Imagination time folks. We have many great soca artistes. You know this. I know this. Machel is apex predator of the food chain. Twenty one years by my count ever since Big Truck dropped and changed the timeline. Destra is up there. Bunji too. Patrice became a big girl and ascended into the top tier this year. Iwer up dey too. No soca artiste is perfect though. So if we are building the perfect male soca artiste, it’s reasonable to expect that we would have to take parts from different artistes.
This whole conundrum I’m creating is going to have two parts. Or more. Too much to put in one article I’ll do the female version next week. So males for now. Let’s get it popping.
Ok hold up a second. We have a few parameters to set. It’s quite a few so I’m going list them in point form. This ting could easily get out of hand so we need some guidelines under which to operate.
There are many elements that comprise a great soca artiste. For the purposes of this article we are considering voice, stage control, looks, fashion sense and wining ability. We are not considering writing ability. We are assuming we have De Red Boyz, Advokit or Bad John Republic etc to link them with a certified scorcher.
- We can pick from any soca artiste alive or dead for each element. But we need to specify the year. 2018 Superblue is not 1992 is not 1980 “Ethel” Superblue. Like a bess wine or scotch, the year is important.
- We taking the best of each element. We not considering compatibility or how we fusing the elements. We have a super advanced frankenstein machine that is capable of every machination we dream up.. K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid.
- We can combine aspects of soca artistes to get the perfect element. Like the wining ability of a young Machel with 2004 Timmy for a male soca artiste. Anything to achieve perfection.
- We’re not considering anybody prior to 1980. I can’t engage in reasonable discussion invoving decades prior to the one in which I was born.
- I did a quick write up and realised that flour more than water with this feature. So I’m going to do a separate blog post for each feature. So for this post we considering voice alone. I don’t want to rush the thing nah. There is much to consider so I want to be as thorough as possible.
There are many types of soca voices. Now I know some of you may be young and probably will say Kes by default who has a lovely RnB type Pop sound which I estimate is around Baritone Tenor. Or Voice who can make high notes easy yet a beautiful dusty rasp that gives every word he says weight beyond his years. But I would let you all youths know that the discussion eh begin yet.
For a soca performance a commanding voice is also paramount. The most commanding voice I’ve ever heard live is 2001 Talpree. A voice rougher than a brillo pad crossed with a grater. And I talking about the side with the small holes. Had a whole fete moving from side to side looking for ole woman in the early 2000s. There also is Mr Slaughter, a man blessed with such a charismatic booming bass voice that I believe he could literally since the alphabet and get a forward in any fete. It doesn’t matter which year you take tbh. This man vocal talent hasn’t diminished one bit. And yes ok, Skinny Fabulous too. I go take the 2014 “Behaving the worst” version.
Drifting a little ole school we also have to look at the soaring vocals of 1990 Tambu. Or should we take the 1989 version? There is the hypnotic baptist vocals of a Super Blue in his prime who straddled the fence between rough and sweet to perfection. The man who could turn an entire savannah into a literal riot. If I had to choose I would take the 1995 “Signal to Lara” version but I’m willing to be corrected.
In a middle section we have the guys who can navigate between sweet and rough seamless. Remember Blazer? Sweet RnB vocal then he used to ragga it up real rough? So sorry he’s gone now but he was one of my favourite soca artistes. If I had to pick I would consider the 2007 version that sang this song. And right alongside him you have M1 formerly known as Menace from the best soca group of all time 3 Suns formerly Treason. Ragga soca vocals and best lyrics alongside one of the best falsettos in soca. Like fine wine he’s getting better so any version within the last five years go wuk. Personally I go mark down 2017.
Also under consideration is the Bajan Invasion posse of the early 2000s. 2000 Rupee, the earlier model to Kes in terms of red man with sweet vocals must be in the running. And Edwin Yearwood who is possibly the best vocally still to come from the country, no disrespect to Marvay or Biggie Irie. He is arguably the grand daddy of groovy soca as we know it. For consideration I will take the 1995 version who crooned classics such as “Pump me up” and “Wet Me”.
Since we on sweet voice men we have to check the current crop of singers who lean a lot on RnB level vocals. These new men could sing a Brian Mc Knight normel normel without breaking a sweat. Leading the batch as mentioned before we have Kes who has the most consistent voice in soca history. Seriously, I’ve never heard his voice hoarse or anything less than pristine which is unheard of. He have to be gargling daily with honey. The 2011 Wotless version will be my pick mainly because of the grit he showed for the groovy soca monarch.
We also have Voice who definitely lives up to the name. In 2018, he’s having a fantastic year so I’ll take this version. In the mix we also have Preedy and Erphaan but I won’t take either yet. No disrespect to them of course. I just rather take a Kes/Voice if I’m going for current sweetness right now.
And of course we have the voice of Machel Montano. Winner of a Caribbean Song competition at the tender age of 12. Doh get wax. His voice live isn’t as impressive now but that raspy baritone is as much part of our DNA as the pepper in a double or bake and shark on Maracas. It’s equally as effective on groovy tracks as it is on high bpm power soca. And since boy has been doing it since he could stand up and pee, his delivery is second to none on a track. He can equally appear flirtatious, vulnerable, disrespectful, inspirational, conscious…whatever is needed for the track in hand. So there is that. Which version do you take though? Hmmm. I will take the 1997 version before his voice depreciated from screaming to much live.
But let’s focus. What do we want in a soca voice? We do love sweet vocals but we want a voice to make us move. So we also need commanding. Too sweet and you go fall asleep. But this is perfection so we want it all, no compromise.
So what’s the answer? Machel with a dash of Kes. We’ll take the voice of the guy who has perfected soca delivery to the point where he can convincingly sing any style of soca on any topic. And we’ll take the guy who can nail the “million dollars” high note on “Wotless” live. Most importantly, with the Kes factor we get an artiste whose voice won’t go hoarse and degrade over the years because of how well he treats it. If we want to be really, really critical, we can bless our artiste with Super Blue’s baptist ad libs. That “hey hey hey” on a track sure to whip any crowd into a frenzy. And is that.