Trini artiste Bunji Garlin defends popularity of Soca in Jamaica

By Hanan Redwan Published on April 21, 2023
Trini artiste Bunji Garlin defends popularity of Soca in Jamaica

On the heels of the Carnival season, which saw a massive showing for road march on Sunday, Trinidadian Soca artiste Bunji Garlin sought to explain the rising popularity of the genre and Carnival in Jamaica in a series of tweets earlier this week.

The artiste, who performed at a number of events in Jamaica for the Carnival season, including at Wi Fete at Sabina Park on Saturday, declared that it was his "duty" to help spread awareness on the proliferation of a culture that originated in his homeland of Trinidad and Tobago.


"While soca and Carnival has been ‘growing’ in JA, they’ve been more than ‘warming up’ to soca. The soca movement in Jamaica been on a serious level, and it’s one of those things that happened in a ‘right under your nose’ kinda setting," he said on Twitter on Tuesday.

He noted that Carnival in Jamaica originated on the campus of The University of the West Indies in the 1940s, when student of the UWI from different Caribbean islands recreated Carnival to celebrate like home.

However, he argued that, during those early years, it was still viewed as "foreign" to the wider Jamaica, but gained traction in 1989, when musician and producer Bryon Lee took over.

Sharing pictures of Jamaica's first official Carnival event hosted by Byron Lee 33 years ago, Bunji Garlin contends that Byron Lee's mandate was to make Carnival "available to all".

"When I started going to Jamaica for Carnival from my first year on the scene, 1999, the turnouts at soca events and road in Jamaica was already clocking seriously huge numbers, but because the media coverage was based on territory, outside of JA wouldn’t get such news," he said.

The 'Hard Fete' artiste explained that during the time when Carnival was booming in Jamaica, the major events would have already concluded in his native island of Trinidad and Tobago. Therefore, Trinidadians were unaware of what was happening in Jamaica, as news on social or Carnival did not get much traction outside of Carnival season on the island.

"Unless you actually went looking for newspapers to know or for a video/audio stream of some sort, you would not have known that was happening in Ja on that level already," he said.

Meanwhile, his fans, grateful for the information, also took the moment to reminisce on their own carnival experience in Jamaica.

"Don't forget the scores of Jamaicans who've studied in TT & Bim (Barbados) over the decades and came back with soca in their blood, 'straight off the jumbo jet'," one wrote.

"Thanks for the information! My last JA Carnival dates back to 2016, and I have been trying to get back ever since!! But, other than TT's , I totally enjoy JA vibes, parties — Frenchmen — and food, and did I say vibes #socatotheworld #onecaribbean," another added.

Hanan Redwan

Hanan Redwan

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