Soca is rapidly bypassing dancehall to become the most popular music in Jamaica but most Jamaicans are not even noticing. Reggae has long taken a back seat to dancehall and in the next 5 years, Dancehall will take a back seat to Soca.
While some of the major dancehall shows over the years like Champions in action, Sting and West Kingston Jamboree have all come to an abrupt end in the last few years, carnival has grown exponentially on the island and as everyone know, with carnival comes soca music.
Speaking with 18 Karat Reggae during the Road March on Carnival Sunday, State Minister Alando Terrelonge said having witnessed a strong showing by the three bands this year, he believes the soca scene is poised to grow even more.
“When you look at the numbers for Xaymaca alone, I hear figures are 1,800 females, 400 males this year, and that is an exponential growth in terms of the numbers, and I’m sure the other two bands have grown as well,” he said. “People are coming to Jamaica because of our culture, and soca cannot be left out when talking about culture in Jamaica. There are so many tourists who are here just to enjoy this, and the more visitors we get, the more tourism contributes to the overall economic growth of the country.”
Pointing out that his Ministry welcomes any product that will improve the country’s economy, Terrelonge said he doesn’t see the carnival and soca momentum dying out any time soon and believes more Jamaicans will get involved.
“Each year you have new players coming on the scene, so maybe next year we will have more persons who want to launch bands. Carnival has really created a good climate for entertainment in Jamaica, and I’m happy to be part of the movement and the Ministry is happy to be part of it as well,” he said.
Speaking of growth, Delano Seiveright, chief adviser and strategist in the Ministry of Tourism, put things into perspective using figures.
According to data gathered during the week of April 1 to 7, Seiveright said that a total of 51,384 tourists visited the island.
Of that figure 9,000 flew into Kingston, a 22.8 per cent increase from the same period last year. He pointed to carnival and soca’s influence.
“This is the second year since the Ministry of Tourism with the JTB decided to partner with private sector entities to push the Jamaica branded event (carnival in Jamaica), and we exceeded last year, and we expect to exceed those numbers again next year,” he said.
“Kingston was absolutely full for Carnival. All the hotels were booked, Air BnB properties were booked, and persons were doing short-term rentals. It was a beehive of activities across Kingston, and persons benefitting from that spread across the entire Corporate Area,” he added. “Reggae Sumfest and Rebel Salute combined do not match these numbers.
Seiveright said a number of persons, including taxi operators, hairdressers, and dressmakers benefited greatly.
“That’s what we really wanted to see and we’re happy it happened. Carnival in Jamaica is one of those events that allow a lot of the tourist hustle to spread far and wide in the economy, and that was seen this weekend,” he said.