Each Carnival, there are some calypsoes and soca songs that become ready hits.
For Carnival 2020 one such soca song is Wrong Again.
Grenadian Shirlan “Skinny Banton” George’s soca song about the ever-present issue of horning
came from life experience –not only his but those of people he has met.
The hashtag "Surviving horn" was printed on the T-shirt the singer/songwriter wore
when he visited Newsday.
Although Wrong Again does not address how to deal with a horn, it “takes out ten per cent and 20 per cent of the discomfort within you” about being horned, he said.
Banton added that some people have a lot of pride and are reluctant to express how they really feel.
“A lot of people have problems and they are afraid to tell people...because of how the community might see them, they are afraid to make them know they have a problem.
“Within that element of the song it makes you know it was not the first time for that artiste or that individual or that writer. It did not seem like it was the second time and the question is being asked ‘What I do wrong again, Lord?’”
His song provides an opportunity for introspection.
“At the end of the day, if you could sit down and talk to yourself as an individual, you could answer yourself at times too, knowing it is not all the times you’re right and not all the times you are wrong. It is not every time everything is supposed to go the way you want.
“Sometimes you are the problem too. So it is not just the person you dealing with, sometime the problem begin with you. It is you to look into yourself now. You have to be strong to know if this is working for me or is it not working for me.”
This is not Banton’s first musical examination of the horning issue. In his 2014 song Lifetime Tabanca, he let his audiences know what his female companion did, all of his observations and that he was “man enough to leave her to be what she is supposed to be.”
Asked to comment on the issue of domestic violence and related killings in TT, he said he hopes to explain how to deal with "a horn" and to examine the issue of domestic violence in a future song. The biggest takeaway he wants fans to get from this one is: “We have no control over someone. It is a privilege and not a right to own anybody significantly.”
Banton, who comes from Dover, Carriacou, began singing at 11 in school competitions and, as he grew older, he was more and more drawn to music. But although he loved music and entertainment, he was initially shy. Where he lived was also a challenge.
“A lot of the time I had the ideas, the songs, everything I felt I had to and needed, but I never really had a platform because of the island where I grew in, in terms of the population and the amount of events that happen...so when I started getting that exposure it was something to really conquer in facing greater crowd and greater population.”
But he has grown into it now.
With parents from Carriacou, Grenada and TT (his mother is Shirley George and father Anton Quammie), Banton’s musical heroes were Sparrow, Trinidad Rio, Shadow and Kitchener.
Growing up in a single-parent
home, he considered them father figures.
“These were the people I used as influencers as a child growing up (because of) the fact that Daddy was not around. A lot of the times, this was the music that kept me mentally stable in certain choices and decisions, the music that kept me grounded.”
It is little wonder then that the 33-year-old singer wants to try his hand at calypso one day. As yet he does not believe he is ready. He is also enjoying the “creativity of soca.”
With his love of storytelling, he hopes his music can return something that has been missing from calypso and soca.
“I think soca lost its essence and values for humanity. A lot of the artistes are stuck on egos and show-off attitudes whereby they more care about how they look and how they sound than being an influence or an encouragement or an example.
"Now you hear artistes encouraging girls to do the worst things. You hear them encouraging the entire event or fete. It can go beyond because the same songs play on radio, so the entire community is being influenced on things that is not really uplifting to society. Calypso and soca has been losing a little substance where educational development within minds and self is concerned.”
The former Carriacou soca monarch took a step back from competitions after realising “doing the same thing as every other artiste was not making sense, because there is only room for a certain amount.”
He began telling stories that he felt were “meaningful to the life and the ears of many than trying to create a rag and a flag song and jump in a competition.”
His penchant for storytelling has given him what he described as his “first experience of sharing my love with the TT public, musically.”
He has had songs that made it into the TT market before, like
Saltfish, but none as big as Wrong Again.
“The fact that it (Wrong Again) has established this widespread love in TT makes me feel even better within myself. Growing up we were always told that TT is the mecca for calypso or soca...
“I had great music before, I had great success before, but I never really penetrated TT as I did elsewhere. I am happy to know that they have accepted it for what it is. The fans who meet me personally and say, 'That is great authentic, classic soca music' makes me even more joyful.”
Banton said he is only here because of the people’s love for Wrong Again.
“Kings are always kings. I am not fighting the competition energy. But if it leads me there, I will stand and defend what I need to defend.”
He attributes his current success to all his past work over the years.
“It is a list of things...it is not just one song. It is a lot of different journeys, experience, time, process, effort, work. I think it just happen to establish on a wider scale this time around, because the song is very true to the minds and hearts of many people in real time, in the real moment.”