Fifteen hundred people, including me, left America for a magical experience the day after Donald Trump became the president-elect. We boarded the Norwegian Pearl in the port of Miami for the first ever Uber Soca Cruise, a five-day fete, aka soca party, to Jamaica and back (though many of us seriously considered not returning).
We left for freedom.
Branded as “an experience beyond the music,” the cruise was the perfect excursion from the immediate trauma of the presidential election. It was self-care, soca style. Parties and performances almost 24 hours a day, a comedy show from Majah Hype, and a beach paint party in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. It was epic. Sleep was profanity, good food was abundant, fun always came first, and people sharing Black joy was dominant. Respectability politics didn’t exist…not for those five days.
International soca artists like Kes the Band, Lyrikal and Kevin Lyttle are known for inciting licentious, hip gyrating, sex synthesizing movements with their music. Soca music is not synonymous with militant resistance like her artistic cousin, reggae. Soca is known as the ditzy jock, while reggae is the class president.
But, everyone and everything has a biography. Reggae is the child of ska and rocksteady music, a genre with roots in the militant ideology of resistance to colonialism of the Maroons. It was associated with poor people music. Soca is the daughter of calypso music. Calypso at its core is the political resistance and truth telling of enslaved Africans. The rhythmic motions associated with soca music are a direct repudiation of the respectability politic of French and English colonial powers. It is its own style of resistance to the system of colonialism that is birthed in white superiority and the othering of everyone else.
The Uber Soca Cruise othered no one. In between the dancing and drinking Olympics (some of what happens on the cruise stays on the cruise), EBONY.com spoke with two of the cruise headliners, comedian Majah Hype and international soca entertainer, Kes of Kes the Band.
EBONY.com: We set sail a day after America flipped crazy. What do you think the significance of the Uber Soca Cruise at this moment?
Kes: It is a revolutionary time for soca music. In this time and age, the world wants to feel love again. Soca music is a celebration of love without boundaries. No matter if you’re the pauper or the president you could just feel good.
Majah: The significance of what I do is the unification of the masses. If you’re on this boat you are experiencing that unifying spirit because there are so many cultures present. This cruise also shows the similarities of who we are as Caribbean people in general.
Kes: In this time, especially now, we need to balance things, yuh know. It have a lot of despair [because of the election in America], but at the same time we need to balance it out with a lot of love.
Majah: Numerous Caribbean islands share Soca music. If this were a dancehall cruise 90 percent of the people on board would be Jamaican. This is a soca cruise and it has people from Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Bahamas, US Virgin Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten. People experience unification, and that is what’s important to me.
When we returned to our lives in America we were bombarded with the reality of times. Trump picked a white supremacists to join his administration, Ben Carson is talking about re-branding the Department of Education to monitor political dissent of college campuses, and the real fear of many of our family members being mass deported back to the Caribbean. Instead of Black joy, we returned to uber anxiety.
The five-day 1st Uber Soca Cruise; the dancing, music, and time spent in the middle of the sea, was the prefect respite for these serious times. It was unabashed fun, and as one of the patrons described, “everyone cared about each other on this boat.”
I can’t wait till next year’s cruise because I am sure this era of despair will require more than the usual moments of time away from this morbid reality. It will require the freedom and magic of the Uber Soca Cruise.