In London we are blessed. For every month of the given year, there is a guaranteed soca fete which you can attend. Thinking about the various soca fetes/parties that are happening or being promoted for this christmas season had me thinking about the promotional companies/teams behind them. What do the teams do or not do to create a successful event or make them seem more professional? How do they select a venue? Who is their target audience? In my promotional team series, I interview seven of the most prominent (in my view) promotional teams in London who produce soca related fetes/concerts. First up is the Soca Frenzy Promotional Team and I have a chat with Shaker HD.
Shaker HD (DJ, Producer, Singer) is part of the amazingly successful Soca Frenzy promotional company who recently celebrated their 100th event. I’d say this team more than any other promotional team have the most younger feters attending their events regularly. They have retained their following going from strength to strength and have now extended their brand to providing the soca frenzy experience internationally. I wondered about the secret of their success.
Thinking about you specifically first. How you did you get into music? Music was always there. It’s a family thing. I come from an entertainment family in Montserrat. Djing came first then the production side and now singing. I used to play all the new dance hall songs and had a small case of soca. If you are from the Caribbean, then you know soca only plays over there during the carnival period. The rest of the time is dance hall. I played soca at a place in Dalston over here in England and Ras Kenny told me ‘dude, you should play soca’. And from there, I started to play primarily soca.
How did Soca Frenzy come about? At Bar 512, we (myself, Matchiz, Ras Kenny and Torch) used to have a series of events there every Friday. The manager of the bar came to us one day and said ‘you guys need to pick one Friday of the month and focus on it’. The event was more dance hall oriented and I would only play a 20 minute soca set. And I was not happy about that. So Matchiz called it Soca Frenzy, we did one Friday of the month and we played more soca. It grew from there.
So how did the event grow from Bar 512 numbers to the numbers in Scala now? Did you guys have a specific promotion? Well I had one belief really and that was once we get people to the event, that’s it’. So we went to all the events at the time to flyer; RDR on a Thursday, Flagz on the first Friday. We would be flyering 6am in the morning. The first event was about 50-60 people and it started growing from there. But back then, it was more of a close vibe. The place was smaller. It started building to where about 400 hundred people attended at Bar 512. It couldn’t hold our numbers. We moved to Black Grape in Tottenham and had two Frenzies there. There was a bit of worry when moving to a new venue knowing whether people would follow you. But the crowd was no different. And they followed us to Scala in King’s Cross.
So do you guys as a promotional team like to stay in the same venue? Well yes, how we look at it, if it ain’t broke, we ain’t going to fix it. From Dalston, Frenzy was getting bigger, we had to move, there was no if or buts. People weren’t really initially feeling Scala as a venue as there is a stigma of it being a place where fetes die. But Scala is so central that it works. It’s not a big club like the Coronet. But at the end of the day, if we really look at it there is no soca event in London that is bringing in 2000 people on a regular basis, maybe 800 or 900. We normally get 950 people at Frenzy on average. At our biggest, we get between 1100-1200 people. So Scala is perfect for our purpose. The station is right there. We moved there in September 2010 and haven’t felt it necessary to move from there.
How many of you are actually in the Frenzy Team? There are probably about 30 of us but most of the decisions are done by myself or Matchiz.
How is frenzy different from the rest of the soca fetes in London? Everyone is at the fete. Especially when you see all the different flags? It’s great. St. Lucia, Grenada and Jamaica are probably the most represented islands. And Frenzy does draw a younger generation. But the older heads will not come out to party all the time. Frenzy has been going for 8 years now. The fans who were with us from the beginning may not want to party all the time. To keep it going you have to get the younger people coming in. The energy levels in Frenzy is different. People see Frenzy as a high energy event. Even the artists love that, they love that energy. Fetes like Release D Riddim probably have more of a core soca following. Frenzy probably doesn’t. People know soca but there isn’t a big core of people that will go to this carnival or that carnival. People come to Frenzy for the energy and you can probably release yourself differently.
Initially, you guys just hosted parties. But for me, I now associate Soca Frenzy as the team that consistently brings up soca artists. Was that more of a conscious move? It was a change of scenery, a change of vibe, a change of atmosphere. You can’t keep doing the same thing, people will get bored. And because we are so much in the soca arena, we know the music, we can make a decision and say ‘yes, I think this artist needs to come’. Our first artist was Chowmein in 512. Skinny Fabulous was the first one come to Scala. The way I see it, you might not come to Frenzy regularly. But if someone like Skinny Fabulous comes, he will bring a different crowd and we will still have the core Frenzy goers.
Do you normally game plan for the year? I think we freestyle it..[laughter] Really? There are some things which I see are constant for Frenzy. There are normally artists and there is normally theme wear. Themes is normally Matchiz [laughter] I don’t normally get involved with the themes too much. At the end of the day, if we think it will work, we go with it. He trusts my judgement as well as I trust his.
What would you consider a successful soca frenzy? You want me to be honest? I am never happy. For me there is always something missing. The average attendee might say ‘Yo Frenzy was mad’. But I will see the more technical side of it and think ‘yeah it was cool’. But there isn’t one Frenzy in your mind that sticks out and you think ’yeah that was cool?’ Yeeeaahh Loads. Mr Killa’s concert. The song ‘Rolly Polly’ was big and he needed to come up.
How hard is it to book artists for Frenzy? I wouldn’t say it is hard because all the artists want to come to England. They want to get their music out there. I haven’t found any artist who doesn’t want to come. The challenge is negotiations in terms of contract, as the promoters covers everything. The only thing that is probably not taken care of by the promoter is the drive to the airport from the artists’ home country. Everything else is the promoter.
Soca Frenzy has now gone international. The team went to St. Lucia with masqueraders, a carnival train. Was that part of a game plan? It’s something extra we wanted to add to what we do, to open up the brand itself. We give people an extra experience. I went to St. Lucia for Jazz festival and I thought ‘St .Lucia, yeah St. Lucia nice you know’. It’s a beautiful island, you can’t take that away from St. Lucia. Quite a few people came through and people have already signed up for next year. And the team going to St. Lucia gave us the opportunity to bring back Ricky-T and Motto to the Soca Frenzy Fete. Give it a few years and St. Lucia, everyone will be there. Yuma was there, Just for fun, Trinidadian artists were there, DJs and they were loving it.
Back to you as an individual, what do you think has been your biggest accomplishment to date? Me singing a song. I released a song called ‘Memories’ for Montserrat carnival this December’. I just thought ‘Wow did I really sing a song?’ I did a riddim this year. I’m more focused on production now. I have good networks especially in Trinidad; College Boy Jesse, Producer Spine of Zigboi Production. Preedy is my boy. So I have those sort of connections I can go through which is working for me now. We have something coming out (Me and college boy) on my riddim (Reborn Riddim) with Swappi, Terrah Dan, Villanz (Batcheco & Fontez).
And there we have it. Soca Frenzy, the team who appear to have their hands on the pulse of the next generation feters and consistently bring out the numbers to their events. With soca artists, the carnival train and Shaker HD and Matchiz at the helm, I can’t see Soca Frenzy being on the decline anytime soon. Can’t wait to see what this team comes up with next!
For more information on Soca Frenzy events,please visit www.socafrenzy.com, Soca Frenzy, Soca Frenzy Fete/Events, Soca Frenzy Carnival Train on Facebook, Soca Frenzy and carnivaltrain on instagram, Soca Frenzy on Twitter. All images used with the authorisation of Shaker HD.