Sydney’s growing Soca (Caribbean) music scene: BBR catch up with DJ Fasmwa

Sydney’s growing Soca (Caribbean) music scene: BBR catch up with DJ Fasmwa

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

When hard working Sydney caribbean music DJ Fasmwa first rocked up to Bondi Beach Radio with his Prescription radio show, bigging up dancehall music and soccer, we thought awesome, Notting Hill Carnival vibes and a healthy debate about Brazilian ginga style versus the long ball game …

A couple of shows later it dawned on us that Soca is not soccer, and the Sydney scene had an emerging dancefloor energy on its hands, ears, and feet!

Soca, also known as the soul of calypso, has a dedicated cult following globally, but is one of the more popular mainstream musical genres in the Caribbean, and probably the most popular music in the twin island country of Trinidad and Tobago.

Soca actually originated in Trinidad and Tobago in response to the growing influence of Reggae music in the 60’s. Local musician Garfield Blackman, also known as Lord Shorty due to his 6 ft 4” height, recognised his favoured music style was at risk of fading in popularity, so added classical Indian musical elements to the calypso music in an attempt to generate renewed enthusiasm. This classical Indian and calypso fusion leveraged the culture and tastes of Africans and Indians in Trinidad and Tobago, the two largest ethnic groups. Much like what we always advocate at BBR, creative collaboration and artistic fusion is clearly the secret to a fun and sustainable existence!

The original Soca combined classical Indian rhythm instruments such as the tabla, dhantal, and the dholak with calypso. Since then, like all other music, Soca has evolved over the years with varying infusions of other Caribbean rhythms, including Parang Soca, a combination of calypso, soca, Venzuelan and Latin music; Ragga soca, fusing soca and Jamaican dubbing; Steelband soca, using steel pan drums; and Power soca, with a high 155-163 BPM.

DJ Fasmwa says the local Sydney scene is healthy and growing. “It’s great to see the demand for Soca taking off across Sydney. People have really embraced the positive, vibrant energy of Soca music and culture. There are a growing number of Soca related events and activities for people to participate in and more requests to have us play Soca. Our own signature event ‘Prescription’ has a great energy, full of patrons dancing, jumping, waving and wining, until the early hours of the morning, alongside live Caribbean Soca dancers. “

Regular nights in Sydney now see hundreds of people turning out to enjoy the music and dance vibes, and late summer each year see’s plane loads of people from Australia head off to Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival – an annual event held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The event is well known for the colorful costumes and spirited partying. If the local islanders are not actually celebrating Carnival, you can be sure they are preparing for it while reliving stories from the festival from prior years.

Local Sydney dance schools like Free It Up Dance also are integral to the thriving Soca scene in Sydney, providing newcomers with the ability to learn to wine and dance to Soca through regular Soca fitness classes provided by dancers who travel annually to Carnival. Highly regarded dance instructor Jamie Trahanas often guides these tours, noting “anyone can immerse themself in the experience and join Carnival Vibes Australia on their annual trip to Trinidad Carnival itself- costumes, parties, parade and all!”

People interested in experiencing a taste of the Caribbean in Sydney can find it at places like World Bar at the heart of the EastSide Music Hub in Kings Cross, with their Tropical Sundaes on the Terrace from 3pm to 7pm; the monthly Prescription Soca Reggae Dancehall event at Brighton Up Bar in Darlinghurst; the fortnightly Prescription radio show on Bondi Beach Radio; the Tropical Balcony Bar at the annual Latin American Festival in Bondi late February; every second Saturday at Jamtown restaurant Manly, and many more.

Get amongst it!

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