SOCA stars Bunji Garlin and his wife Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez raised the roof with an energetic performance at Barcode, Scarborough on Tuesday night, the curtain raiser for the popular I Love Soca series.
The series opener attracted many soca fans, as the power couple commanded the crowd and added a special spice and energy to their musical recipe. They dipped into their catalogue with hit after hit, and paid tribute to national icons by performing classics from Winston "Shadow" Bailey, Dexter "Blaxx" Stewart and Leroy "Black Stalin" Calliste.
Bunji had the crowd in a frenzy as he professed his love for "Hard Fete" such as WASA, Customs and Flour Mills. He urged patrons to put their hands in the air as he "ain't come here for no stand up."
Fay-Ann had patrons laughing and dancing as she sang "Upgrade," her 2023 song, which recounts her experience with a woman's boyfriend.
Speaking with Newsday after their performance, a satisfied Garlin said: “The energy was amazing – the place was like electricity was running through there.”
However, he said he was not surprised.
“As far as we remember, when we come to Tobago it’s always that kind of vibe, especially when we’re here. A major part of our career developed here in Tobago, by coming to Tobago over the years, so it’s like coming home. It was amazing to see people coming out, the way people were ready to party. People just let loose – new tune, old tune, they definitely came for the vibe.”
He added: “One thing I know for sure is that when Fay and I come it’s always a good turnout. People know they’re getting real dynamic vibes – it’s more than just a show, it’s a vibe, it’s a connection, it’s an exchange.”
Another entertainer on the night was veteran soca artiste Peter C Lewis.
Humbled by the growth of the event over the last few years, Barcode owner David Maharaj said the event was born out of the need to provide entertainment to Tobago during the Carnival period and to provide a platform for local artistes to showcase their talent.
“It had been developed over the years from individual shows and now to the I Love Soca series, which is a weekly activity taking place on Tuesday nights up until Carnival – geared at populating the calendar with activities during the national Carnival period.”
He said the event faced several disruptions over the years including a fire which damaged the structure in 2017 and the covid19 pandemic.
“The fire allowed us to move to alternative venues which proved that the brand is bigger than its home and it’s definitely something that can stand up on its own two feet. This year, coming out of covid19 pandemic, we have plans to reboot.”
As the event returns to the calendar, he said two additional shows are carded for the eastern end of the island, one in the south western part and one in Trinidad, which would be announced soon.
He said coming out of covid19, it was realised that there is a great demand for the event.
“We anticipate just by the amount of season passes being sold and tickets for the shows, we anticipate full shows every night.”
The entertainment, he said, would be the biggest acts that have previously graced the event’s stage.
“They have pledged their support; we have all the acts already lined up and contracted to come. Plus, we have a bunch of new budding talent coming out of Tobago, Trinidad, Grenada, St Lucia and Barbados that would be performing at the I Love Soca this year.”
Soca star Patrice Roberts is expected to be next week’s headliner.