In the context of the celebration of June as Caribbean American Heritage Month, Moriba Cummings [In the Know (ITK)] highlights Soca Queen Destra Garcia and her observations about “keeping the genre alive, embracing younger talent, and uplifting her LGBTQIA+ fans.”
“It’s all about unity, togetherness” — these are the opening lyrics to one of Caribbean Soca sensation Destra Garcia‘s most recognizable hits, “Fly,” and they perfectly signify the energy her music exudes. With a career spanning over 20 years, the Trinidadian songstress remains one of the most recognizable, respected and relevant faces in the Soca music scene.
In celebration of Caribbean American Heritage Month in June, Garcia recently spoke with In The Know about her humble beginnings, her meteoric rise to fame, her vocal appreciation of her LGBTQIA+-identifying fans and passing the baton to the newer generation of Soca stars and influencers.
While I was growing up in Trinidad, Destra was always heralded as “the standard” in the Soca music scene — and decades later, nothing has changed. Whether it be hearing her music blasting across the speakers lined up by the street vendors at San Fernando’s High Street or watching her annihilate the stage with her signature explosive and adrenaline-packed performances at the Soca Monarch during Carnival season, Destra has always been a hometown hero that could not be escaped — for all the best reasons.
However, this journey to becoming the best wasn’t achieved with ease. The now 38-year-old Caribbean music icon comes from humble beginnings, telling In The Know that her upbringing in Laventille, a place she refers to as “one of the ghettos” in Trinidad, was one she would never change for the world.
“I spent more than half my life there,” she said. “I’m one of four children — the eldest sibling. My dad was unemployed for a long time in the period that I was going to secondary school [high school], so I had to deal with a lot of different issues that were very humbling.”
After sharing that, from a young age, she knew that her peers “were a bit more well-off” than she was, she added that she came to a welcomed realization that her journey was set to be “a longer one than most.” However, she stressed that this did not deter her from pursuing her dreams as a musician, but rather, motivated her to “make it.”
While we as music fans and consumers often hear stories of some of the world’s most accomplished acts choosing to take a detour from pursuing any academic aspirations, Destra’s story is a bit different. The music star explained that, while her parents were certainly aware of her dreams to pursue a career in the arts, one element was non-negotiable: her studies.
“I was in a musical family, so it was no doubt or surprise when I wanted to sing. However, because of where we were from, my mom always wanted me to focus more on school,” she said. “So, I also developed a strong affiliation to academics. That was the ultimatum: ‘If you want to sing, you have to learn your work.’ So, I guess it’s a win-win [and] it paid off.”
Once she completed high school, she “got the OK” from her mother to pursue music full-time and things took off from there, almost instantaneously. How instant are we talking? Well, in a matter of months into her official debut, she released what is arguably still considered the reigning song of the Caribbean Carnival season, worldwide: “It’s Carnival.” [. . .]
The song went on to become what many dub the “virtual anthem” of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and it is widely considered the soundtrack to the celebration across the world. To this day, the anthemic hit remains a timeless classic and serves as the annual musical indicator that the Carnival season is about to commence.
“It means so much to so many people,” she said of the song’s cultural impact both domestically and internationally. “For them to sing, word-for-word, the words to a song, you know it’s special. And then we ended up winning the Roach March title in New York City, not in Trinidad. But that was huge for me too, because I never realized that the song would’ve crossed the ocean.” [. . .]
For full article, photos and music videos, see https://www.intheknow.com/2020/06/24/soca-queen-destra-garcia/
[Photo above by Juan Lennon Awong.]