Calypso and Soca workshops

National Children's Carnival Week

For National Children's Carnival Week Alexander D Great of Lion Valley Records has created some Calypso and Soca workshops which teachers can run with their key stage 2, 3 and 4 students.

These workshops are suitable for students from year 5 to year 11. They are designed for schools and groups who may wish to create their own Calypso or Soca songs, working together to develop lyrics and melody.

These may vary in complexity and content according to year group. For example, GCSE students might well do a mix of Rap and singing, exploring genres which might be new to their experience, but which nevertheless have a long history in Carnival music making.

Core project features

Literacy, melodic composition and performance will be core features of the project. The participants will be introduced to the basic elements of Calypso and Soca and then collaborate to write their own pieces.

Work should be done in groups, enabling all participants to share in the experience regardless of ability or skills, thereby ensuring inclusiveness at all levels.

Groups should decide via discussion and democratic decision how to compose their lyrics and melodies and, if appropriate, devise their own mimes/dances to accompany their songs, at all times guided by the class teacher, who will select the group members. All participants will thus take ownership of their song.

Project delivery options

The project can be delivered in one of three ways.

One day assisted workshop

This option would involve Alexander visiting the school in person and delivering a one-day workshop. This could involve working from scratch, creating topic, melody and lyrics on the day, not necessarily using the backtracks provided. The subject-matter will be chosen by the pupils and the song will be recorded on the day, with guitar accompaniment from Alexander. Percussion backing (and in some cases additional instruments) can be provided by some of the pupils.

Check out what a workshop in school would look like with this fantastic workshop with Barham Primary School, Wembley, London.

School-led creations, using backtracks

The school uses one of the four existing backtracks provided on the website, in order to create their own lyrics and melody in their own time. This could be delivered by the music teacher, working within the guidelines provided below.

Online facilitations

A third method, (using one of the backtracks), can be facilitated by Alexander working online in conjunction with the teacher and the class. Before this is booked the students will need to choose which backtrack to use and their topic. Working in groups they will create the verses and chorus. They will decide how to present it to the rest of the school at their carnival day celebration. The work could be done in two or three online sessions if necessary.

The Tracks

Fast Soca BT in A.

This is a High Energy Soca beat backtrack in 2/2 time with the following structure:

8 bars of drums intro: 16 bar chorus (which could be just an instrumental chorus to introduce the song): 16 bar verse: 32 bar chorus: 16 bar verse: 32 bar chorus: 16 bar verse: 32 bar chorus: 16 bar verse: 32 bar chorus which fades out. (Note that a 16 bar chorus could be composed and sung twice in each chorus section). This is often the case with Soca songs, where audiences love to join in with short, catchy lyric and the chorus is repeated often. The chorus is easily identified because strings play in these sections.

Click here for this track

Medium Soca BT in A.

This is the same as Fast Soca BT in A, but at a slower tempo. The structure is the same.

Click here for this track

Medium Groovy BT in Em

This is medium tempo Groovy Soca style in 4/4 time with the following structure:

1 bar drum fill intro: 8 bar verse sequence (which could be just an instrumental start to the song): 8 bar chorus: 8 bar verse: 8 bar chorus: 8 bar verse: 8 bar chorus: 8 bar verse: 8 bar chorus which fades out. The chorus is easily identified by the sound of marimba.

Click here for this track

Slow Groovy BT in Em

This slow 4/4 time groove is particularly suitable for soulful melodic phrases. It is also a good tempo for Rap (allowing room for rapid lyrics to be set over a slower tempo). The verses could be rapped and the choruses sung, featuring two stylistic genres in the one song. Here is the structure:

1 bar drum intro: 8 bar Chorus (could be instrumental intro): 8 bar verse: 8 bar chorus: 8 bar verse: 8 bar chorus: 8 bar verse: 8 bar chorus” 8 bar verse: two 8 bar choruses which fade out. The chorus is identified by the quirky sliding sound.

Click here for this track

If you have any questions, or would like to book an assisted workshop please email

Alexander D Great is a professional musician/songwriter and experienced Teacher with a demonstrated history of working in the entertainment industry. Calypsonian-in-residence to the BBC since February 2000. Special interest in Music of Black origin.


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