Back to square oneAlison HInds said the decision to leave the band was a hard but necessary one.
By Michelle Springer | Sat, July 24, 2010 - 5:37 PM
She has almost 25 years in the industry and yet is far from being stale. Singing sensation Alison Hinds understands what it means to have earned her crown as undisputed Queen of Soca, of yesteryear and today.
The titles and prizes she has accumulated over the years underscore her popularity but even in a climate where trophies are given for mediocrity, Hinds remembers what it was like to make music that had meaning.
Since the 1990s Hinds has become an important contributor to the contemporary wave of soca music at home and beyond. She sat with EASY Magazine and reminisced about the “old” days when paying dues was an important process in making music.
“When Square One came onto the scene we had to make sure that whatever we produced was on par with what was happening. In order to be on par with them, we had to make sure our songs were done properly.
“We came up with that from the beginning. It was never that we were trying a thing,” she said, stressing they were always conscious they were in the company of the Mighty Gabby, Red Plastic Bag, Grynner and Ras Iley.
As a backing band of the now defunct Untouchables Tent for several years, they would have garnered plenty experience in learning their craft that would have taken them to the pinnacle as one of the region’s leading soca bands.
The band went to record with producers such as Eddy Grant, Chris Allman and Nicholas Brancker in Barbados, as well as Pelham Goddard and Kenny Phillips in Trinidad. Their own Terry “Mexican” Arthur emerged out of that tradition and has become one of the island’s leading producers in the soca genre.
Today Hinds is amazed at the existing trend of first-timers recording and expecting to be paid for performances despite their absolute lack of stage experience.
During the mid to late 1990s there existed a period marketed by Trinidadian promoters as the “Bajan Invasion”, when Bajan artistes such as Edwin Yearwood and krosfyah, and later Alison Hinds and Square One, Rupee and Coalishun were dominating Carnival with ragga soca tunes.
The success of krosfyah’s Ultimate Party Pump Me Up album the previous year in the Trinidadian market turned attention to other Barbadian soca artistes.
“Edwin was the person who went into Trinidad when everything was ‘jump and wave’. He brought down the tempo with sweet melody and great lyrics and real ‘groovy’, and that was before the advent of the name ‘groovy soca’.
“It was ragga soca then as it is now. He stepped into Trinidad and ‘catspraddled’ the whole place with ragga soca. When we went in with our ragga soca tunes Bazodee, Kitty Cat, Sugar, Togetherness, they embraced us,” Hinds said.
In spite of their groovy tunes and having had the road opened for them, the band still had to prove themselves to serious soca critics. The band’s debut at soca mecca in Trinidad during Carnival in the 1990s was, for her, a humbling and nerve-wracking experience. They started playing in small clubs and eventually moved up to major band fêtes.
Hinds reminded EASY Magazine that in 1996 when she won Tune Of The Crop with Raggamuffin, the band already had ten years’ experience playing on the hotel and nightclub and tent circuit. Even with that title, she had no illusions of instant success.
“None of that mattered. People didn’t care what our background was. When we performed at our first major event with Legends, I was terrified. All I kept hoping was no one would ‘pelt’ us with toilet paper,” she said, laughing.
Before their popularity, most were fronted by men. Square One started to change that and paved the way for the likes of Destra Garcia, Faye-Ann Lyons and others.
“The girls were there basically as decorations before . . . . The attention blew me away. I never went in thinking I was going to dominate or forge a way for female artistes. It was nothing like that . . . we worked hard to get that respect from people in the land of calypso and it was a very big deal,” she said.
In 2005 Hinds got married and had her daughter Saharan. The decision to leave the band was for her a hard but necessary one.
“I thought about it for a long time, and I knew the time had come for me to move on. I was starting to feel really burnt out, having been touring consistently for over five years.
“I also knew when she was born I would have to give up touring and it didn’t seem fair to the other guys. It was really hard for me as we had been together for more than 18 years. But it was a decision I had to make,” she said. Since going out as a solo act she has continued to tour but now arranges her schedule around important dates on her daughter’s calendar – back-to-school, plays, sports day and the like.
Square One reigns supreme to this day – which is evident from the masses that flock to see them on the band’s rare appearances together. Last weekend was a case in point when they headlined Soca On De Hill at Farley Hill National Park, performing some of their hits, that are still popular today in the Crop-Over fêtes.
Hinds is aware of the criticism launched against her for performing songs that belie her age, maturity and musical development. But she warns that those songs only tell one side of the Alison Hinds story.
“I’m in the process of transitioning. As we speak, I have writers working on a special Caribbean musical that will explore the full range of my talents, dancing, singing and acting.
“The script and music will tell the story of Caribbean life that is little known around the world,” she said.
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