The self-destruction of Soca

According to theology Lucifer is a fallen angel who was the head of the ministry of music in Heaven when he dwelled there. It has been said he was the most beautiful of all angels and he was formerly the director of the flow of music (Praise and Worship). In reference to his fall Isa.14:11 says: “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.”
That music has the power to evoke any emotion is undeniable. And the fact that over zealous fans look to the words of their favourite singer as “Gospel” is also an undeniable truth. The power of music and the connection to the degradation in society is something that I have written about for years. Whatever the music genre Hip Hop, Dancehall or Soca, I have had a take on its effects and trends, commenting on the subject several times over as a panelist on various shows as well.
The last article I wrote in this regard was about the issue of the refusal by the authorities in our saintly isle to allow Vybz Kartel a work permit to perform at a concert here, citing his lewd lyrical content. The crux of my article dealt with the fact that lewd behaviour, profanity, lasciviousness and the denigrating of women seems permissible in public when it suits us and is sometimes even allowed at public functions sponsored by tax-payers. In the second paragraph of the said article I wrote; “I cannot come to grips with the notion of Saint Lucia being a Christian society with morals and all when there is such a high level of decadence, civil disobedience and every sign of the ills of Sodom and Gomorra taking place in plain view and on a daily basis. Most of it is against the law, but we seem to concern ourselves only with violent crime, when the ills of open air drug sales and marijuana consumption, sale of alcohol to minors and the sexual abuse of our minors and women go unchecked and unabated.”
Selective moralistic finger pointing grows even stronger at carnival time and over the past few weeks I have had to sit in church on a Sunday and endure different levels of carnival condemnation and open rebuke, even while some profiting from increase revenue due to carnival advertising and sales, grace the front rows shouting “amen pastor.” However, truth be told, this carnival season in particular, has given me more than enough reason to sometimes reluctantly back the white sepulchers. What with the degradation in lyrical content now so near the bottom of a deep cesspit?
Recently the police commissioner Vernon Francois has been heard talking tough on law breakers this carnival season, with the police even going as far as arresting Soca singer Nicole David during the annual line jam last month for using profanity. It was an issue I raised two years ago with Francois on an RSL carnival program “All tings carnival.” There, I questioned him on the sale of alcohol to minors, minors being allowed in some of the major carnival bands unaccompanied and consuming alcohol and the whole question of lewd behaviour and explicit lyrics by entertainers in public, which was fast becoming the norm. Francois did not seem prepared to make a determination as to how these matters should be addressed according to the law. But like I said, the downward spiral started years ago and with no measures put in place to guard against such decline it has only gotten progressively worse with a free for all to sing “any damn ting” as they say regardless. And, to add insult to injury they are being paid from the taxpayers coffers, whilst on the one hand the Government is paying indirectly for the country to be entertained by these songs and questioning the behavior of our youth and on the other the police who are being paid by the Government now have the added responsibility to monitor things like indecent lyrics and indecent exposure during the Government sponsored mas.
The lyrical content of some of the songs being sung this year raises eyebrows and there seems to be a void of creativity in several of them, particularly the power soca. It would seem that some of the questionable lyrics obtained in dancehall music have simply been transposed onto Soca. This year if the Soca artiste is not singing about how he is “giving it to her” or “riding from de back,” he is encouraging listeners to “mash up any ting”, “break down de bar,” “do a mad ting” and so on and so forth.  Check out some song titles alone if they are anything to go by; “Mash it up,” “Flatten It, “No Behaviour,” “Mad Man,” “Soca Riot,” and “More Mash Up.” And you don’t have to wait to hear them explain this behaviour; the response comes in song; “head mad, gone, sick no good” or “is de rum, rum, rum.”
On Wednesday July 6, 2011, during the Soca Monarch preliminaries at the National Cultural Centre, it all unfolded chaotically—as inevitably do all destructive forces. The venue was teaming with supporters of various Soca Camps and those who just came to enjoy good soca music. Well on that note, their satisfaction level may not have been very high and it got worse when they had to be subjected to the antics of the rent-a-crowd that some artistes brought with them. The event featured 12 performers in the first half backed by Matrix band, namely Super D, Lady Catcher, GI Joe, Pepper, Sedale, Wynter, General Bakes, T-Girl, Kitty, Damaze, Orion and Black Pearl. The second half backed by TEM band featured the so called big guns namely Superman HD, Ilahman, Lancealot, TJ, Alpha, Platinum George, Mantius and Ricky T. Also performing during this segment were Ambi, Mongstar, Private 6, Exodus, Zionomi, Ashanti, Mubarak, Crocodile and Mysterio.
