Soca – the fast-paced descendant of calypso – has been at the forefront of Caribbean music in recent years, and the genre has successfully embraced expressions from other styles outside the West Indies, especially electronic dance music, hip-hop and R&B.
And one of soca’s most acknowledged artists is the robust and rapid-firing lyricist Bunji Garlin, aka the Viking of Soca. He has been making dancehall-fused soca for the past 15 years and last year he scored a huge hit with the infectious Differentology, a song originally put out in late 2012 in anticipation of the 2013 carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. With that track he won a 2013 Soul Train Award for Best International Performance, and a Battle of the Beats competition on influential New York hip-hop station Hot 97.
His new album bears the same title as his smash hit, and on album opener Red Light District he sets the tone immediately – “Somebody give me a rhythm to activate the waistline on the feminine gender, Now”. From there on it’s more or less a party from start to finish, even though the set also allows for a few darker moments, for example the anthemic hip-hop scorcher West Indian Jungle and the electric A$AP Ferg combination Truck On Di Road (remix).
Differentology also manages to bridge old and new sonic identities thanks to the vintage-flavored All O’Dem and a version of Trinidadian calypsonian Maestro’s Savage, originally released in 1976.
On the uplifting Over the Hills Bunji Garlin sings “I wanna see this music rise, see soca fly high with the eagles in the skies… I wanna see my music over the hills”. And with this album Bunji Garlin takes soca over the hills, out of the West Indies and into clubs all over the world. With its percussion-driven riddims, Bunji Garlin’s eclectic vocal style and its lively and euphoric sound, Differentology is dance music at its best.
Soca superstar Bunji Garlin has put out hard-hitting hits for the past 15 years, but it wasn’t until last year he had a smashing one.
Differentology was produced by Sheriff Mumbles and originally released in 2012, and one year later it transcended the Caribbean carnival circuit. The track also received critical praise across the board – from 2013 Soul Train Award to MTV Iggy Song of the Year. It was also featured in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy show and received airplay at NBA arenas and NYC’s Golden Gloves Boxing tournament. Major Lazer’s electronic remix also fused Differentology in front of a new audience, an audience that had probably never heard of soca music.
Now comes an album of the same name, and it may have the same universal appeal as the title track. According to a press release the 13 track album is a fusion of soca, dancehall and hip-hop.
“I think a lot of great opportunities for soca to conquer new territories are going to come from this album,” says Bunji Garlin in a press release, and adds:
“So I couldn’t ask for a better situation to be in.”
The album drops on August 12, but already today it’s available for exclusive streaming via NPR First Listen. Check the album in its glorious entirety here.
Bunji Garlin, aka the Viking of Soca, is known for his energetic stage shows and vocal acrobatics. Born in Trinidad & Tobago he is international soca royalty and has won the Ragga Soca Monarch in 2000 and 2001. Throughout his long career he has released ten albums.
Yesterday I came home from a three week holiday in the beautiful islands of Trinidad & Tobago. To me, T&T were the islands of steel pan, calypso and soca. But I was wrong. Reggae is a strong force on the islands and soca is mainly played during carnival season, which starts in late December and usually ends in March. The rest of the time, it’s all about reggae.
Before I went I knew that Franz Job and I-Sasha were from T&T. When I met people in the villages I found out that Marlon Asher, Queen Omega and Jamelody also originate from T&T. As well as Khari Kill and Million Voices, and probably many more.
However, the reggae tunes that I heard during my visit were Jamaican productions. Most popular riddims at the time seemed to be City Life and Cardiac Bass. Two great riddims that I’ve also played a lot during 2010.
Out of all T&T reggae artists that I know of, Queen Omega has been the busiest with three album releases. She has recorded a lot with European producers such as Bost & Bim with whom she dropped the lethal Jah Dawta on the Soprano riddim.
Marlon Asher is probably the best know artist from T&T due to his hit song Ganja Farmer included on The Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems 2006.
The only reggae artist from the smaller of the two islands – Tobago – seems to be Franz Job, who now resides in London. In 2009 he dropped the masterful Babylon is Dead album with notable songs Country and The Country Boy Song. He is set to release his sophomore album in 2011 and has also started working with UK mastermind Curtis Lynch.
If you’re curious about some Trinibagoan artists – check out ten suggestions below. Most of them are easy to find on iTunes. Seven of the tunes are complied in the Spotify playlist below.
Reggaemani’s T&T reggae
Marlon Asher – Ganja Farmer
I-Sasha – Who Jah Bless
I-Sasha & Million Voice – Heavy Burden
Queen Omega – Good Cannabis
Queen Omega – Last Days
Queen Omega – Jah Dawta
Franz Job – Country
Franz Job – The Country Boy Song
Khari Kill – Bird Pepper
Khari Kill – Mary Grandson