Pirates of the Caribbean

Record execs hoist soca as the island flavor of the season

"Major labels," industry veteran Levy argues, "do not totally comprehend Caribbean music, and they're not totally committed to it for the long haul." The Sean Paul prototype can work magic, but not for everyone. And if overhyped, this major-label model starts looking—to up-and-coming Caribbean acts—like the über-model. Which in turn stunts the growth of a local Caribbean industry that could thrive alongside an international one. "Everybody right now is trying to run to Atlantic to get a deal," says Bunji Garlin, "but you need to conquer your homeland first. Before we go outside and have a big industry for soca outside, we need to have a proper industry back home in Trinidad." Garlin laments that it's taken so long for that to start happening: Last year, Trinidad—mecca of soca—launched its first all-soca radio station, to complement two new soca-driven television networks.

Rupee is being hailed as the Sean Paul of soca.
photo: TLA
Rupee is being hailed as the Sean Paul of soca.

Back in the diaspora, though, Kevin Lyttle is thrilled with his three-album deal (and the vocal trainer who came with it). Kallman ardently vows to continue promoting Caribbean acts while keeping them "fertile in their hometowns and home markets." And if you listen hard, you'll hear talk of a U.S.-based network that has yet to announce a launch date, but is, confirms an insider, coming soon: MTV Caribbean—poised to take Caribbean crossover where it's never been before.

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