The first half of the event went by smoothly but was very lukewarm as compared to when the first performer of the second segment Ilahman came on stage doing his song “Vex.” The anticipation heightened for TJ’s “Mash it Up” and the popular “Sit Dong” by Crocodile. But the true wind of change came with a heavy whiff of powder compliments Sir Lancealot’s water powder posse during the performance of his song “Soca Riot.”
Those who did not wish to get wet or white with powder had to give way much to the chagrin of the organizers and patrons who were not part of the presentation. For several minutes after the song was over it took a while for the powder to settle from the atmosphere causing discomfort for some in the audience. But more than that, at the instruction of the performer, his supporters went outside the cultural centre tearing down banners of Digicel and Bounty Rum, to take back inside the venue. Similar instructions were given by Superman HD during the performance of his song “More Mash Up” with a line invoking that the bar be destroyed if there are no drinks at the bar.
The final performer of the night was Ricky T who in like fashion and as if to outdo his previous competitors ordered his fans towards the end of the song to go outside and return with a Bounty Rum tent. By this time the organizers and the police had to step in, closing the cultural centre door. One official was later heard saying Ricky T should be arrested as the camps of the Caribbean soca monarch and that of Lancealot clashed outside the NCC at the end of the event. The reality of the matter was that neither of these performers had to subject themselves or their fans to this sort of behaviour as their chances of making it to the finals seemed a sure thing, minus those antics.
By Thursday morning word was that the three artistes in question would be sanctioned by the Carnival committee after it was raised that they may have been in breach of the rules of competition, which speaks to the behaviour of the performer. Throughout the day the subject became fodder for local news, BBM and Facebook.
Song writer, MC and show host Ezi Hall sent out an e-mail that same day expressing his sentiments on the whole matter. “Following a chaotic experience at wet fete in which injuries were sustained due to actions by members of the audience one would have thought that some effort would be made to engage artistes on their influence and power at such events and the need to act responsibly,” Hall started by saying. “Soca music, especially power (Soca), has the potential to make persons act and react through its instructional nature. When emotion aroused from pulsating rhythms are combined with substances which have been known to seriously impede rational thought through the adrenaline rush and other factors, the end result is uncontrolled actions. To make it simple, Soca artistes like many other entertainers (including sports personalities etc) have the power to move people and command them to act in a manner which can be considered dangerous and even unlawful in some instances,” Hall continued.
In his statement Hall went on to admonish such performers stating that “damage to facilities, equipment, clothing and even the health of patrons cannot be justified no matter how apparently exciting the performance.” In addressing the artistes directly he noted that safety is the most critical aspect of any event and to some is perhaps the most significant consideration in deciding whether or not to attend. “I appeal to all artistes to act responsibly and use their power for the betterment of their art form and country. We should not have to depend on law enforcement to enjoy ourselves in a safe and enjoyable manner,” Hall stressed.
But blame must also be accepted by the organizers for hosting a power soca show in such an enclosed place particular as the response and reaction to power soca songs in competition is well known. The songs causing the stir as well had been performed before at various venues with like reaction, something the organizers should have taken cognizant of and dealt with beforehand if there was any need to do so.
At a late night meeting on Thursday with the Carnival committee, the artistes and their management it was decided that no action would be taken against the three soca artistes in question and that they would be allowed to compete along with 19 others at the Power Soca Monarch finals on Saturday July 15, 2011.
However in my humble view, the three artistes in question Superman HD, Ricky T and Sir Lancelaot now need to man-up, put their oversized egos aside, do the right thing and apologize to their fans and the general public for their actions. Two of them, Sir Lancealot and Superman have the added medium of the radio influence and it is time that they recognize the power they have in the hands and set the right example not just to other radio announcers and soca artistes but the young impressionable minds they impose on and influence. And if they are as creative as they say they are and true entertainers they can certainly turn this negative into a positive.
The Government (if they continue to be involved) the organizers and the sponsors, too, need to have a strong voice in all of this. It cannot be doing this carnival thing as business as usual. The time has come (I think I have said this one too many times) to determine and decide once and for all what is Saint Lucia’s carnival? What is its significance and purpose? Who does it belong to? And to whom will it be entrusted? The stakeholder too must be given clearly stated guidelines as to their participation.
The fact that there seems to be hardly anything cultural, Saint Lucian or even anything being done for the love of carnival and to secure its future is quite worrying. I answered the question as to how “the carnival got so?” from a colleague this week in two words “money and egos.” But in the end what doth it profit? Nuff said.

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