To state someone’s country or city of origin is pretty simple in these times of social media – everyone can recall seeing the plethora Facebook pics hittingtheir timeline and everyone has seen messages like “straight outta Compton” or “Rep your city” or “rep the movie” it's easy, and a powerful way of signalling this aspect of your identity: just type in where you from, add the picture, download, or upload on whichever platform you choose and...done!
In an increasingly politically promiscuous and economically bonded time, nationality certainly becomes a debatable subject. However, when you hear someone stating that he or she is ‘straight outta St. Lucia’, you probably don’t think about the type of national distinction that is often associated with a moderate breeze of exclusion or even racism. Well, I guess, some of you might wonder where on a map you’ll find this island named St. Lucia and how it is about.
If this is the case let me use the following interview to introduce you to this island of the Caribbean whilst bringing to you a St. Lucian musical export, Soca-star Marley Mervin James aka Mongstar, who boldly states where he’s from. It is his seventh year as a professional artist, Mongstar claims a patriotic homage to his home country during his full career. The entertainer started his journey in 2012 by releasing the hit song ‘St. Lucia We Love’, followed by ‘Nationality’ in 2013 and ‘Bad On De Road’ in 2014. This season he released ‘Straight Outta St. Lucia’, days ahead of St. Lucia’s 37th independence anniversary. Mongstar knows how to create the right, infectious vibe, how to express how proud he feels of his country and how to share it through his music.
Mongstar is musically versatile and a good example to those who wish to delve deeper into the St. Lucian soundscape and vibe, the music he creates is addictive and delights and the artist himself is quite humble and always smiling when it comes to the question of where he’s from, which is – “straight outta St. Lucia”.
Anika: Hey Mongstar, we’re glad to have you here on Carnevale network. Can you give us a brief introduction of yourself for those who don’t know you?
Mongstar: Well, first of all my name is Marley James, my Soca stage name is Mongstar. I’m a St. Lucian living in St. Lucia right now, love to do music and I’m home chilling.
Anika: Well, you started off your musical career with Dancehall music. Why did you choose Soca then?
Mongstar: Yes, I still love Dancehall music and RNB, but I’m just waiting for the perfect timing to do some of that work. Soca in St. Lucia is one of the quickest marketing strategies, while creating Dancehall Music was a good experience and appreciated by many it was clear that there was a cultural preference here for Soca music so I then had to switch from Dancehall to Soca. That was the quickest thing to do, I created my following and identity as a Soca Artist. butthese days I can say: I will do a Dancehall tune and people will accept it.
Anika: So we can expect some more Dancehall tunes?
Mongstar: Yeaaaah, you gonna get some more. This year, I gonna release some Dancehall music and some Afrobeats as well. I try to do all genres of music right now, I still stick to Soca, but you know, the best thing to do right now is actually to mix the Soca with the Dancehall or mix it with RNB, so you get that different kind of brand, but it’s still Soca.
Anika: And beside crossing genres I see you also do collaborations quite often - I just came across your latest release ‘Bacchanal Life’ alongside Fireball. How did this collaboration come together?
Mongstar: I mean, it’s always good to collaborate with other artists, in and out of St. Lucia, regional and international acts as well. To me, it’s a different vibe, you get a different feeling. You have Trinidad's flavour and then you have St. Lucia'sflavour, but when you put those two together you’ll get a mixture of both, you get one kind of good mixture. Fireball and I, we planned to do a whole collaboration from since 2013, from the “All 4 One” competition in Martinique. I wrote the whole song ‘Bacchanal Life’ and then I sent him the song, he liked it and I told him: ‘Okay, sing the second verse’, but he never sang the second verse, he just did his own thing and that was it!
Anika: So you we’re rivals before, back in 2013 at the competition and then you collaborated this year?
Mongstar: Yes, we just collaborated this year. I won the competition in 2013 in Martinique and then... I don’t know why it took three years to link him, but I’ve always been linking him on WhatsApp, but everything comes in time and I had to get the right song, so I think that song was the right song at the time.
Anika: While we’re talking about competitions, you have a quite a bunch of competitions you were in...
Mongstar: Yeah, well in 2010 I won the ‘Piton Soca Starz Competition’, then in 2011 I placed third in Groovy and then I won the Soca Switch Competition in 2015, that was last year, and now we have Soca Monarch happening* It’s the last qualifying round before the finals I’m in, so Friday I’m out to do my thing, I mean, I come full of energy.
Anika: I see! Which tune are you going to play on Friday?
Mongstar: On Friday I’m playing ‘Rebels.’ That’s Power Soca, that’s what I’m doing in the competition.
Anika: How did you come up with this concept of rebels in the song?
