The US Virgin Islands, like many of its Caribbean counterparts, spawned its own kind of soca known as Bram.
One of the voices giving face to that is Pumpa.
Dennis “Pumpa” Liburd, 35, was born in St Kitts and moved to St Croix, US Virgin Islands, at nine. While at secondary school there, he discovered his musical ability and, while initially he sang dancehall, he quickly realised it made economic sense to transition to soca.
“The switch from dancehall to soca took place because we are in the islands; the dancehall is not dominant within our islands. Especially if you are trying to do it as an art, it is not as dominant as it would be in Jamaica.
“Calypso and soca are more our breadwinners. I had to go where the bread could be made.”
While he has been coming to Trinidad and Tobago since 2014, he believes that his 2022 song The A List and its growing popularity will introduce him and his work to a wider TT audience.
The song grew out of a boat event.
“There was a DJ playing and I was supposed to perform. He played this riddim and I was trying to remember a song named Bianca (one of my songs) and couldn’t remember the melody
“So I just started singing, 'if your name ends with an A bend right over,'” he said.
The song was released November 2022 and allowed him to tour last year into this year.
The song has a dancehall-infused vibe and is reminiscent of the local Trinibad subgenre.
It has received over 427,000 views on YouTube.
Bram in the VI is an acronym which stands for bass, rhythm and melody, he said.
He described it as being very melodic with a lot of changes in its rhythm and with subgenres as well.
Recently, three albums under the Monk Music label which includes soca artiste Skinny Fabulous’ BAD were being considered for Grammy nominations, (however, they did not receive any nominations.) But, Pumpa feels good about soca capturing the world.
“Our music has taken different paths, different roads, speed bumps but I feel the direction we are going in is healthy. I feel one of the key ingredients in our genre, needs to develop more unity among the islands with the different types of soca.”
Greater inroads into the mainstream music industry required greater collaboration between all soca artistes from all islands, he added.
The path to that was being craved by things like the recently held Caribbean Music Awards in New York.
“I hope and pray it keeps growing and they try to involve more of the different islands. They could even try boiling it down to the different islands such as Best Artiste from this island etc.”
But greater inclusion was the key to the genre’s growth and development, he stressed.
This was an important topic for him as he found it was not easy for non-TT artistes to make it in this country’s soca industry.
He had been trying for years.
“It has been very difficult for me. I have been coming here for years. I feel like I have a song now that a few people hear and they know, which is The A List.
“I feel like people know it and have been hearing it. Thank God for social media as well, the world is getting smaller. But it has been an uphill battle…”
While he felt he could have grown his visibility in the TT market with his 2019 She Got the Juice, the covid19 pandemic hit.
Asked if he was open to collaborations, Pumpa said he was not one to seek them, even though it may be a little easier to do so now because of the structure of the music industry.
“I am artiste who does not want to feel like I have to hold on to your shoulder to make it. All my life, I have been standing on my own two feet. I never needed someone to say, come let we go.
“I always felt like I was an outcast…”
As the early Carnival 2024 period draws nearer, Pumpa wants TT to embrace a different sound and vibe.
He hopes to be at Army fete, Stink and Dutty and any possible Soca Monarch 2024, among others.
He hopes to see greater musical collaboration between TT and the US Virgin Islands.