■ Kimberly Wallace
MUSIC can not only entertain but empower people and calypsonian Stacey Sobers hopes to do both.
If Sobers doesn’t get the audience on their feet, she’ll certainly get them on the edge of their seats this Carnival season. She has already earned a place in this year’s NWAC Calypso Queen Finals.
Her offerings for 2018 have powerful themes and Sobers with her strong yet melodious voice delivers them with force and finesse. ‘Calypso Capital’ honours Skinner Park as the place that has stayed loyal to its calypso and kaiso roots. In the song, which was written by Gregory Ballantyne, Sobers hails Skinner Park as the capital of calypso and laments the decrease in support for Carnival staples like Dimanche Gras and the Kings and Queens shows at the Queen’s Park Savannah. Her second offering, ‘Queens and Kings’ is another lyrical sucker punch. With lyrics like ‘Careful who you calling ‘Queens’ and ‘Kings’ because true royalty doh do certain things’, Sobers is attempting through music to raise the level of consciousness among males and females in our society.
‘I’m singing about real issues which I can feel and sing with real emotion as a person and singer and as a calypsonian. The ideas come from my manager but we discuss them at length and build on the ideas before we search out writers and producers.’
Like many artistes, Sobers found her voice in church. She and her family attended the Mount Ararat Spiritual Baptist Church and Sobers and most of her family were part and parcel of the choir. Sobers hailed from a musically gifted family.
‘Music and our talent for singing has been both a gift and a blessing,’she says.
Her father, Glenford Sobers, was also a singer and calypsonian, performing in his hey-day as Joe Cool. While he worked in Canada for six months of the year, he performed at Caribana. Sobers’ brother Marlon Asher shot to the music scene with his hit ‘Ganja Farmer’, he later went on tours throughout the United States. Today, Asher is also part of the pan side founded by his father.
Sobers took inspiration from local artistes like Singing Sandra, Ella Andall,
Calypso Rose, Sparrow and Kitchener. She cut her musical teeth on dancehall music and became a household name as a performer on the local talent show Party Time with her group Black by Nature in the 1990s.
In the years that followed, Sobers ventured into the soca arena. In 2001 she gained popularity with the song ‘Lemme Know When Yuh Coming’. She became a front line singer for the band and began performing with the Divas Calypso which she now helps to manage. She decided talents on calypso in 2014.
Turning tragedy into music
‘I felt like I needed to do something more for the culture. I’m not saying that soca was fulfilling but I wanted to sing about more serious topics and get more of a message out there to the public other than singing songs about getting on and putting yuh hand in the air,’she said.
A family tragedy also motivated her to make a musical 180-degree turn and use her voice to speak out on important topics. In October 2014 Sobers’ sister and nephew were killed in a domestic dispute. Not long after the tragedy, Sobers went on stage to sing a calypso about the scourge of crime but couldn’t sing the words without bursting into tears. She finally performed the entire song on her third appearance on stage. Since then, she’s performed songs on domestic violence and the dangers of bad associations. When bad memories threaten to resurface, Sobers turns to gospel music for soothing and upliftment.
In 2014, she placed fourth in the NWAC Calypso Queen Competition and in 2016, she made it to the semi-final round of the Calypso Monarch contest. Last year she was a finalist at the Queens competition with the song, ‘A People of Substance’.
For the past few years, Sobers has been doing two songs, one for the Queens competition, the second for the Calypso Monarch contest. She does this with the hope that one day she will be crowned the Calypso Queen and Calypso Monarch. With calypso, Sobers says she has found fulfilment as an artiste.
‘I really want to see a change in our society,’ says Sobers. ‘I hope that a lot of people who listen to these songs will get the message I’m trying to get across.’