Mongstar: Well, honestly, the concept of rebels… I mean, from last year I went into studio and the producer built a riddim. I started feeling the riddim when I went home and I came back and, I don’t know quite know how to explain it, it just came out in the booth and whileI was there I created the chorus‘all fall down, all fall down’ and then the producer says: ‘you know what happens?, we will call that thing ‘rebels!’. And the story formed behind it. You know, rebels are people who are always fighting for something right? But most of the time they begin humble and they’re calm and all of a sudden they just get furious and get upset, because something’s happening that they do not like, so they have no choice leftbut to come out and rebel in some way. So I’m coming out with this tune to represent for all rebels. And when the tune is heard, I want everything that's being rebelled against to fall down, because it’s basically fighting for something that we as a group think is right and justified.
Anika: Well, good luck for Friday. Let’s switch to another topic: you also released ‘Straight Outta St. Lucia’ for this season and you’re representing your island a lot in this tune, so where does this patriotic love come from?
Mongstar: Well, I don’t know. I just believe that every time I do music, I have to represent for something. For my friends and family first, who were there for me even before I started creating 100% Soca Music, and then I always like and love to give my St. Lucian people, for my other fans too it's a song for them being there, for them being loyal, you know? So I have to always have a song out there, to show them my appreciation, which I gave them back in 2012 my tune ‘St. Lucia We Love’ and then the following year in 2014 with ‘Nationality’, and then I stopped and they kept on asking me: ‘why don’t you give us another St. Lucian song, Mongstar?’ So I told them: ‘if you want me to do another song, well, then I will do another song.’ That’s why I did ‘Straight Outta St. Lucia’. So right now, people are always saying: ‘Boy, one thing boy, you’re one of the best artists we have here, ‘cause you’re always repping your country.’ No matter what, no matter where I go – I can go to London, I’ve been Canada, New York, I’ve been Texas, no matter where I am - full support. ‘Straight Outta St. Lucia’ is a different kind of St. Lucian song, it’s like Techno-pop, it’s hype, so it’s a different style, it’s not just groovy, but it’s different. You know, I did it because I want it to hit Europe, the French territories, other territories to that it could actually hit a bigger circle of people.
Anika: So basically you’re promoting your home country while showing respect to your people…
Mongstar: Yes, I want to promote my country, I want to make St. Lucia a part of the music industry in the world, so it can become globally recognised. When it comes to music, the first thing when we talk about in the Caribbean is Jamaica, because Jamaica has a lot of globally recognised artists, but I want them to see St. Lucia as well, because we’re kind of little, we’re invisible, but people with good eyes recognize our country. So I want people to know about St. Lucia like they know about the other islands, like Trinidad and Jamaica, I want them to know, that St. Lucia is there as well. It’s my main aim and also I want to open the doors to other artists, to younger artists that are coming, so I’m setting a trend for them as well. It’s not only when you do a song, to think that it’s music, you have to do music to live on, like Bob Marley’s music and Bob Marley is dead and the music is still going on, but that’s what makes a legend. So I want to be the next legend that remains, so when I die, my songs live on. In maybe a hundred years from now, the younger youth will still dance to my music and it will be still pulled up by the younger DJs.
Anika: So that is your musical goal?
Mongstar: My musical goal, actually, is to just keep on doing music and do it for my family, for myself, my friends, for my country and yeah man, see myself on a next level, I don’t plan stopping there. I plan like opening a big studio and building riddims, collaborating with the producers from outside, bringing in new music, bringing in new vibes, new tunes and educating the younger ones, helping those that cannot do it, that cannot afford. Thus we have to go forward, I’m going and they’re coming, so we have to set the right place for them, the right footsteps for them to follow, we have to make it good for them.
Anika: Sure! Well, as you said St. Lucia is pretty invisible when it comes to an international music scene, so can you tell me some more about the St. Lucian Soca industry?
Mongstar:, to be honest with you, it’s not only in St. Lucia but everywhere in the Caribbean, it’s tough. Soca music or let’s say music on the whole is tough to begin with, because we first need an avenue to get our music out there to the public, which we are still fighting to have, because we support a lot of people in the Caribbean who are involved in sports. but music is one of the things that helps a lot of people who may not be physically gifted, that cannot help themselves and they have that dream to progress in life. Some went to school and they came out with nothing, but you have that talent, that dream, that pushes you, music can be that thing, but it’s very hard here, because everybody wants to do it, and not everyone wants to help everybody. But Soca is also quite a diverse Music Genre. Our Soca here is very different than Trinidad Soca, Grenada Soca or St. Vincent Soca. The riddims we have, they are more vulgar, more hype, you have to give a lot of energy, a lot of bounce, you have fun once it’s carnival time, because you hear riddims that just push up your blood level, you know, you get so much energy, you say high-pitched voice: ‘Why, St. Lucia why? St. Lucia, this is a mad place!’ You’re having so much fun, you say you must come back again, yeah, you must come back to St. Lucia carnival!
