THE local dancehall or Zesser movement has generated wide public debate. Whether you’re for or against it, regional forms of dancehall – much like soca – have been developing.
In St Vincent, Vasita “Sita di Lyrical Diva” Caine has been championing the Vincentian brand of dancehall. She can be seen in a YouTube reality series coming up soon, Split Personality: Life of Sita.
For those in the dancehall know, she was once known as the First Lady. She began singing and writing
music professionally ten years ago. Her first track was called Kitchen Dunce, and in it she challenged women who can cook to clap
“That is how they showed us that they could cook, by just clapping,” she said in an interview at Newsday’s Pembroke Street office. Her other songs include Inna Di Video, Jack It Up, Escape and Lighter.
Growing up with her father, Ezekiel Morgan, in Fairbaine Pasture, St Vincent, Sita, who is in her thirties, would hear the music of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and this led to a love for the “boldness” of the Jamaican expression.
In hindsight, she knew she always had the ability to make people move, but at 16 she realised she wanted a career in music. In her social studies class she was asked to illustrate a societal ill using music and used Beenie Man’s Girl’s Prayer to talk about unemployment.
When she was finished, her usually conservative teacher jumped out of her chair and said, “Bap, bap, bap" (a sign of approval and excitement).
“I knew then that is what I wanted to do. I loved that reaction and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
On Fridays, while she was at St Vincent and the Grenadines’ community college, boys would
gather in the college's quadrangle in freestyle battles. One day she decided there were too many men there and challenged them
“And I went there and I beat all of them.”
People then began saying, “You’re the first girl I’ve seen do this or do that” and she told them,
am not a girl, I am a lady.” From there she got the stage name First Lady.
Caine admired the straightforwardness of dancehall as opposed to calypso and soca’s use of double entendre.
Dancehall’s beat also drew her to the music.
It was not the lyrical content but the pulsating bass. Then when I saw how powerful the women were on stage, I wanted to be a part of that.
“In soca music in my island, the females always seemed so timid and so shy and so laid-back. But the females in dancehall were always so dominant and said what they wanted to say and that is what I fell in love with.”
She has been hired to perform regionally and internationally. Over her years in the business she has some accomplishments to her name, among them receiving awards from St Vincent’s Association of Music Professionals. She has also twice participated in Barbados’ International Bashment Soca. She was featured on the 2016 Jamaican Tropical Punch Riddim, which also featured Demarco, Vybz Kartel and others, and performed alongside Sizzla and Popcaan at the 2017 Sound Di Alarm festival in Jamaica.
While the Jamaican market has been receptive, her journey into the dancehall and the music industry has not been easy. Vincentian dancehall artistes do not have a lot of platforms to express themselves.
“What we have is carnival, and carnival is there for soca. So that is the reason why I started to experiment with soca music, because from May to July that is when our carnival starts and ends.
“And being a dancehall artiste and not having a soca song, your voice is not heard within that period. It kind of limits you as an artiste and a product.”
That is why she came to TT’s Carnival this year. She has a song called Matey (the Jamaican term for side chick) and did a remix featuring Mr Killa and Nessa Preppy.
The song is controversial, as it speaks about the relationship between a man, a woman and “a bold side chick.” The song was released in June and she did a music video for Matey in October
Her songs address a range of topics and issues from religion to sex.
She also infuses her “Vincentian-ness” into her music. She receives a lot of criticism as a dancehall singer in St Vincent but also a lot of praise.
“There are other people who wish to do it (sing dancehall) but who may not necessarily be as brave.”
She deals with the criticism by accepting it and then
by thinking about it.
"I weigh whether or not it is positive criticism, is it helping me grow, or was it just said to make me feel less of a person.
“Then I deal with it from there. If it is positive, I try to implement measures that would make my craft better and make me grow as a product. If it is negative, I ignore it.”
Caine sees herself transcending regional borders and hopes to work with soca artistes like Machel Montano, Patrice Roberts and Bunji Garlin.