As Soca Goes Global, Fans Of The Genre Are Following It Around The World

Courtesy of author

Soca has always been a forceful presence in my life. As a child of parents who were born and raised in Trinidad, the island of this musical genre’s birth, its enchanting rhythms have turned my frowns into smiles, strengthened ties with loved ones, and ushered in some of the most joyous family celebrations. Now, as an adult, I am experiencing firsthand another one of its great powers: the ability to unify cultures around the world and encourage exploration.

In my recent travels, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing just how soca is opening doors to exciting, global destinations beyond its roots in the Caribbean. From the Ibiza Soca Festival in Spain to Melé in Mexico and Soca in Japan, it’s giving rise to festivals in unexpected places. That includes Soca Wkndr in Portugal, a four-day extravaganza taking place in the coastal city of Albufeira, filled with multiple parties and activities, each one powered by the genre’s melodious beats.

“It’s a unique thing that allows us to have a different bond,” says Jay Maguire, one of the organizers of Soca Wkndr. “I just think it’s utilizing something in our community, which is really good, and it’s nice to see that so many people can have some shared experiences from just our small little islands in the Caribbean.”

Soca Wkndr Portugal is one of several branches of the Soca Wkndr franchise. The first one launched in 2015 in the U.K. was initiated by a group of promoters who loved to travel and listen to music.

“What we wanted to do was create a brand that would, in addition to allowing people to have some shared experiences, allow them to go to different places in the world that they potentially wouldn’t have gone to before, and kind of give them a reason to travel,” says Maguire.

Just over 100 people from across the U.K. took the chance and attended Soca Wkndr’s inaugural event. Now, nearly a decade later, the brand is attracting patrons from all over Europe and across the Atlantic in the United States. The most recent Soca Wkndr in Portugal catered to roughly 500 people, including myself.

As Soca Goes Global, Fans Of The Genre Are Following It Around The World
Courtesy of author

I had never thought about visiting Portugal until 2022, when I attended my first Soca Wkndr. I met people from places like the Netherlands and France where the music isn’t mainstream, but every time we met on the dance floor and seamlessly moved our bodies to the captivating beats belting out the speakers, we became one. These faces that belonged to strangers have since become familiar friends. Instead of passing each other by when we entered the venues, we exchanged smiles, hugs, and kisses. Our cultures truly had become a beautiful mélange – and it was all thanks to soca.

“It always brings out a happy feeling within me,” says Leon Bibby, who also attended Soca Wkndr for the first time in 2022. Bibby lives across the pond in London, yet he and I have built a unique and flourishing friendship over the last decade. We first met in Trinidad during carnival because of our shared love for the genre. He agrees that soca has encouraged him to travel more.

“It’s a feel-good factor knowing that I can go somewhere, although I may be alone, there are other people who may be alone, but we can unite there,” says Bibby. “We have a common interest, the music, and that’s the key.”

That energy is so strong that it brought me back to Portugal in 2023, giving me another opportunity to explore a coastal gem like Albufeira instead of the typical tourist path in Lisbon. I spent a day admiring the breathtaking views at Praia da Oura, a beach known for its golden sand and clear blue water. I had my first taste of baroque, a traditional Portuguese-style steak topped with potatoes, while dining at Donaldo’s in town. I also got to experience Albufeira nightlife, dancing until early morning at the trendy outdoor club Libertos.

“We go to carnivals together, we go to fetes together, and now we travel together,” says Maguire. And there are no plans to slow down. Soca Wkndr will add another destination to its catalog in April when it sets up shop in Amsterdam. And in 2025, the brand will have another opportunity to bring together different cultures when it heads to the Dominican Republic.

“It’s very hard to explain what our community is,” says Maguire. “But once people see it and experience it, they love it, and they don’t want to let it go.” It’s a special attachment to the genre that I’ve known since I was a child. And as events like Soca Wkndr continue to grow, going further and further, so many others are getting to experience that excitement too: proof of soca’s incredible power of spreading unity worldwide.

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