There is no question that the UK Soca scene is blowing up. From the expansion of Notting Hill carnival to the phenomenon, that is socasize. But, if you are new to the world of soca then it’s tricky to know where to start, lucky for you I’ve put together a quick guide of the top five soca events in the UK.
Coming in at number five, is an unlikely contender; that is Island independence / heritage celebrations. Now it is not your standard soca event, but hear me out on this one.
Independence celebrations have a light family fun and safe environment and due to the events purpose they tend to play soca exclusive to the island in celebration. This means you can listen to a much wider range of soca that would not get airtime at other events.
At these celebrations, they tend to play the biggest soca tunes going around the island at that time, not just the most internationally received. This is a huge plus for any true island patron, or like gold to anyone who has been on an island through carnival season, you will not get those songs out of your head believe me.
My favourite island celebration event has to be Grenada heritage, amazing soca, power soca, groovy soca and jab soca, and right before carnival. In the words of shortpree, it sets the mood. However, I will let you pick your favourite. Island Independences can act as a trip back home, which can in any sense, make the soca sound all the more sweet.
Fighting its way to number four is socasize workshops. While socasize has been in the UK for at least a decade now, classes where sparse and exclusive. In recent years, socasize has blown up around the world, with regular classes and recent soca being at the forefront.
Here in the UK, there are many socasize classes and workshop events to choose from. Such as: Wuk Up Academy in North West London, SOCA Fitness Workout in Gravesend Kent, Caribsa fitness South London, Soca Aerobics at Moss side leisure centre in Manchester or Soca Fitness Oxford.
As classes are well dispersed it’s no trouble to find one thats local. Socasize is a fun alternative to ordinary exercise; it is a mixture of soca music, dancing and aerobics, an extremely effective one. The beautiful thing about socasize is that you are able to get lost in the vibe and before you know if you’ve shifted those calories! Those who are active on the soca scene will know that London even held a Dance with D workshop, (organised by SheSoca), the first in Europe! After trying many socasize classes, I can vouch that none compare to Dance with D. She infuses great conditioning exercises and mixes musical genres between soca and afro beats. Trust me you will feel it in the morning.
Possibly the best thing about socasize classes is that they play in trend soca, allowing a cheeky way to stock up your soca library.
Weighing in at number three, is of course fetes. Fetes to soca are what butter is to bread.
Here in the UK we have so many different kind of fetes. Foam fetes, themed fetes, wet fetes, concert fetes, boat fetes, mature (27+) fetes, weekend away fetes and even J’ouvert style fetes. We have fetes to suit your every need. For those who don’t know, a fete is a party. Except, in a fete, it is by rule that you get on bad. A fete gives you the vibe of carnival with the convenience of a house party.
A huge upside to a fete is that it is stationary (unlike a carnival truck), which as my seasoned revellers would know, means that you can really dance like you have no shame. Feting allows you to wuk your waist and hold a lime without having to wait the whole year for carnival. The best thing about fetes are their frequency. With many popular venues like Scala, Revolution, Nomad and Coronet constantly being hired out to hold fetes.
Under the guise of fetes this past year alone, we have housed soca pioneer Destra Garcia, had multiple soca weekenders UK and abroad, (i.e Tabanca and soca weekender EU, Halloween based fancy dress fetes and even a few boat fetes on the Thames). However, the best fete of the year (in my opinion) has to go to Dancehall V Soca, with their foam fete at the coronet. Deejays clash live on stage round after round with the audience voting for the winner. Vibes are high, and so is competitiveness as team dancehall and team soca shell down in foam and cast their votes. The foam cascades down from the ceiling completely immersing all who brave the dance floor, but do not worry about your clothes, the gym V beach theme had you covered.
All in all fetes are a comfortable and laid-back environment for all to come and shell down, and as you can see, they are extremely versatile.
Holding down the fort at number two is, J’ouvert. Nothing compares to a good J’ouvert, it gets the blood rushing, the heart pumping and sets the tone for an amazing carnival.
J’ouvert is an event before carnival, in which people jump up behind the truck just as they would in mas, but instead of pricey costumes there are old clothes worn with the expectation of getting dirty. J’ouvert happens in the early hours of the morning. Notting Hill Carnival’s J’ouvert starts around 6am.
J’ouvert (French creole), translated into English, means the day opened, which is exactly what it does. Right from the beginning its soca trucks, loud music, high vibes, water flying, paint, powder, rum, oil, you name it. If you want the best out of your carnival, then I had better find you at J’ouvert!
The messy nature of J’ouvert allows for some of the wildest behaviour displayed carnival (bank holiday) weekend, as they say, no-one wants to ruin their costume to get down in pretty mas. In J’ouvert, anything goes, so do not be surprised if you see revellers scaling trucks, getting on in big groups or wuking on the ground. Each carnival has their own J’ouvert, but the best in the UK has to be Notting Hill J’ouvert. Where a large portion of participants have come straight from carnival pre party, so there’s no warm up time necessary, straight into the bacchanal. There is no limits; J’ouvert is synonymous with bad behaviour. Some people take vitamins to start their day, carnivallers go J’ouvert!
Last, but by no means least, in first place; is carnival/mas! Notting Hill Carnival is regarded one of the best in the world; this is because of the diversity among its attendees.
Notting Hill Carnival attracts around one million people annually and is renowned as one of the world’s largest street festivals. Every year it grows bigger and bigger with more trucks and more masqueraders. In recent years, it has seen the likes of floats representing outside cultures and those that specialise within island traditions, i.e. Island Mas and playing jab.
Carnival is a mecca for all things soca; you can run from float to float and feel like you are running from island to island. Due to the diversity of the UK, you hear the most varied soca at carnival; it’s truly a time to celebrate the islands. You can catch everything from chutney to calypso.
Carnival is such an amazing experience whether you’re jamming on the side of the road as the floats pass, whether you’re a truck driver or whether you’re a masquarader.
For those dedicated soca heads, mas is heaven. Beautiful costumes, unlimited rum, breakfast and lunch, private toilets and a secured section to get on! What more could anyone need. Not to mention artists preform live on these trucks! Like Skinny Fabulous and the UK soca roadshow winners, who performed live in 2016 Notting hill Carnival.
If I have not been too obvious already, let me say Notting Hill Carnival is by far the best carnival in the UK. There is nothing better than mas, it’s like being on holiday, big smiles, big wines and big vibes.
So as your news year’s resolution, give everything on this list a go! There is ample choice, from ways to get fitter, to the reason to get fitter. 2017 has just started, make sure you are soca ready.