The call by MusicTT's chairman John Arnold for artistes to list their music as calypso and soca releases instead of reggae or dancehall on international streaming platforms is, quite simply, wishful thinking. The majority of soca artistes today are fighting to have their music heard in this country and will push their work through every channel on every platform available that offers an opportunity to find an audience.
Reggae has a prominent presence on these platforms and on international charts because the pioneering work done by Bob Marley wasn't allowed to lie fallow after his passing and the musicians and performers that came after him were promoted robustly in the considerable space he left behind. In short, Jamaica exploited their break in the international music market by putting in the work to define a presence and character for their national pop music that broke it out from the world music category, an all-encompassing dumping ground for indigenous music that isn't immediately familiar to global audiences.
This stands in stark contrast to the laid-back TT attitude that followed the global enthusiasm for calypso in the late 1940s and 1950s which let an entire form of creative expression collapse into the category of fad music, the death knell for any music in the public mind. Pointing to a sub-category for soca and calypso on the iTunes platform is hardly a win, particularly when the appalling lack of steelband music on that platform and others is weighed in.
As chairman of the official state agency charged with advancing strategy, planning and engagement with TT’s music creation community, the question must be put to Arnold: “What has MusicTT done for us lately?” Or indeed, ever.
The most popular channel on YouTube for the discovery of soca music is the property of the mysterious Julian’s Promos, which has clocked a robust 666,616 subscribers and hundreds of millions of views of videos posted to a channel which artistes must pay to participate in. Farmer Nappy’s popular Hooking Meh has gathered 25 million views in the two months it’s been on the service, creating a virtuous cycle that’s put the song front of mind for steelband arrangers. A struggling soca artiste with a potential hit can email Chandy at Julian’s Promos for a suite of artiste-related services that will place their music on multiple platforms.
Where is the local equivalent of that service and why hasn’t MusicTT engaged its capacity to create one? A distinctive presence on the world stage isn't something you ask for. The global music market isn't about helping out a country, it's about making money and lionising talent.
Until TT puts in the work to claim that space, we're just talking.