The days of soca artists giving featured performances accompanied by recorded music are numbered, if a new band has its way; the London-based Tropical Storm Band are on a mission to keep public appearances truly live. To make this a reality, they are offering to back, with their full band, any artist who is able to travel to the UK.
Garvin ‘Scrappy’ Johnson, lead vocalist and band co-founder, says that it’s an insult to the hard work of soca’s founders that today’s artists are singing to backing tracks. He also feels that it undermines any attempts to fully showcase Caribbean music to new audiences, saying, “If you’re going to expose the Caribbean, expose it at its best, at its fullest… That is the whole purpose of having a live band.”
Johnson adds, “To me, it [a live band] enhances the artiste’s performance and lets people understand a lot more of what the culture is, what carnival is, what soca is, what Caribbean entertainment is.” Although they are yet to officially launch, Tropical Storm Band have already been making waves. In May they supported Trinidadian singer-songwriter Nadia Batson, and followed this up with an appearance in their own right at Ipswich Arts Festival in June, sharing that platform with soca star Shurwayne Winchester. Johnson says, “Working with Nadia was golden. She is a wonderful person, and very talented vocally. We would like to be in her presence again very soon.”
An award-winning singer, both in his native Montserrat and in the UK, Johnson is best known for hits such as Start to Bounce, Be Mine and his 2012 offering, Put Them Up. He is joined in the Tropical Storm Band by fellow vocalist Konata Alleyne, Shawn Caribbean and Dsharp on keyboards, Drummix on drums and MD and Bid D on bass. They have been playing together since June last year, and are working on their debut release, which they hope to drop in time for Notting Hill Carnival.