MUSIC DOLDRUMS – By Dave Martins + Soca 2021 Video by Machel Montano

Stabroek News – By Dave Martins- January 17, 2021    

In the midst of all the continuing malaise triggered by the COVID pandemic here, one of the lesser noted consequences is the effect on the music industry.  Going in, one has to note that well prior to the epidemic, there has been a decline here, as well as in the Caribbean generally, for those whose income derives from the playing or selling of music in its various forms.

Overall, the music forms indigenous to us – soca, reggae, cadence, calypso, etc. –  have been hit hard in the past few decades both in the number of outlets selling that material on CDs and tapes, as well as in the significant decline of bands playing live in our various hotels, restaurants, bars, etc.       

Music concerts, as well, sometimes featuring visiting foreign bands, have recently also been almost totally curtailed, and it is noticeable that even the array of push carts selling Caribbean music CDS, commonly seen in previous years, are no longer seen on the city streets in Georgetown or New Amsterdam and some record stores have gone out of business.

In tandem, it is also worth noting that many of the various practitioners in the music arena have been affected, with several of them retiring altogether from the medium. Many are no longer seen performing, at home or abroad, and some units, such as the Tradewinds, are rarely seen in live performance in the region and even in North America.  The demand for calypso, soca and even reggae has declined suddenly, with even the normally strong demand for calypso during the famous Trinidad carnival suddenly reduced and similarly during Mash here, triggered almost certainly by the concern over large scale infections that can occur every time crowds gather anywhere for any kind of entertainment event.

We are living with the expectation that the effects of the pandemic, in time, will be controlled, and that the kind of concerns now in play any time crowds gather will no longer be a factor, but we have no idea how long that will take, and in the meantime, the picture is more than bleak for our musicians and singers and other personnel engaged in the music presentation business in its many forms; our radio and TV stations and places of entertainment are already feeling the pinch of that decline.

Obviously, as well, the factors referred to above are not going to fade away tomorrow.  Any kind of return to the glory days of Caribbean music with our seasonal carnivals and the year-round demand for our home-grown music in hotels, restaurants and bars, as well as in various social events, weddings, etc., will be a long time coming.  It’s hard guava season, as the Caribbean expression goes, for our musicians, singers, dancers, etc., as well as for the businesses where their talents are engaged.

We don’t know yet how the present curtailed display of these talents will be managed, or, indeed, what will be involved.  This is new territory not only for the practitioners, but for the various government agencies operating in our entertainment arena, and we do not as yet know how the problem will be managed.  There may well be significant and expensive changes being triggered in the process – and likely ones that not all units can afford.  Ultimately, it could easily mean that many of our artistes will have to find other ways to earn a living, and, indeed, as I write this, I know of several examples where this shift is already taking place.

Certainly, not all will be able to make the adjustment successfully, it will require other talents than the musical ones, but the creature is clearly upon us.   Technology could also be one area of recourse.  The ability to reproduce recordings at less cost than is currently required is one area of hope, as is the technology that allows us to purchase music collections online, without even leaving our homes, but the volume there is not likely to totally replace the volume lost with the reduction in crowd assembly with the COVID concerns.

In sum, this is, in effect, a new world for the full-time musician or performer and responses to it will certainly come in methods and equipment that are not yet about.  While we wait, take great care with the present collection of CDs, tapes or LPs that you may be lucky to have.  They seem certain to be your good companions in the days ahead, in your home, or your vehicle, or in your various social gatherings.  One thing for sure: the way we used to go out and take in entertainment without giving a thought to the process is likely a thing of the past.  Let’s be grateful we had some time with it, and hope that will be the picture again someday.


The following video was selected by Guyanese Online to show that SOCA music is NOT in the doldrums. It is only in hibernation because of the lockdowns and social distancing controls that are the norm now.

— NO CARNIVAL 2021… NO CONCERTS  — Machel Montano Remembers How it was before COVID

Long Time Refix (Official Music Video) | Machel Montano x Parry Jack | Soca 2021

222,500 views – Premiered Jan 21, 2021
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  • brandli62  On 01/27/2021 at 4:43 am

    Wonderful home in the mountains of Trinidad featured in the video!

  • Brother Man  On 01/27/2021 at 4:11 pm

    Dave says that times are hard for people in the music industry and that it started before the pandemic put a lid on everything.

    I can see how bad things are right now. With all de noise Machel Montano making we in big trouble. I think Dave should apologize for exposing us to this screeching sound MM calls music. I had to cover my ears. It’s torture!

    Just like we cricket, we music going to the dogs. God help us!

    Brother Man

    • guyaneseonline  On 01/27/2021 at 7:30 pm

      Hello Brother Man and other readers:

      Please note that the article by Dave Martins had no attachment with music videos etc. The music selection of Machel Mantano in this entry was made by me as the editor of this blog. I will note this on the entry now.

      It may be noted that music tastes have radically changed over the years and it is very difficult for older persons to appreciate what is being called “Music” today.
      Technology today has also made most music free, or almost free, due to copying on CD’s and downloads. It is therefore very difficult for musicians to earn income from their recordings.

      Calypso may be in the doldrums, but SOCA is alive and well. However, their money today is made by Live Events by Machel Montano and others who have established themselves as top-tier performers. They make their money during Carnival and touring— locations like the Providence Stadium in Guyana, are packed to capacity.

      Cyril Bryan. Editor.

      • brandli62  On 01/28/2021 at 4:26 am

        Cyril, thanks for your insightful comments! So true!

  • wally n  On 01/27/2021 at 4:53 pm

    Can’t believe I am agreeing with brother man…probably first time he was ever…correct!

    Off topic.. I owe Dave for eight cassettes…hope he is not broke

  • Kman  On 01/29/2021 at 4:25 pm

    I Tune and Shopify making money on their sites. Today with technology so embedded with ‘music’ production, one has to be selective as to the music one likes and support those talented artists.

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