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Soca Warrior, the Drumming Sensation!
We had the privilege of having our first class with live drumming at our Brooklyn class on Black Friday. A huge THANK YOU to Soca Warrior Jay for taking the vibe to a next level.
After a fun and vibrant class, we had the opportunity to catch up with Soca Warrior and ask him a few questions to help the Tribe get to know him better. We just had to know what made him so great and where did his passion come from.
Name Agyei Phillip
What country do you represent?
I was born and spent my childhood in Trinidad and Tobago until the age of 12 I lived in Never Dirty, Laventille. a valley village in the Morvant region of Trinidad
Where are you based?
I am based in New York, the Brooklyn borough to be exact. I end up in all of the other boroughs when performing.
What do you know about this Soka Tribe life? ;) (i.e. what is your affiliation, how long, how did it start)
Funny question lol, I met Soka Tribe in the battlefield of hard wuk and endless pace on the road during DC CARNIVAL WEEKEND In 2018.
What brought you to drumming? How long have you been doing it?
I am a natural-born drummer.
It doesn’t mean that talent was innate though it means that I had a natural passion and affinity for drums of all kinds ever since I could remember I would hear songs and sing the drum part of them, eventually recreating them with my hands or miscellaneous items I would gather. I worked very hard to acquire any skill you may see me display while drumming but it all felt like natural progression, steps towards my fulfillment.
I was a member of a St. John’s Spiritual Baptist Church when I was living in Trinidad and as is customary there were drums present for service and ceremonies. So essentially before I could talk I heard drums and in a sense, drumming became my second language without me even realizing it.
Do you play any other instruments?
I actually do play the other drums, like congas and the dunduns that are the backbone for the rhythms in West African drumming.
I spent a lot of time on the drum set as well though I’ve chosen not to expose it as I want to push playing the djembe drum first before I branch off and create new projects involving the drum set ;).
I once bought a guitar and after 2 weeks of learning the chords I found out that the guitar was defective and I couldn’t fix it, only purchase a new one.
I took that as a sign.
Where do you usually play? (use this as an opportunity to share your expertise/preference for gigs etc . ;)
I play at a number of places.. in the summer and warmer months I play outside on park benches when I practice and in the colder months I actually will play in the subways of NYC in the shelter of the cold but it tends to be quite productive as I encounter a lot of encouraging people as well as gig offers and recommendations. As for events, I play just about anywhere that there is a Soca Dj, I’ve been on a few stages during Soca artist performances, I’ve been to a few states for carnivals and events. I always play in west African dance classes with the other drummers and help provide music for teachers and students. Private events are for just about any kind, weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, in church for services, get-togethers, you name it.
Can you talk to us about the enhanced experience the drums bring to a fete?
The enhancement is unbelievable, not only is there an extra rhythm in the background driving you to move your body but I personally get to walk around and interact with the participants of the event. I honestly believe that it’s just in our DNA to see or hear a drum, especially those of the Afrocentric nature and be enamored by its presence, almost as a calling from our past and the impulse to embrace our heritage. Plus people just love drums, they are the easiest instrument to play, you just hit it, I have had many mid fete students in my career. My favorite thing to see is the person that wasn’t engaged in the music suddenly start moving as I come by, smiling, dancing, sometimes suddenly reaching out to tap the drum a few times. I would like to add that the drum does bring out the ‘worst behavior’ as well in a few people, it’s like the final restraints are lifted and the persons are entirely free to enjoy themselves.
Have you played mas before? When and where?
I have played mas a couple of times, I loved how beautiful it is being surrounded by the sea of colors, feathers, shiny reflective fabrics, the intoxicating music, amazing vibes and unbelievably gorgeous women carrying the spirit of our culture. The majority of the time I played was in New York for the labor day parade, though I am a Trinidad native I didn’t have to chance to play while I lived there and as of late I focus on carnival as a vehicle to promote my brand and form of entertainment. While I enjoyed the experience every time in my younger days I would say that I prefer to watch masqueraders enjoy themselves as opposed to being one now. Who knows I may be back as a masquerader one day. A couple of people have asked me to play with them on the road recently, I told them that if they put me on top of the truck and give me a supply of rum or water I’ll be the first one there.
What carnivals would you rinse and repeat?
The carnivals that I have to do every year would be the DC Carnival, and Miami carnival as it is the closest carnival to the Caribbean without leaving the states
Of course, Trinidad carnival is a must but I haven’t had many opportunities to be there around that time of year for the last few years.
What would you tell a first-timer going to carnival?
The first thing would be to make sure that you don’t wear any clothes that you would want to wear again, make sure you dressed comfortably, NO HEELS!!!. Second would be to make sure you get a full nights rest or as much as you can because you will be jumping up and down and running around with the most energized and enthusiastic people that you will ever see in your life. If you move too slow u might end up on the wayside!!
Finally, free up and enjoy yourself, that is what carnival is all about, embrace each other and our culture at the same time. Expect strangers to put their arms around you and jump with you when the best songs play, expect both women and women to be dancing beside you, sometimes with you. Expect to see the most amazing display of colors, energy, freedom, unity, and people from all over the world that you will ever come across in your life. Oh and make sure that you have the day off from your job the next day or two.
Soca Artist that you would want to fete with?
I’ve fete and performed with a few artists, they range from Lyrikal to Fimba, One Voice to Freezy, GBM Neutron to Hypasounds, Mista Killa to Marsville but I would have to say Motto and any artist from Grenada will fete with you till they fall out!!! I’ve met Kisha from St. Lucia and I would fete with her again too. Motto is one of my favorite artist to fete with because he brings the energy to another level, I’ve seen him run out on stage and throw a bottle of water and wet everything in 10 seconds. Likewise, I have been caught in the middle of Natty and Thunda mashing up at vip section with other Grenadian artists like Boyzie and Tallpree. I would like to fete/perform with Preedy, Sekonsta, Lunispark and Electrify, Lil Rick, Machel Montano, Denise Belfon, Olatunji, Pumpa. There are too many to name !!!!!
Anything else the Soka Tribe should know about you?
I am ready to create so much content and experiences for the Soca and feting culture. At this stage, I’m still putting a lot of it together but it will be amazing. I am also branching off into other genres of Afrocentric music genres in terms of my live drumming performances, I recently had the opportunity to perform with Davido, one of the biggest Afrobeat artist to do it and I was excited and grateful as Afrobeats are also one of my favorite genres of music! I am resurging African culture and music into our Caribbean culture even more!!!
Soca Warrior's Instagram: @SocaWarrior_Jay