Ultimate Rejects’ song “Full Extreme” was the top song of 2017, winning the Road March in a landslide count.
The song debuted at the Sunset Festival in December 2016 and for Johan Seaton, one quarter of the group and one half of Madmen Productions, the win was really a win for Caribbean Dance Music.
“It isn’t soca,” said Karrilee Fifi in an interview with Loop.
Fifi is the founder of the Caribbean Dance Music Conference now in its third year.
This year’s conference will take place on Saturday, December 2 at Cipriani Labour College and will also double as the launch of On Lock Record, which she started with producer Kit Israel of Advokit Productions.
Fifi is very passionate when it comes to the labelling of Caribbean music.
She has been pushing CDM as an umbrella term to describe the musical fusion in electronic and other Caribbean musical genres that has been happening for years. Her aim is to make CDM a genre with its own sub-genres.
For Fifi, mixing electronic music with soca does not soca make.
“My biggest struggle is that soca right now is being fused with electronic music but the producer and artists are still branding it as soca. If there is electronic music now and we didn’t have it five, ten years ago how can it be called soca? It has to be called a fusion genre. We can call it future soca,” she said.
Stating that there are hundreds of sub-genres in electronic music, Fifi pointed out that even in dancehall there is an electronic fusion sub-genre called Future Dancehall so she doesn’t see why soca can’t have sub-genres.
She did admit that with soca still struggling to make it internationally nothing else matters to the influencers who prefer to call everything soca.
Fifi, an avid music lover with a degree in Marketing from the University of Guelph, got interested in the music industry when she first started working with businessman Johnny Soong on some music events.
“The first time we had Major Lazer was in 2013 for WeTT Republic. We did that in three weeks and got 7000 people so it was clear there was a market for electronic music so that opened my eyes that the market was ready for something new and different. The following year we got the licence to do the Life in Colour show and later that year we did WeTT Republic again and we had Chuckie and Nuvo, these are main stage DJs but we went from 7000 to 3000 people,” she recalled.
She said she realised that there was a disconnect between the genres as people gravitated to the music Major Lazer did because it combined what we know and love, compared to the pure thing.
“I said I will start a platform called CDM Generation to connect artists, DJs and producers,” she said noting that it is a platform to promote CDM.
With On Lock Records, Fifi is creating another platform for artists to get their music to an international market.
Through a friend, Simon Khan, she met Jose Abreu, Sony’s Senior Director for Digital Business in the Latin region.
“We have been talking for two years and he is interested in CDM and how Sony could push CDM. Basically, he said if we started a label it could act as an incubator label for Sony so I signed a two-year distribution deal with a digital label called The Orchard so I would distribute content from the Caribbean. They want to see which content does well and then they will step in and get involved. It is not CDM specific, it is just good music specific. We have so much talent in Trinidad and Tobago outside of soca,” she explained.
Fifi said for the conference they ran a promotion asking artists to send in their demos and the top track will be released on On Lock Records. In the future, she plans to partner with other local platforms to source talent.
“I am not your saviour but I will give you opportunities through partnership with Sony. They have networks to place songs in regions that might be best. It is all about placement, people will know where to go to find music they like,” she said.
Participants at the CDM conference will experience highly interactive workshops and informative presentations by professionals on both the international and Caribbean music scenes.
Highlights of the conference include a demo listening session, live production demonstrations, a songwriting and recording segment. Guests of the Conference will make a CDM track, live, alongside a team of industry pros.
Speakers include Kees Dieffenthaller, Soca Monarch Voice, Keshav of Jus Now, Jose Abreu, Senior Director, Digital Business, Sony Music Entertainment, Mark Hardy, Stef Kalloo, Jimmy October and Tano.
The CDM Conference will take place on Saturday, December 2 from 9 am at the Cipriani College of Labour and those who wish to attend can do so at $250.
By Laura Dowrich-Phillips