Kaiso Lime’s June edition, on Saturday 1 June, saw new artists entertain the crowd. One of these was Betty ‘Soca Baby’ Alexander, who is by no means new to kaiso; she began honing her singing skills in the late 1970s. On the night, Soca Baby performed Sailing by Mighty Trini, Singing Sandra’s Die With My Dignity, and her own composition Take Yuh Cock and Go.
Many Trinidadians living in London know or remember Soca Baby, particularly as she was first person to organise and produce the Miss Trinidad and Tobago (UK) competition. She was born in Point Fortin, Trinidad, a part of the island well known for producing exceptional soca and kaiso artists who include Austin ‘Superblue’ Lyons, Iwer George, Barnett ‘Preacher’ Henry, Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez and Terri Lyons.
Soca Baby left the shores of Trinidad for London in 1966, at which time she had no ambitions to become a performer. She did, however, wish to demonstrate how patriotic she was to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and had a strong interest in the traditions of carnival, particularly calypso, pan and mas. Soca Baby recalls that in the late 1970s she was encouraged to play the bass pans in Glissando Steelband, and recalls that the first tune she learned to play was Blue Moon. However, it wasn’t long before she dropped the pan sticks and began to move her feet instead. That was the moment Soca Baby knew she had to put singing before pan.
The 1981 Carnival Arts Committee (CAC) Calypso Monarch Competition is where Soca Baby made her debut in the business. Touched by the London fire that claimed 13 young Black people, Soca Baby penned a song entitled The Deptford Fire. It was an emotional performance, where she set the scene by lighting candles across the stage and allowed the audience to express their sorrow over the harrowing incident. Her efforts earned her second place, but this was just the beginning; her song attracted national attention, and the broadcaster Sarah Greene, then working for Capital Radio, went to the CAC offices in Notting Hill to look for her.
Just as Soca Baby’s musical career had begun to gain momentum, it was interrupted in order for her to bring up her two daughters – but she still maintains her ambition to contribute to the culture and inspire others to do the same. She offers advice to those who want to add to the artform: “You have to be committed, love the artform and demonstrate vision. Whether your story is happy or sad it must be influential. Sing for a wide audience, and ensure that your material relates to your community. Highlight problems and offer solutions.”
Kaiso Lime runs from now until November; the next edition will be held at Carnival Village (Tabernacle) on Saturday 3 August, from 7:30pm to 10:30pm. Admission is free all evening, and there is a licensed bar and Caribbean food on sale.
- For more Kaiso Lime dates please visit socanews.com/events