I write about music a lot because it is my coping skill. I listen to music almost daily and almost entirely throughout the day and even nights at times. I listen to a variety of music—from Adidja Palmer to YoYo Ma— as I love music, which in its simplest translation to me, sounds a lot like "muse it!"
It is true that I muse a lot; naturally, being a writer and music always sets the tone for me. However, I am more enamored with music that tells stories that educate and invigorate us. For this reason, I revolve around dancehall, soca, and hip-hop so much, as these genres did not abandon the public lambasting of corruption and prejudice wherever they are found (i.e., privately or publicly).
Today I find myself wondering why I am so eager to write about my love of music so much, and I think I have finally figured it out. We in the Caribbean do not mind sharing our culture, and as we see it, the United States has a need for the cultural harmony that we are known for. When I look at soca, dancehall, and hip-hop music videos, I see various tribes--skin colors and manes all differing--all dancing to the beat and enjoying themselves--and I wish that it is this that prevails in America as our national and worldwide courtship.
Often, these visuals create vivid moments of our ideals, where people are too engaged in what they are doing to be paying attention to each other's ethnic makeup. I enjoy looking at men and women, boys and girls doing their best, and the only thing that influences me is the effort that they put into their work.
It is psychologically effective to surround oneself with the images that one aspire to emulate, and I find that it is this America that many Americans are fighting for. I believe that these images are what we need to push to the forefront of our self-image as they represent what this country is really about.
These visuals are not about simply being cordial or existing together, but the collective joy that these videos display makes them so alluring. In Bunji Garlin's Big Bad Soca, it seems that all skin tones were represented—down to blue—and he sings, "We are the sound of a hundred thousand coming on the road, we are the vibration that you feel when the music lows." This unmistakable inclusiveness that soca music provides that I love so much, as it is a collective of passionate and spirited individuals, and oftentimes, it is only through music that we get to tap into the depths of another person in real-time. It is at these time that the collective wand of unity becomes visible, and we, friends and strangers alike, are all moved to sing along to that which agrees with us.
The style with which these artists deliver their message is sometimes brutal. However, I still think that America needs more dancehall, hip-hop, and soca at the forefront of our culture because these genres speak truth to power. I would even dare say that soca and dancehall are more forthcoming than hip-hop, as Lupe Fiasco's Dumb It Down speaks to music executives' efforts to dissuade hip-hop artists from dealing with social issues head-on in their music. Thus, the popularization of soca and dancehall has become imminent because these are the genres that have been tackling America's head sores head-on for centuries, and the fact is, they have not been influenced to stop, probably because of their distance and intoxicating vibe.
Efforts to stymie voices are not evident in dancehall and soca's production efforts, but it affects their distribution, as these genres are less widely distributed, maybe because of cultural differences. Nonetheless, I still maintain that increased distribution of these genres will help right America's self-image, as, at their core, they are about equal enjoyment for all.
Soca and dancehall move whole countries and cultures to the point where they risk being banned (e.g., Vybz Kartel), and while I am not always a proponent of their messages, I do feel that it is these voices that should remain relevant to our society simply because of the inarching truths that they maintain.
Adidja Palmer's ability to speak to the masses in a way that brings direct results is rare. His prolonged imprisonment is suspicious, as historically, we know that it is voices like such that end up being marginalized because of the threat they pose to those in power positions.
Art is life, and I wonder what message governments intend to send when they create a discourse with their constituency that involves censorship and targeted challenges. While I don't intend to lance any accusations, I intend to question his prolonged imprisonment circumstances when there were obvious errors at trial. Despite his imprisonment, the challenges that he poses for governing bodies are evident in his frequent musical releases that continue despite his location--another sign of his prowess and obvious power--which is also unprecedented.
Art is life, and I wonder what message governments intend to send when they create a discourse with their constituency that involves censorship and targeted challenges.
Although it might not seem like he is talking about much, Mr. Palmer's music is inviting, it is lively and lifts people up; it begs the listener to attend with care, have knowledge, and be open to the rapid beat—as in, be open in your heart--and then you can understand so much more of what life is all about.
This goes for both dancehall and soca, as both genres consistently decry "bad minded people," which refers to people who have ill intentions despite your good ones--and when you extrapolate this concept from the individual to the country--you can understand why I maintain their superiority on social issues over other genres in the English language. In my opinion, they are perfect for these depressing times as their tempo and message are lively, and they have been invigorating people for centuries, given that they are the music of marginalized cultures.
To listen to the music and support its vibe, is to know where you stand on our important social issues, and to have a position is to have a related course of action that you may or may not be conscious of.
To listen to the music and support its vibe, is to know where you stand on our important social issues, and to have a position is to have a related course of action that you may or may not be conscious of. As you gravitate to that which supports your morale, reach out to places that uplift you, and as you welcome dancehall and soca music as capable forces, remember, we are the sound of soca, big, bad, soca!