The release of BP Soca’s EP takes it one step further along its goal of making soca mainstream in the UK. The BP Soca Riddim was released on May 25 and features Terrah Dan, Ms Desire, Merzy, and producer Hardware Muzyk. The songs on the EP are Ms Desire's Show It Off, Terrah Dan's Dah You? and Merzy's Dig It.
At this point you’re asking, who or what is BP Soca and how is it going to do that.
BP Soca is an independent record label in the UK promoting the work of Caribbean artistes, producers, sound engineers and songwriters. It was founded by Gareth Sinnerine who is also its managing director.
The release of the EP is “just the tip of the iceberg” for the label, a release said.
Sinnerine’s plan to take soca to mainstream has its genesis in his personal experience.
In a Zoom interview, Sinnerine recalled his TT-born mother playing calypso every Sunday morning and evening and of trips to TT for Carnival.
He was born and raised in the UK while his mum was born in Barataria, grew up in St James, ended up in Diego Martin and then moved to the UK.
“Every Sunday, she would play soca from morning to evening and I loved it....And everytime we used to go back to TT...we took part in Carnival. I loved Carnival...Panorama...crowning the King and Queen of Carnival
“I loved the atmosphere,” he said. His mother played a lot of calypso but he particularly remembers her playing Black Stalin's Bun Dem which fuelled his passion for the music.
While the UK hosts Notting Hill Carnival over two days in August, Sinnerine believes that soca does not have a very wide audience there.
“It is very niche. To the point where you won’t see it penetrate the charts at all or penetrate radio or playlists etc,” he added.
Sinnerine said in the UK there is a lot of rock and pop topping the charts but Caribbean music genres were hardly seen on the charts.
“So that is basically what I am trying to do at the moment. I am not saying I am going to be the one to do it but I am going to assist and help anyone who is an upcoming artiste who is passionate about Caribbean genres to release music through BP Soca and then we can help elevate that as much as we can,” he said.
During last year’s virtual Notting Hill Carnival, Sinnerine said a few radio stations as BBC One, and Kiss played some soca but he did not like the way it was played only during the Notting Hill Carnival period.
His solution to getting soca on the UK’s top 40 charts: marketing.
“If we had the marketing behind us and these big marketing companies helped us to elevate this music we would be hearing them on the charts and we would be seeing them on TV and hearing it on radio as well.”
Alison Hinds at a recording session with Kyle Phillips, producer and owner of BadJohn Republic Studios in Palmiste. Gareth Sinnerine of BP Soca said he has worked with top producers such as Badjohn Republic and Precision Productions. -So Sinnerine has started working with one of the UK’s top PR and marketing companies: Quite Great PR.
Initially, Sinnerine’s company started off as an events company in 2017 and he would host soca events around London. Sinnerine's events would include live performances and he has had performers like St Lucia's Ricky T and Grenada's duo Lil Natty and Thunda perform at the events.
“Then I started to see traction and growth to the point where the events were selling out easily and we had to go to bigger venues.
“So it showed that people actually do like the sound of soca and there is a big audience here in the UK behind it but why is it not being played on the radio?”
He added that people in the UK often think of soca as being a “jump up, jump up kind of sound.”
But part of his mission is to also show that there are many variants to soca such as groovy, power and Afro-soca.
His work is seeking to get people out of the mindset that soca is a fast-paced, only-meant- for-Carnival type of genre, he said.
Quite Great PR has done PR for many great artistes including the late David Bowie and Prince.
Sinnerine wants to use the talents and skills of the PR firm to have soca marketed across the UK.
“Because they have a great portfolio of publications in radio and TV that they can approach to promote the music that I want to release.”
But this, of course, comes at a cost and the up and coming artistes Sinnerine is seeking to promote do not have the capital to promote their music.
He uses the money generated from events hosted under his other company Bacchanal Promotions Limited to fund BP Soca’s artistes and music.
Plus, he also holds down a 9-5 job.
Streaming platforms and playlists also play an important role in Sinnerine’s marketing mix for soca.
He added that through the PR company content curators, playlists and discovery playlists will be used to push soca and soca artistes.
Sinnerine plans to have playlists curated on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.
How soon does he expect soca to hit mainstream in the UK?
For him, there is no time limit.
“You have to be patient especially with a genre not a lot of people are familiar with and in a country that is not very, very in touch with that culture.
“So it is going to take some time to get there,” he said.
However, he does have a two-year plan in place.
Sinnerine has networked with a lot of people in the music industry and will continue to do so until soca is played more regularly on radio and featured on a lot more playlists as well. He is yet to work with some artistes in the industry but has worked with top producers such as Precision Productions and Badjohn Republic.
He has been unable to reach out to others as yet because of the pandemic which has kept many indoors and borders and countries closed.
He found some of the artistes he is currently working with through the events he's hosted.
He has released two songs so far and plans to release another in June, an Afro-soca song.
Sinnerine also plans to find and promote artistes from TT in the UK.
This was his original plan, he said. But the covid19 pandemic has delayed this plan.
Although there are a lot of challenges and trials, Sinnerine believes in pushing through with one’s goals and dreams.
“If there is something that you believe so passionately about… and it would work, definitely go for it,” he said.
The BP Soca Riddim EP was the record label’s second project release, following UK soca artiste Simbaarley’s BPB (Big People Bacchanal) in November 2020, a release said.
The label plans to deliver at least four more projects in the next four months as it continues to promote Caribbean culture and music in the UK, the release added.
For those interested in reaching out to BP Soca, check out its social media pages or visit BPSocamusic.com.