Food for thought.
Late last month, whilst in the Big Apple, Bunji Garlin stopped by Hot 97 for an interview with fellow Trini, Shani Kulture. Their talk covered Bunji burying the hatchet with Machel Montano (they came together for “Buss Head” earlier this year), the success that his smash “Differentology” brought him, songwriting, and the prominence that the Caribbean has in mainstream pop music. While speaking on the latter subject, the Viking aired a grievance that sounded extremely familiar, and interestingly ironic. Should he have thrown in a few “ya site’s”, I would’ve sworn he was a Barbadian artiste.
He was speaking with regards to the lack of Trinidadian success when it comes to crossing over to the North American mainstream, and he said this on the lack of a support system, in comparison to that of Jamaica’s Reggae and the Latinx’s Reggaeton respective movements:
The thing about it is that, right, Trinidad is known as a community that just naturally doesn’t support their own, regardless. Not music only. In sports, in academics, whatever the case may be. We have become a society that kind of taught ourselves not to believe in ourselves, and we have this attitude of: only if it goes and gets big abroad, then we could accept it and say well it is worth something. But all the other cultures build their own from home first, and then send it out. We have the reverse mentality. We have the mentality where we want to build it abroad first, see if everyone else outside likes it, and then we would like it. And that is our Achilles heel for the longest while…But there are those from the Trinidadian community who genuinely will support. But on a general thing that is a constant battle we’ve been fighting for years and years.
This was interesting to hear because, for the past how many ever years, the same has been said ad nauseam with regards to Barbadian music, and the majority of Barbadian’s failing to champion their own. And to hear one of the crown jewels of a scene, sound, and region much larger than ours, shows that despite how different we think we might be, we’re alike in trying to rally our people behind each other.
Bunji also raised some interesting points with regards to soca as a genre and as a business, that is applicable to all artistes throughout the region.
On the need for a self-sufficient soca industry:
… Because we never really had a proper music industry for our system. I mean, even up to this time, the soca or calypso engine, the Trinidad engine, the carnival engine, is still dependent on the engine of when VP Records make a move… And again, the attitude for outside help comes back into play. So, everyone who has an opportunity, in our industry, we kind of now want to lean on the engine of VP Records and kind of wait until, well, when the reggae music move, then we will make a move. But we kind of need to get out of that. Because, I mean, Jamaicans build their industry for themselves. And they work hard and they build it. We have to work hard and build it. No one owes us anything, that, well, because we are so close to them, they should help us. They could help us if they would like to help us, but we should help ourselves.
On shifting the content of soca songs for crossover appeal:
…If you listen to the songs and the sounds that come from Jamaica; come from the U.S. – whether it be from R&B, Hip-Hop; even from the EDM circuit; the electronic dance, the alternatives – the topics that they would touch, is topics that almost anyone could relate too. We back home, in our carnival region or our festive region as I would call it, we still… our climax or our target point, is to dedicate music to the festivities itself. Not everywhere in the world has a carnival. But everywhere in the world, someone could be happy, someone could be sad, someone could be angry. So if there is music that could relate to them at the point in time, they would attach to it. But then now, when I leave Trinidad & Tobago and I go to Budapest to perform, and they knows nothing about carnival, or what I represent, it does not translate.
Listen to the interview below.