca Monarch 2014)

3. Ragga Soca:

A fusion of Jamaican Dancehall and Trinidad’s Soca – uptempo calypso beat with moderate bass and electronic instruments.

Ragga Soca Artist Ragga – Violate 

Soca has been experimented with in Bollywood films, Bhangra, and new Punjabi pop. It has also been utilised by Japanese singers Minmi [5], Ann-G and in the below video Carnival Flavour!


PhouloriePhoulorie [6] – a popular street food, enjoyed year round (click here for a recipe [6])

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Series NavigationTrinidad and Tobago Carnival – A Brief Overview [12]Trinidad and Tobago Carnival: Part 3 – Steelbands and Panorama [13]

About Sarina [14]

Passionate foodie, founder of Trinigourmet and Caribbean Lifestyle Maven. Author of "Glam By Request: 30+ Easy Caribbean Recipes" [15]