Notting Hill carnival is just round the corner! And it’s safe to say that I have learnt a lot about London carnival mas bands over the past few months! It has been amazing and such a revelation! But, there are other aspects of the UK carnival and soca community that I am really not so familiar with. For example, the UK soca artists. This is so embarrassing… I don’t know much about our UK soca artists and to be perfectly frank, in the past I did not have any interest in knowing. I can tell you about Machel, Kes, Fayann, Bunji, Lavaman, Skinny. But ask me about Scrappy? Triniboi Joocie? Terrah Dan? Ashamedly, I know very little. For me, that is awful. And there are a lot of UK soca artists and producers doing good work out there. So it’s time for me to find out about some of them. First up, Sunshine and Nadiva (previously known as Muzik Lil Muzik, MLM dancers). I have seen them perform quite a few times over the years. The ladies and I talk about their career, soca and carnival.
Sooo… Tell me a bit about you. How did you come to be soca artists? Sunshine ( Samantha Bryant ) and Nadiva (Nadine Bryant) are two sisters of multi heritage (St.Vincent, St. Lucia and Barbados) who grew up with the West Indian Culture from a very early age in the UK. Nadiva describes their father introducing them to cricket, steel pan and calypso. ‘He took us to the pan and to this day we play pan with Mangrove Steelband’. Aside from the steel pan, the sisters also played piano and guitar from an early age. Whilst their father taught them a love of music, their mother taught them a love of costume and playing mas. Samantha and Nadine attended performing arts school studying drama and music theory. This is all incorporated into their current work and ‘vibe’.
As the sisters grew older, they began to sing, first in church. However, their love for the calypso and soca music was something that needed an outlet. Some would call it destiny but it so happened that Nadiva’s partner’s brother is no other than the producer Socachild. The rest as they say is history.
And since then… Sunshine & Nadiva entered UK Soca Monarch four times. Their first song for the UK soca monarch under their former name ‘Muzik Lil Muzik’ was called ‘For di Road’ in 2010 and they placed third. For their second attempt, the sisters won both power and Groovy that year with ‘Make a way‘ and ‘Two Flag‘ in 2011. In 2012, The sisters were awarded the Calabash Award for the Best Soca Group and the Soca Music Award for the best UK Soca artist.
The sisters took a two year break from music. I wondered why. Nadiva described a focus on pushing soca from a dance perspective as they love dancing and saw a gap in the market. They released danced videos with colleagues under the name MLM ( Muzik Little Muzik dancers, then Make Life Magnificent) dancers. They indeed seemed to have found a niche in the soca market. The MLM dancers have been the back up dancers for Machel Montano in London. The have been in several music videos particularly for the Afrobeats artists such as Wizkid who like the Caribbean flavour. But perhaps the greatest achievement was being the back up dancers for Olatunji as he won the 2015 Trinidad Groovy Soca Monarch title!
Samantha and Nadine returned to music in 2015 with a new name (Sunshine and Nadiva), a new song, ‘Keep Wukking’ and a new energy for their first passion, singing.
There have been quite a few name changes. Why is that? The name changes in a sense have reflected the growth and diversity of the Sunshine and Nadiva. Muzik Lil Muzik was the beginning with names given to them by the pan leader Len ‘Boogsie’ Sharp. Sunshine being the eldest was called ‘Music’ as she was a fountain of knowledge when it came to music. Consequently, Nadiva was called ‘Little Music’. With their success as dancers, Muzic Lil Muzik as a name admittedly was a bit of a tongue twister. And perhaps unconsciously, in an attempt to compartmentalize their dancing from their music, Muzik Lil Muzik became Make Life Magnificent. As singers, they became Sunshine and Nadiva.
What are the differences between you two as sisters and artists that help create your current sound? Sunshine described their great chemistry as sisters on and off stage. She described her sister as a ‘proper diva who likes to sing. ‘She brings the melodic soulful vibe’. I have more of a ‘gangster lean‘. Nadine agreed that Samantha in her sound brings the edge to their music. However, personality wise, Sunshine is the happy-go-lucky, playful sunshine kinda gal. I’m a bit more soulful, more emotional’
What is your sound? Sunshine and Nadiva agreed that they are still searching for their unique sound as soca artists. ‘I think we are on a journey to find ourselves as artists. Nadiva stated ‘There’s a thing that we say ‘soca in everything’. Whether it is a soca sound that you have heard before or bringing soca in a different format, there will always be soca. Sunshine described fusing their music with mainstream sound so that it has the Caribbean vibe as well as the UK vibe.
For you what has been your greatest accomplishment? When asked, there were quite a few for the sisters. Being the first artists to win the double UK soca groovy and power monarchs was one. Another was being nominated for an international soca award. And this year, having the first booking as soca artists in the Caribbean, Transcend, the big event in St.Lucia.
Who have been your sources of inspiration with reference to soca music? The key players when younger for Sunshine and Nadiva included artists from Calypso such as Lord Kitchener, zouk and soca. Modern day artists? Nadiva spoke about, Destra, Fay-ann, Alison Hinds and Lil bits.
What does carnival mean to you and for you? For Samantha and Nadiva carnival ‘epitomises freedom, escapism for a day. You feel happy, you’re in a moment amongst loads of people you might not know, plus a new family you would have created over the years. It also shows me culture and hard work. The run up to carnival is so intense, it’s the end goal, the final product is out to the road whether is be the music, the mas, pan.’
So what does the future for Sunshine and Nadiva? Sunshine and Nadiva will be performing in St.Lucia at Transcend on the 16th of July. They will also be performing at the Calypso tent for the Notting Hill Carnival Season. Sunshine and Nadiva will be releasing approximately 3-4 singles this summer, the first being called ‘Unstoppable‘. They will be having an EP launch hopefully at the end of October. As dancers, they will be performing with Skinny Fabulous and Rupee at the Crop Over event in Reading.
More information on Sunshine and Nadiva can be found on Facebook (Sunshine & Nadiva), Twitter (@sunshinenadiva) and instagram (sunshine&nadiva). MLM dancers can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under MLM dancers.