Anika: So you have more Power Soca? Because some Trinis were claiming that Power Soca is dying…
Mongstar: Right, but we don’t want our Power Soca to die. But that Groovy actually started to take over, because everybody is trying to do the Groovy like Trinidad does, but they tend to forget about themselves, about their culture, so they don’t want to do Power Soca, because they believe Power is not really accepted now. To me, if you go in a fete, and you get Groovy it’s good, but if you get Power, you will jump, you will wave, you will sweat, you will get it good, you will whine, you will drink and you will be wild. Power Soca creates a different kind of mentality, you have that power from that riddim coming down sings dudududmdudmdudm – you starting to jump one time, so that alone will have you hyped up, that alone will make you start to sweat, you know, you’re clothes start to wet up as you raise your energy. I believe, that we have to try to save the Power avenue of Soca, don’t let it die, we have to keep it breathing, and keep bringing it back.
Anika: Do you have any idea why the music from Trinidad or Jamaica is so much more exported, much more popular than the other islands?
Mongstar: I will tell you why: Everybody has a different vibe. I love Trini music, I love Jamaican music, but every country, every island has a different vibe. But a song can only get popular according to the amount of times it has been played, it’s been rotated on the stations. The DJs push it, but sometimes the biggest song in Jamaica might not be rated as the biggest song in St. Lucia from Jamaica. It’s what you keep on hearing over and over. So sometimes Jamaicans come down to perform their big song and in Jamaica that song doesn’t make sense for Jamaicans, but to us it’s the biggest song. Trinidad music comes here as well, it’s according to which song is the biggest song in Trinidad, what song DJs choose to push, so quite often we automatically follow the Trinidadians: “Well Bunji has that song, okay, well Machel Montano has that song this year” e.t.c. and then it gets big, then we play it more and more here, and soon that'sthe only thing being played. The more you hear it, the more you get into it. Soon that’s all you’re hearing, that’s all you know, you learn it, you know it already, and for a Soca artist that’s the best thing that could ever happen. But Yeah, I don’t know, to be honest with you, I love every music… Imagine, this year I performed with Cecile. She was headliner in the show, but I was the last St. Lucian artist before her. When I came on the stage and she saw the way the people got crazy she came to me and said: ‘it’s best they had put you after me, man!’ I told her: ‘don’t worry, just go on stage, St. Lucians will accept it no matter what, because you supposed to be headliner, you know, Cecile.’ She was so afraid to go on after me, because of she thought she won’t be able to bring that crowd back the same way it was. So you know, sometimes they don’t know, when they come they don’t look at me, they don’t know about me, but I know about them. So they don’t know Mongstar? Why? Because Jamaicans push Jamaicans. Can you can go to Jamaica and hear St. Lucian Soca playing anywhere? Nope!
Anika: But in St. Lucia you play a lot of Jamaican music, Dancehall music or Trinidad sound...
Mongstar: Yeah, that’s the thing, they play a lot of that, they play more Jamaican music and more Trini music than the local music. No doubt about it! But at the end of the day, I mean all that is part of entertainment, but it has to be in a way it’s balanced. Because we have a season as well, if we go in studios and we’re paying for music to be done, investing in ourselves, I want the St. Lucians to even know if their artists have music out there, because they’re asking: ‘where is the music? I’m not having the music!’ The DJ has the music; why don’t they play? Because they still want to play Jamaican music and the Soca doesn’t make sense. So you hardly don’t get anything at the end of the day. So nobody knows what’s going on, the fans don’t know your song, because they’re not hearing it. It’s either you repost it on Facebook, social media, YouTube, that’s how you have go. But for me, no matter what happens, I don’t discriminate. I don’t want to say that I don’t care, you know, but I don’t puzzle my head over what’s playing or what’s not playing, all I do is my music and let the music do its thing.
Anika: Sounds great! Alright, Mongstar, we’re heading over to the last question: can you please tell me three random things that the public, the media does not know about you?
Mongstar: Well, a lot of people don’t know, apart from me singing, I delight myself when I go fishing, diving as well and I love my mum’s green sauce!
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*The Soca Monarch Prelims were on Friday, 1st of July. Check Facebook @MongstarE for the results and follow St. Lucian Soca Monarch Finals on 17th of July.
High energy, creative in the extreme and with a strong passion for Caribbean music – "Big Anikäy" is always ready for anything! This young girl from Germany studies media science, while hosting Radio shows and working on your next favourite mixtapes, interviews and articles. Get in touch with Anika via bubblegyalsound(@)gmail.com or via https://www.facebook.com/anika.klimke.