Producer and sound engineer Kasey Phillips will introduce the world to a new sound in soca on September 17.
Phillips will do so through his new riddim called Turbulence. Artistes Melly Rose, Sekon Sta, Dev and Mical Teja are featured on it with their songs Wah Ya Want, Slam Bam and Take Front respectively. Phillip is the CEO and co-founder of Precision Productions which has captured many Road March and Soca Monarch title, its website says. He has also worked across multiple genres including calypso, reggae, R&B, gospel, rap, hip-hop, pop, chutney-soca, and dance music.
A press release described the sound as a "novel blend of soca."It said, "Amidst all the world faced in the last year, the team dug deep and concentrated on bringing into being a novel blend of soca. One which combines siren sweet melodies to draw in listeners, balanced with a heated baseline built to maintain a timeless pace."Experimental yet artful, this is a twist to soca that defies time, place, or live festivals..."It was a riddim that he had for a while and was about to release when the pandemic hit, Phillips said. He then told himself to take his time and figure it out. He added that the pandemic gave him time which is not usually present during the Carnival season.
With the extra time, Phillips was able to do visuals, shoot music videos with all of the artistes and take the time needed to finish the production while also rolling out a marketing plan, mastering his craft more and upgrade and learn new tools and techniques. That was a great luxury not usually given in soca, he said. There will also be a music medley video dropping with the riddim.
This riddim is Phillips' first since the pandemic because he was working on the construction of his new studio, Crystal Room Studio, in Los Angeles, US. The studio's website says its mission is to provide the highest quality, using its state-of-art facility, high-end equipment and world-class sound engineers backed by over 20 years of experience.Phillips said he moved to LA six years ago and in doing so his goal was to build a studio and base there. He began doing so as soon as the pandemic hit. He said the process of building the recording studio was in the middle of the pandemic and it was difficult as everything was shut down. “Availability for workers, equipment, materials, everything got affected. But they got the studio done and that was part of the reason why the music took a slight back seat because the focus was to build the studio and kind of have a new home base.”
The studio is part of his wider goal of reaching and penetrating new markets as well as taking soca global. “Precision was/has always been pioneers in terms of the digital space so when covid hit it did not affect us that hard that the entertainment sector was shut down because a lot of the stuff we did was already pivoted toward digital streaming etc. “I would say we only started to feel the effects two years into it because, of course, clients and jobs. Because if they are not doing as much music then eventually at some point we are going to start to feel the effects.”
But things are picking up again as people have started to do music again. From his vantage point, while he could not say if there is an increased demand for soca, it has been growing. He said it grew exponentially across all producers and artistes from 2015 to now.While soca has been growing, when it came to synchronisation, movies and licensing, soca and calypso were still somewhat limited in terms of topic and content, he said.
He added this was kind of a double-edged sword. By this Phillips means that soca only fits when there is a Carnival or Caribbean scene on TV or other media. He said when it comes to licensing soca singers do not always get all of the opportunities because the music does not fit other types of scenes or categories.
"Then our content, our topics or what we sing about is always directly related to the festival and our culture. Only until we start broadening the topics and widening the range of what we sing about then we can start to get a love scene, a car-chase scene or a fight scene...so it can fit different categories of topics," he said.
He added this was kind of a double-edged sword. Crystal Room Studio was branded as a different business to appeal to the international market but it is Precision’s home base. “With this now, I have a hub, I can network, I can bring artistes, execs and say, 'Come and hear this song and let us see how we can bridge this gap.'”
But it also aligns with the soca music industry's Grammy goal and pushing to get more Caribbean music practitioners to become members to vote. There is a concerted push to have more musicians, producers, writers and even journalists from the Caribbean apply to become voting members of the Recording Academy. The Grammy Awards is presented by the Recording Academy. Phillips said the push is being done by him and Martin Raymond. He said there are also some members of the Grammy board in the US guiding him. Phillips said while the Caribbean might enter music and have it be considered, if there weren't Caribbean people who know the music to vote, the music will never get voted on.
Therefore, the region would never get past the first hurdle of being considered, he said. Some headway, however, has been made in the Grammy association because a new category called the Best Global Music Performance, which is a single-track category, as opposed to where traditionally it is an album. Mention of the new category was found in an April 30 article on grammy.com.
He said singles from the Caribbean can now enter to be considered. “There is still a lot of work to be done because we going up against Afrobeats, we going up against all the other genres that come from across the globe.”
Phillips said he was going to look to see how that plays itself out. Crystal Room Studio will work on a number of genres but will also work to broaden soca and calypso's reach. Phillips likes the current music industry climate with streaming because it has made Caribbean music, soca and Afrobeats "the hip thing." People are tuning into the music, he said, and it was becoming a hip trend as people are looking for something hip and fresh.