The history of Soca music reflects its origins as a modern, evolutionary form of calypso. Soca incorporates the indigenous musical traditions of the ethnic groups of the Eastern, English-speaking Caribbean. The history of Soca music begins in the 1960s and 1970s, with roots in both the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and the African sounds of Guyana.
Some say the history of Soca music began with Trinidad-born calypso singer Garfield Blackman, who recorded under the name of Lord Shorty and later, after becoming a Rastafarian, as Ras Shorty I. His objective, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was to revitalize calypso music by bringing it into the modern age. In particular, his important contribution to the history of Soca music was to blend East Indian rhythms, instruments and even Indian chants with the familiar Afro-Caribbean sounds. He called his music "solka" representing the "soul of calypso".
Eddy Grant, also considered one of the founders of the Soca genre, brought a global influence to the history of Soca music. Grant, who was born in Guyana, lived in Britain for many years before relocating to Barbados in the 1980s. He was a successful musician and composer who created what he called "kaisoul" a fusion of many global styles, including soul, calypso and pop music rhythms. In 1970, he released a song called, "Black-skinned Blue-eyed Boys." In a 1994 interview reported by author Milla Cozart Riggio, Grant said he believed this was the first Soca recording. More recently, he has identified his "Hello Africa" as his first Soca music recording.
The combination of Indian rhythms and percussion with calypso sounds was a characteristic that marked the beginnings of Soca. Lord Shorty--the name an ironic reference to his tall stature--used the dholak, tabla and dhantal to emphasize the beat and East Indian influences of his music. On the other hand, Eddy Grant's early music is more easily identified with the more commercial beat of pop music. In the history of Soca music it is possible to trace African, Trinidadian and even European influences in his compositions.
Lord Shorty released "Indrani" in 1973. It is still considered by many to be the first recorded example of of the genre in the history of Soca music. Later, in 1974, he released the album "Endless Vibrations." According to New Jersey-based drum specialists, Artdrum, the album influenced dozens of musicians to take up the new style. Lord Shorty's "Om Shanti Om" clearly demonstrates the Indian fusion elements. His incorporation of elements of Hindu chant in the lyrics was considered controversial by some.
A growing sexual subtext in Soca music drove some of the early proponents to leave the genre in the 1980s. Lord Shorty was reported to have complained that the music was being used to, "celebrate the female bottom, rather than uplift the spirits of the people." Lord Kitchener's "Sugar Bum Bum," recorded in 1978, and "Give Me the Ting" led the way in the evolution of Soca to more earthy themes.