THE RISE AND RISE OF THE QUEEN OF SOCA
So, the ‘Queen of Soca’ has been reigning for a number of years with hit after hit since she produced her first single ‘Ragamuffin’ in 1986 with the Square One band. Her girl’s anthem, ‘Roll It Gal’, had set the dance floors alight having topped the charts in Barbados, Trinidad and most of the Caribbean islands. In addition, the song’s popularity continues to enjoy massive airplay in the USA and Europe. What’s refreshing about Ms Hinds is that she has all the business acumen and clarity required to sustain her in this industry. She explains, “I like the theme of empowering woman. So long as it’s women in charge, the guys are the ones who are going to obey us but it’s a positive message for guys as well”!
Born in the UK, she mocks in a true drawn out Cockney accent, “yeah, I’m from Plaistow, East London, innit”. Her parents went through a difficult divorce and eventually her mother took her back to Barbados at age eleven. Alison refers to this struggle frequently as the catalyst for her current achievements. She emotively talks about her experiences. “My mother [Marsilla Hinds] supported me from the very beginning; she’s an independent woman, a very strong woman. I saw it with the dissolution of my parents’ marriage and it took strength that maybe she didn’t know she had; strength to leave the marriage and know that things weren’t going well and that this was the best decision for her to make at that point in time. To take me with her to Barbados and start from scratch when she had already established a life and a family here in England, that takes a special kind of strength and a special kind of commitment.
From I first joined Square One as a teenager, you know that a lot of parents would be saying, ‘that’s not a real job, do you really want to do this? You should go to college and you should study’. She knew that I loved to sing; from primary school I used to come home and sing almost everything. There were people out there telling her, ‘how could you let her in a band’? That’s the faith she had in me and that helped me to go at it with my all; make my commitment to the band and all the sacrifices to do all the things I had wanted to do in order to achieve. There’s no one else like my mother who has influenced me, for sure”. This message echoes throughout the lyrics of ‘Roll It Gal’.
Alison has a strong repertoire including Gospel, Reggae and R&B but, there’s no doubt that her strength and success comes from Soca music. As lead singer of the band Square One, she achieved unmeasured success but, there’s no mistaking that her raunchy live stage shows with audience participation adds that extra spice to her performances. Her most popular hits are ‘Ragamuffin’, ‘Twister’, ‘Togetherness’, ‘DJ Ride’, ‘Fireworks’ and ‘Aye, Aye, Aye’. Most notable is ‘Faluma (Ding, Ding, Ding)’ taken from Square One’s ‘Full Bloom’ album, her most successful song in the Caribbean. “I have written and co-written songs for ‘Soca Queen’. I am directly involved in everything in terms of the album for sure; from the inception, in terms of putting everything together and, of course, singing. I did my first album with Square One; now this is my own solo album, my own efforts”.
Surprisingly, Alison does not single out any one artist as being her major inspiration. “My independent spirit comes from my mother. I watched her work and struggle to provide for me and for her; to make sure I had everything that I needed, not necessarily everything that I wanted; to keep me in school and keep me fed. Watching her and the way that she conducted herself gave me that inspiration in my business”. Alison is a determined woman.
Choosing songs that give out strong messages about womanhood and being confident about your body, how much of this is the real Alison Hinds? “What you see on stage is just one side of me. I am also a working mother, a disciplinarian and a wife dealing with the challenges that may come my way. Alison travels the world frequently but says, “my home base is definitely Barbados”. With the band Square One, Alison was the first woman in Soca to achieve several accolades – she was the first to win the ‘Road March’ in 1996 for the most popular song on the road for Carnival. The following year, she won the ‘Party Monarch’ competition. “It felt very good to be written in the history books for Barbadian music and also in terms of the Caribbean Soca music. Also as the first woman to be really out front leading a band having major hits, being able to command audiences and really be a force out there; I know that I have influenced a lot of people. Young girls and more female artists have come out of that”.
Alison’s achievements in this business must not be underestimated. She has managed to maintain a longstanding and loyal fan base with upstanding messages of empowerment, bringing about confidence and hope. With all this then, we eagerly await the development and release of more self-penned or co-written songs. Surely, we will hear more from this radical sister, championing all that is woman and that’s exactly what we should expect of our Caribbean Queen!