IT IS, especially at Carnival time, one of the most common phrases anyone can hear. “So long I ain’t see yuh...,” easily rolls off the tongue of many Trinis and is usually accompanied with outstretched arms in friendly greeting.
“Eh-eh, look who...yuh know how long I ain’t really see you,” say the opening lines of Nadia Batson’s So Long.
The Trini greeting is the subject of Batson’s big song this season.
So Long is so popular that since its October release, the video has had more than a million views on social media and over 9,000 people indicated that they like the song, with only 402 saying they disliked it.
The comments below the video on YouTube are largely positive.
One commenter said, “This song is so relatable in so many ways! Not only for Carnival.”
Another says, “This song perfectly captures the happiness many feel when reunited with their Carnival pals at various fetes in Trinidad and around the world.”
This is the feeling Batson set out to capture in So Long.
“My style of pen, my style of writing is very relatable. If you look at any of my older songs I always try to write songs that are very real, very Caribbean, very Trini. I try to always make sure that my lyrics can resonate with people and be very relatable.”
Very much like meeting that old friend she describes in the song, Batson said around mid-year last year she was asked by Darryl “Farmer Nappy” Henry to write a song for him on a Red Boyz riddim. This request led to Farmer Nappy’s equally popular Hookin Meh.
“It was just supposed to be a single. Nappy asked me to write a song for him on a Red Boyz riddim. But he loved Hookin Meh so much and he was so appreciative. He was like, ‘Nads, I really think you should come on this rhythm and write something for yourself.”
De Red Boyz are the Trinidadian and Bajan producing duo of Mikey Hulsmeier and Scott Galt.
Initially Batson told Nappy, “‘I don’t think Red Boyz does do riddims, though,’ and he was like, ‘Don’t worry about it. I will deal with them and I will talk to them. Just put something real nice on it for you.’”
By that time she already had Nappy’s song and “he loved it.”
Then Batson, who formed the only all-female soca band, Sass Nation, in 2011, turned her attention to her own song.
In the soca industry, she’s known as the melody queen. “Melodies come to me real easy.
“So I was trying to think about a concept that we have not really touched before in soca. That concept just came to me. As soon as I got the concept I just tried to kind of like picture myself in a situation like that. That is why it probably comes across like a conversation.”
Batson figured, what would a Trini would do and say if they saw someone they had not seen in a long time?
“‘Eh-eh, look who!’ So I just tried to figure out a way to put that in song.”
As soon as she has a concept, “That is it. That usually takes the longest time but as soon as I have the concept it does not take me long to write the song at all. This was done like in one session. I don’t even think it was two hours.”
The lyrics followed shortly after. In fact, they took one studio session.
Batson, whose credits include Machel Montano’s Pop Ah Bottle and Farmer Nappy and Destra’s Technically, said, “For me the hardest part is always concept. I always say, especially for female artistes, let us try not to only sing about wining. It is easy to go that route, but I always try to – and in soca on the whole – expand our range, just in terms of what we sing about. There are so many other things we can sing about and just make it palatable.”
Batson has been a songwriter all her life. Her natural inclination to music and songwriting was fostered by her mother, Helen Williams-Batson, also a writer. Her love of reading also helps her songwriting, she said.
“I would write poems that was not even rhyming or anything like that and try to come up with melodies to turn them into songs, and it just went on from there. But that has been all my life, really.”
Batson also knew her career would be arts-based, as she always loved the arts.
“And I always loved singing as well, so that was kind of a no-brainer for me. This is one career where I could use all of my talents.”
Besides her mother, the Tunapuna-born singer’s talents were enhanced by the schools she attended, starting with Trinidad Muslim League (TML) Primary School, St Joseph, where she had her first exposure singing what she described as Muslim ballads.
“Then I went on to St George’s College (Barataria). Even there I used to do a lot of work in the arts. I would be the one singing the national anthem at school and stuff like that. I think that is what nurtured it. And I was in a few little girl groups and that kind of thing.”
Batson’s performance at SOS fete, Tobago, on New Year’s Day saw the crowd singing So Long almost word for word.
She feels gratitude at TT’s response to it. “I am excited. I am happy about what is happening and how much people like the song...I am just so grateful.”
For 2019, she has also released Strangers, Soak Mi Down, Shake Down (also done with De Red Boyz) and Party, Party. She will release one more song, a power track, within the next week or so.
In 2015, Batson decided not to enter competitions such as Soca Monarch any more, because she had already become a staple in the Carnival season and felt the time had come to make room for other artistes.
But she has a hectic schedule ahead, and it won’t be so long before you see her in many fetes.