Explain how soca music was born.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Soca music emerged from the genre of calypso music on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean. Calypso music, a French creole genre characterized by rhythmic vocals, originated on the island in the seventeenth century. West African slaves, who were forbidden from communicating with one another, used calypso as a method of communication and a way in which to mock their owners.

After the abolishment of slavery in 1833, the British colonizers brought many indentured laborers from East India to the island to replace the labor of the slaves. Calypso music continued to be popular on the island, especially when a streamlined, commercial version emerged in the mid-1900s. In the 1970s, a Trinidadian artist named Lord Shorty coined the term 'soca' in his attempt to capture the "soul of calypso" music; this involved updating the genre to reflect the East Indian influence on the island. Shorty's music sped up the tempo of traditional calypso rhythms and integrated it with traditional Indian instruments such as the dholak and tabla.

Trinidadians quickly took to this new genre, in large part because it represented the unique cultural composition of the island. The rapid tempo of soca made it a natural fit for Trinidad's carnival season; modern-day soca artists compete for two titles awarded to the most popular soca songs during the week-long festival. Carnival celebrates the culture and tradition of Trinidad; soca music, so inexplicably tied to the ethnic history of the island, serves as the perfect soundtrack.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team