As this year’s Soul Train Awards played out across the globe, as the show was beamed into the homes of millions of people, as Chaka Khan did what only Chaka Khan can do, unknown to many, history was being made thousands of miles away on the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago. Never before had a Soca song scooped a Soul Train Award.
As the closing titles rolled signaling the end of the show, it slowly emerged via Twitter and on other social media that in fact Trinidadian Soca music star Bunji Garlin, aka “The Viking,” had won “Best International Performance,” beating the hugely popular Nigerian R&B duo P-Square and the UK’s Emeli Sande and putting soca, a uniquely Caribbean sound, firmly on the map.
So what was it exactly about Garlin’s winning song, "Differentology?"
“Maybe it was just the right time, the right place” explained Garlin, “Maybe people are just looking for something fresh and different, but it doesn’t mean what I did was the right recipe for Soca music to be accepted. But I’m just so grateful that I was put in a position that brought an award to the Caribbean and the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Music analysts say it didn’t hurt that Major Lazer, headed by DJ/Producer Diplo, sampled Garlin’s tune, remixing it for the masses at this year’s Ultra Music Festival in Miami. This kind of international recognition says Garlin will inject new energy into the making of the music and puts Soca in the limelight.
Soca music, over the years, as a genre has struggled to resonate with international audiences, so Garlin’s win is certainly significant. Nominated alongside fellow Soca artiste Machel Montano, who has also played a major role in promoting Soca music, on this occasion Garlin proved to be the people’s victor.
Earlier this year, "Differentology" became a carnival anthem and just weeks ago the very same track, written by Garlin and produced by Kerron “Sheriff Mumbles” Thompson and Jarrod Faria, opened an episode of the hit show Grey’s Anatomy. Garlin said the kudos for the song’s popularity must also go to the people.
“This type of international attention, this Soul Train Award is not only a reward for me, but for everyone involved in Soca music.”
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(Photo: Teeography & Fay-ann Lyons)