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Two-time International Soca Monarch Aaron “Voice” St Louis hopes his song Year for Love will turn youths away from crime.
St Louis’ hit may be soca but it is commentary in the style of any veteran calypsonian.
“A Year for Love came about because I wasn’t feeling too good coming down last year. With all the crime taking place, I decided to write a song about love, a song for the youths,” St Louis said in an interview at his studio in his San Juan hometown on Friday evening.
“Usually, I write the first thing which comes to mind. When I heard the Upendo Riddim I wanted to write a ‘jam’ song because of the zouk element in it. That was my first thought, but I thought, ‘Let me write something meaningful.’”
St Louis, who turned 25, on December 30 redefines the “badman” image in the song.
“A badman is not someone who does shoot and kill, anyone could do that.” The song continues: “Badman is a man who does defend woman and protect the young ones by any means... A real badman does make his own decisions. He don’t need anyone. He only needs God.”
A “badman”, said St Louis, is someone who takes care of his family. His song encourages the youth, especially young men to be more spiritual and hardworking, and to refrain from committing crime.
His soca social commentary has been noticed by arts practitioner, Dara Healy, founder of the NGO, the Indigenous Creative Arts Network (ICAN). In her Newsday column, Double Meaning, published yesterday, Healy writes, “As a developing country, it is important for our music to be nation-building in orientation. Thankfully, young artists like Voice continue to lead the way.”
St Louis, a graduate of St George’s College, Barataria, wants his songs to have meaning outside of the festival.
“I want to have music that is all year round, not only for Carnival. Music on topics that everyone could relate to. Music that could last ten years from now,” he told Sunday Newsday.
St Louis’s second song, Full of Vibe, is a collaboration with Marge Blackman, daughter of the late calypsonian, Garfield Blackman also known as Ras Shorty I, who is hailed as the creator of soca.
While the song was to be released last year, St Louis said he chose a time “where it could shine on its own.” Full of Vibe follows his theme for Year of Love, as it focuses on positivity, friendship and love.
St Louis said he felt blessed to work with Marge. “I am a big fan of Marge Blackman. I wish I could hear harmonies liker her, she’s amazing. It was an honour to work with her.”
On being the youngest reigning soca monarch for the past two years, St Louis said, “Titles don’t really matter to me.”
“This year I just want to work on improving myself and the music. It’s always about creating good music; music that they could sing along to, not just for the Carnival, but beyond.”
St Louis won back-to-back titles with hits Cheers to Life, in 2016, and Far From Finished, last year.
He said his career began “off of kicks” when he and a few friends entered St George’s calypso competition hoping to win the cash prize and, with it, buy KFC. To his surprise, they won the competition, and he was able to win again the following year. After his second victory, someone told him, “You should take this seriously. You have a knack for this,” which spurred his passion for music and song writing. Since then, St Louis has been pursuing his career. He began in the seventh season of Synergy Soca Star placing second, however, he did not let the loss discourage him. Instead, the young star continued on his path to success.
“I started off working on my writing and taking it seriously with Full Blown Entertainment,” a company that has produced music for soca stars such as Kes, Machel Montano, Patrice Roberts, and Kerwin DuBois. That association eventually led him to his Soca Monarch successes. And while he did not want to comment on if there will be a competition this year, as promoters face financial challenges, St Louis said if there is one he’ll take centre stage to defend his crown.