Music is at the heart of Notting Hill Carnival, with traditional and contemporary sounds filling the air for miles around. Historically steel bands, Soca & Calypso Music have been at the heart of Carnival but in recent years these have been overtaken by the static sound systems playing anything from Reggae to R&B, Funk, House, Dub and much more.
Live stages also feature local bands, top international artists and sounds from around the world – Eddie Grant, Jamiroquai, Wyclef Jean, Courtney Pine and Burning Spear have been among the eclectic line up in previous years.
Find a list of Sound Systems that appear at Carnival here
The Origin of calypso can be traced back to the arrival of the first enslaved Africans brought to work in the sugar plantations of Trinidad. Forbidden to talk to each other, and robbed of all links to family and home, the enslaved Africans began to sing. They used calypso, which can be traced back to West African Kaiso, as a means of communication and to mock the slave masters. These songs, usually led by one individual called a Griot, helped to unite the slaves. Calypso singing competitions, held annually at Carnival time, grew in popularity after the abolition of slavery by the British in the 1830s. The Griot later became known as the Chantuelle and today as the Calypsonian.
Like calypso, soca was used for both social commentary and risqué humor, though the initial wave of soca acts eschewed the former. Lord Shorty was disillusioned with the genre by the 1980s because soca was being used to express courtships and sexual interests. Like all things related to sexual freedom, it became embraced because of its ability to reflect what people were thinking and their desires in a society that was sexually repressed.
Soca music became an expression of sexuality through metaphors in the West Indies. Soon after, Shorty moved to the Piparo forest, converted to the Rastafari movement and changed his name to Ras Shorty I. There, he created a fusion of Reggae and gospel music called jamooin the late 1980s.In the 1990s and now the new century Soca has evolved into a blend of musical styles.