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After a three year break, Barbadian soca artist Ms Desire returned to the Groovy Soca Monarch competition stage at The London Calypso Tent, rocking the audience with her new song Soca Raised Me. The song cleverly interweaves past hits and reminded soca fans of some of their favourites.
In an interview after one of the earlier nights of the tent she shared her musical background, history and future aims.
How are you, Ms Desire?
Good evening [singing].
How are you? Your set tonight was wonderful. I just think the audience and performers tonight will wonder where you’ve been.
[laughing] I’ve been around. You know I haven’t done the Tent for maybe two or three years. So I’m going to jump back in this year, and the song’s kinda cool. But you know it’s good to be back!
What was the name of the song? You know the music was so infectious; it moved me it took me; it had me.
[laughs] It’s called Soca Raised Me. It’s literally about how I grew up in soca music.
You grew up in soca music – and is it a family of musicians you come from or…
[cutting in] You know what? It’s funny you should say that because my father is from Jamaica and my mother is Barbadian, and he is more into the music side but he does more reggae, but growing up, going home to Barbados every summer I picked up the soca [laughs].
So did you start your singing there?
Yeah, I started singing in Barbados when I was like 18-19. In Barbados, we have this event called the Cobbler Pot. It used to be like the stage show before Crop Over. I went there when I was like very young and I saw Alison Hinds and I was like, “I wanna do this.” And now I’m doing it [laughing].
Did your parents encourage you to sing?
My mum was always like, “if you want to get into it just do it, it’s fine.” But I started singing in musical choir, I attended Sylvia Young [Theatre School]. I used to do BBC stuff, so it was all of that but it wasn’t until I got to teenage years that I was like, “Yes! I want to do soca!”
So what was your first song? Do you remember it?
Yes. It was in 2008 and it was actually Blood from Square One; he produced the song and he sent me the riddim. He sent it to me and he was like, ” I think this will fit you fine.” That was literally how we came about, but I didn’t think that Blood would actually notice me, but yeah, he’s the one that gave me my start.
Did you perform with him?
Yes, I used to go around and perform with [Square One] but then I started to perform with Kirk Brown and Strategy the band, in Barbados, and then I broke off and kind of did a solo thing by myself.
How did you meet DeeVine?
Oh she’s my friend. In Barbados we just grew up, we’re both from Barbados. She lives here and we both do soca so it was just like a thing of just seeing her out and we just met [laughing]. And we’re cool!
Are you signed to any labels or did you release any tracks in Barbados?
Yeah. I previously was writing [songs] for Universal Records, and I travelled up and down back and forth from Atlanta to New York to write for them – and I also have my distribution deal with VP Records. So my last album two years ago that I’d done came out with VP; currently, I’m writing and working on new stuff to bring out next year.
What was your last album’s name?
It was self-titled; it was called Ms Desire. And it was a really great album. It was an amalgamation of a lot of my new stuff, some old stuff and it was really, really cool.
Any reggae tracks in there? I know VP do a lot of reggae releases.
[laughs] You know what, I have this kind of Afro-pop [song] with a bit of reggaeton that I do, but they were cool, they were like, “If you wanna do the reggae go ahead, if you wanna do the soca, you can do the soca.”
What do you think of the blend of reggae and soca?
I really love it. I’m from Barbados and we champion bashment-soca, ragga-soca, like that’s our thing, so I definitely love the fusion of it.
When did you start singing in the UK? Was your first appearance at the Tent?
My first appearance wasn’t at the Tent actually. In 2008, when I was performing in Barbados, I came back straight here and I was introduced to the soca scene; everyone was like, come and do this and do that. I had loads of gigs here, in the underground soca scene.
You’re back at the Tent now. Was it because you were abroad that you took a break?
More so because it usually falls when I’m in Barbados, so it doesn’t really make sense because I’m never here to do the fullness of it. I’m here because I’m currently on tour with my band, One The Band. We’ve done Bonfire Festival in Germany, we’ve done Trinidad, so far.
Have you performed with Kes?
Yes, We’ve opened for Kes so I couldn’t go to Barbados for like 4 or 5 weeks when I know I have to be performing with the band so I’m here and it’s all fun [laughs].
Are you competing in the Groovy Soca Monarch competition?
Yes, I’m doing the Groovy Soca Monarch. I’ve never done it before, so I don’t know what to expect.
From the sound of things you’re probably going to push the whole competition all the way.
Oh! Thank you.
Is there anything you’re working on at the moment, because your music has this retro-soca feel to it?
Funnily enough, this is the most retro soca I’ve done. When I wrote [Soca Raised Me] last year November, I said, “This is for the Tent”. I was gonna do it for Crop Over, but I said, let me run it by the Tent and see how it feels. But I haven’t released the song, so I might see how it goes. I’m working on a lot of stuff with Precision, and I’m working on a lot of things for Trinidad Carnival next year.
So where do you take your inspiration from as far as your music is concerned? I’m sure I heard a little Calypso Rose in that song tonight.
[laughs] I do love a lot of calypso, but I love a lot of the New Skool stuff and I have a lot of good mentors, like Kes. He always has something to tell me about my music, and he’s always got a great ear. Alison Hinds is always listening and talking; I send my music to her back and forth, so I’ve got a lot of cool heads in the game that are able to give me a lot of advice like that.
Good luck with the Groovy Soca Monarch. Your performances are going down really well.
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