(The Video shows King Vers performing at Soca Rumble, a Soca Performance competition on the Island of St Maarten)
While staying in Dominica, Zoe Reeve managed to get a rare one-to-one with St Maartens Hottest prospect in Soca. In this article we interview King Vers, who won the title of best performer at the Bvi soca monarch on July 23rd in Tortola!
Zoe: Hi! Can you give a quick introduction about yourself?
King Vers: What's up world! I go by the name of King Vers, all the way from Sunshine City, St. Maarten, the smallest nation with two nationalities in the world (half French, half Dutch). Like most artists, I fell in love with music at a young age, but I've been taking music into my career since 2002. I always did a little bit of hiphop, a little bit of reggae, and a little bit of soca. Since 2012 I stuck to one lane and started to focus on the soca music. Thankfully I've been making waves and bringing the pressure.
Zoe: Cool, so coming from a small island which may not be as well known for soca as islands such as Trinidad, do you feel like you're at a disadvantage, and if so, how do you go about combatting that disadvantage?
King Vers: Well it's definitely a slight disadvantage because we don't have that many people here. For example there are hundreds of thousands of Trinidadians, if you think of the ones in Trinidad but also in Miami and all over the world. The same can be said for people from Barbados and Jamaica.
My island is only 37 square miles, but one good thing is that we have a lot of people from all around the world that come to visit or live in St. Maarten. The best thing I can do is put quality music out there to grab everyone's attention and help to raise the level of soca music in general. Sometimes soca is only about wukking up and drinking, but I want to bring across a bit more of a message about the struggles of every day life etc., which is why I have songs like 'Father Help Me Please' which talks about the struggles that everyone goes through.
I'm just looking forward to continuing to put out this kind of music and networking with other artists. To me, the Caribbean is one, you know, just like how America is one. In the Caribbean, good music can reach everyone - Everyone will accept good music.
Zoe: So have you already performed on a lot of the other islands?
King Vers: We just got back from Saba last week, and I'll be performing in Miami in October at Miami Carnival.
Zoe: When you say 'we', do you mean you and your manager?
King Vers: Yeah, me, my management team, my producers. We have a team called North Island Records. We have an in-house producer and an in-house video directing team. We basically do everything ourselves. We work with Asa Bantan who's from Dominica, and I actually have a song coming out with him soon.
Zoe: Nice, I'll look out for it. I was wondering, is there anything you can tell me about the carnival in St. Marteen? Even people who are into soca often don't hear much about the carnivals on the smaller islands, and they get less media coverage.
King Vers: Our carnival is definitely one of the best in the North Eastern Caribbean, and if I was to brag and push the limits, I would maybe say it was one of the best in the whole Caribbean, but I guess that's a matter of opinion. We have one of the biggest Jouvert mornings, and me and my team have our very own truck. It's called The Splash. We've completely raised the bar to another level, with two water trucks, paint, powder and last year we even had a pool on the back of a trailer. It gets real crazy. Everyone should make sure they're here next year for St. Maarten Carnival!
Zoe: If someone reading this wanted to join The Splash for Jouvert, how would they go about it?
King Vers: Well we sell The Splash kits here, but people can also search for The Splash on social media. We'll be making a website soon. We already have people from abroad in the band, for example there are a lot of people from Guadeloupe, Curacao and Aruba. It's definitely growing. Asa Bantan is on the truck with us every year so the Dominicans come out in force.
Zoe: Sounds good. You know how soca on some islands is very seasonal, aka it's only released around Carnival time, is that how you work too, or do you try to release music all through the year?
King Vers: Oh no, we definitely try to release music throughout the year. For the past year, we've been releasing a soca track every month. We're trying to get people out of that seasonal mentality, and it seems to be working. They definitely look forward to hearing new soca regularly. In my opinion, if you want the genre to thrive, the seasonal thing has to stop, and it's also important to bring more to it than the basic 'jump and wave' style songs.
Most other genres of music bring forth a message, so we need to do that with soca too. If you think of things like hiphop, they're not always about the partying - they're also about an important message.
Zoe: Yeah. From what I can understand, there are a lot of expats in St. Marteen from places like Europe, so maybe it's even more important to have more than just the 'jump and wave' when you're trying to appeal to them because they might not be accustomed to that, coming from countries without soca or carnival?
King Vers: Actually, it's a great mixture. The Europeans are mostly on St. Martin, the French side. On this side, it's more of a blend of Dominicans, Jamaicans, people from the Dominican Republic and from all the other islands such as Trinidad and Barbados.
Zoe: Oh fair enough. Do you have any cool plans or ambitions for the next few years? Is there anything specific you hope to achieve?
King Vers: Well, the goal is to get out there as far as we can go and keep pushing the genre forward. I want to leave a legacy behind and touch lives with my music. Sometimes it's possible to help other people through music, for example by telling a story through my songs that other people relate to, so they know that what they're going through is going to get better and they'll be ok.
Thanks to people like Machel Montano, Ricardo Drue and Lyrikal, soca is now 365. Every month there's a carnival somewhere in the world. I think now is the time to break the barrier and bring soca to more people by making soca songs with a wider range of content.
Zoe: Yeah, I understand. So I guess we could say that soca is becoming more wide ranging because recently some of the songs are more electronic. Do you think that's a good thing because it could help it to reach more people?
King Vers: I definitely don't see it as a bad thing. It makes it become more recognisable to ears in places such as Europe, where people may not be accustomed to the hard riddims that you often find in soca. However, I think it's important to also keep the original essence of soca and don't let it go too far.
Zoe: Makes sense. Do you have a favourite memory or achievement from your career so far?
King Vers: Up until this point, my most humbling moment was winning the 2016 Soca Crown here in St. Marteen. I'd put in a full year of hard work and dedication, with endless practice, trying to fix all the small things and now I'm starting to see the benefits of that, such as more bookings.
A funny moment we had during Carnival this year was when me and my team created an event called Bacchanal Sundays. We had King Bubba come down to perform, along with Cloud 5, DJ Stephen, Teddyson John and Fadda Fox. Those guys were left speachless because they don't really know about us, but by the end of the show we were all exchanging numbers and they were really impressed. They were definitely surprised when they saw that the crowd was singing along to my songs.
Zoe: That's awesome. Can you give an example of a day in the life of you? What does your career exactly involve?
King Vers: Well, I'm just hustling! I work part time at a radio station. I used to be a full time radio host but I took a step back to focus on my singing career. I finish work at the radio by 2 or 3pm and then I spend the rest of my time at the studio and with my son. Right now it's all about staying busy in the studio. We're also working on some other things like the website. My daily life is basically just hard work.
I'll really feel like I've fully succeeded when I can work full time as a soca artist and tell my Mom she can retire and be able to provide anything my son asks for.
Zoe: Well good luck with everything! Thanks for your time!
King Vers: Your welcome Zoe!
Follow him on Facebook: www.facebook.com/kingvers
Add him on Twitter: http://instagram.com/king_vers
Subscribe to him on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/kingvers
At the time of writing this Zoe Reeve was visiting Dominica, enjoying her experience while staying there and sharing it with us on her Blog https://travelwithzoe.org/ have a look and read about her reviews of her Carnival experiences written by a professional traveller in the Caribbean!