Because you needed this in your life and the carnival season is upon us and because wining (without an “h”) is totally a feminist act. And some of allyuh need to be schooled in some classics.
Do note: for the purposes of my personal analysis, a feminist calypso or soca song can be feminist regardless of whether the performer has explicitly called themselves feminist. So, no, Destra may or may not consider herself feminist (I have no idea about that) but that doesn’t prevent a feminist lens from being applied to her work.
I’m also aware that male songwriters have penned some classics for women, but unless we are going to completely erase the agency of the women performers who bring the songs to life, then that too, doesn’t detract from meaning and implications. All shared art: musical, written and otherwise, is liable to interpretation, which may or may not collude with the artists’ agenda. Additionally, all songs sung by a woman aren’t implicitly feminist just because a woman sings it. Case in point: Patrice’s “Give Him (Bam Bam).” Yeah, no eh.
Anyhow, a soca or calypso song may be feminist if it advocates for women’s autonomy and agency, interrogates and or celebrates women’s sexual agency (in soca and calypso, this is often symbolised by the free movement of and “ownership” of the bam bam as well as wining); reinscribes social mores, or advocates for or examines gender (in)equality, or complicates how we think about gender or gender roles in society. Or just sounds good to the feminist ear. Basically, if feminists can flex out to it and not cringe inwardly, then we might be on to something.
Without further ado, some of my favourite feminist chunes in no particular order. (List is not at all exhaustive. List is also, arguably, very Trini soca/calypso oriented.)
“Die With My Dignity”: because you shouldn’t have to bull for a wuk. Unless of course that is what your work entails. Voluntarily, safely and with personal agency of course. (We don’t slutshame or invalidate sex work in these here parts.)
Also, because Singing Sandra was part of The United Sisters, the first ever all-woman kaiso soca group and she’s a legend!
Sample lines: “Well if is all this humiliation/ to get a job these days as a woman/ Brudda, dey go keep dey money/ I go keep my honey and die with my dignity!”
Which leads me to “Whoa Donkey” by The United Sisters because of soca sisterhood and the no-attempt-to-hide-sexual-innuendo coupled with a dance that is nothing short of classic. Sample lines: “Tonight in de fete/ Is ride until yuh wet/ climb up on ah back. . .”
Saddle up, fellas! And ladies.
“Obsessive Winers.” Denise, Alison and Destra. Soca Queen Triad who doh deal with outta timers. That is all.
Calypso Rose’s version of a classic, “Rum and Coca-Cola.” She is a Tobagonian by birth from the sister isle and the first woman to ever win a Road March title!
Drupatee Ramgoonai for rewriting social, gender and racial expectations as the first female, East Indian, soca star. (Also see the equally classic “Mr. Bissessar.”)
Sanell Dempster, “Tradesman.” You couldn’t find a throwback soca song that better exemplifies a woman peeved with unsatisfactory, ahem, performance. Ladies, you’re allowed to demand satisfaction! Sample lines, “You say you is a man ah trade/ And you go fix meh up/ For months and months now ah waiting/ For you to nail it up/ Boy every time that you hammer/ Can’t you see you miss de spot?”
Denyse Plummer single handedly popularised the local catchphrase “woman is boss.” Understand why. An undoubtedly classic feminist calypso.
Alison Hinds, “Bam Bam.” I am much more than this robust, mesmerizing behind. ’K? Thanks. Sample line: “Yuh only see me bam bam, oye!” (Also see “Roll It Gyal” by Alison Hinds because no matter how you bubble in a dance—you own your body and you’re “independent and yuh strong!”)
Destra Garcia’s epic rallying cry of every West Indian woman in a fete, “Well tonight I’m in de mood/ I want to wine and behave rude/ So anything yuh want to do/ I dare you, I dare you.” (For more astute advice on handling the ride, please see “Saddle.”)
Tackle with caution and doh stick.
Denise Belfon. Saucy + scenes of nuff winery. Sample line: “I will reign supreme here forever. I’s de bawse.” Yes, you are.
Zoelah, “Go Down Low” because I remember her explanation of this song’s meaning in an interview once and it’s so unabashedly pleasure oriented and womancentric. Plus great to dance to.
Faye-Ann Lyons Alvarez, “Heavy T” because “no man cyah mash up yuh structure.”
Patrice Roberts, in “Mo Wuk” who is “feeling to wuk.” Aren’t we all?
King David Rudder’s “Carnival Ooman” who is not afraid to fight back and leave the man to mind the children while she goes out to fete. (See his “Bacchanal Lady” too.)
Beware of these women, especially when they start to free up.
Nadia Batson’s beautiful ode to Caribbean girlhood & womanhood. (See also, “Manager” by Nadia because controlling partners with boundary issues are never okay).
“Frenchman” by Cathy Ella from Taxi for its luscious groovy soca vibes and Ella’s lyrical assertion that just because we may appear to dance provocatively by some folks’ cultural standards, it doesn’t automatically mean she is for sale.
As the people often say, keep on dancing–like no one’s watching.
Images via Alison Hinds and Destra Garcia’s Facebook pages.