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The soca genre emerged in the 1970s when calypsonian Lord Shorty (Garfield Blackman) began experimenting with East Indian rhythms, using instruments such as the dholak, tabla and dhantal and fusing them with the calypso beat. According to Alvin Daniel, Lord Shorty initially called this new beat 'sokah' (later changed to soca), declaring that it was the soul (so) of calypso (ca). Over the years, various commentators have questioned the meaning of the term soul in this context. Some claim that it refers to the soul music of the United States. King Wellington (a fellow calypsonian) for example, contends that Lord Shorty said "he was developing [a musical form that] was in fact a blend of soul music, calypso, East Indian and African rhythms" (qtd in Bowman Mix 6). Alternatively, others such as Alvin Daniel suggest that it alludes to the spiritual aspect of the music (Bowman Mix 6).


Whatever the true significance, Lord Shorty is considered to be the 'Father of Soca'. His 1973 hit Indrani is regarded as the first soca recording. Born in Lengua Village, Princes Town on October 6, 1941, he rose to fame in the 1960s with the song Cloak and Dagger. His popularity increased in the 1970s with albums such as Endless Vibrations and The Love Man. He covered a wide variety of musical themes, including the risqu The Art Making Love, the controversial Om Shanti and the topical Money Eh No Problem. By the early 1980s, Shorty had become disillusioned by the trends in soca music commenting that it was not being used to "uplift the spirits of the people" (Joseph 48). Soon after, he underwent a spiritual conversion, abandoning material things and moving into the Piparo forest with his family. He later adopted the name Ras Shorty I and began recording in a novel musical genre called jamoo (jah music) which contained themes and rhythms reflecting his spirituality. In 1997, he recorded the anti-drug song, Watch Out My Children that became one of the most popular tunes of his career. Ras Shorty I died on July 12, 2000 of multiple myeloma (a type of bone marrow cancer


Today, soca has become one of the most popular sub-genres of calypso, spawning its own sub-groups, chutney soca and ragga soca. Its high-energy beat has attracted the young and the young at heart. Early practitioners such as Chris 'Tambu' Herbert and Blue Boy (later SuperBlue) have given way to a whole new generation of singers such as Iwer George, Machel Montano, Destra Garcia and Faye-Ann Lyons just to name a few. Soca has survived the criticism of the traditionalist and grown into a massive industry, effectively taking over the Carnival party scene and the Road March arena.


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