• A luxury destination for world travelers - particularly sailors - the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda hum with steel, whistles and shouts of delight. The soca tradition marries soul and calypso, and today's Antiguan artists infuse mainstream pop and reggae into the mix. We've featured five below that will perk up your ears and your being.

     

    King Short Shirt

     

    This electric septuagenarian has crowned himself the Cassius Clay of Calypso, and for good measure. Since 1964, he’s been pumping out lively tunes about questioning authority— but still having a ball while doing so. He even sang about the actual ballgame of cricket in the vivacious “Vivian Richards,” his Antiguan pride brimming over fevered percussion. KSS goes by the name Brother Emmanuel these days, producing gospel music that he says comes straight from his heart.

     

     

    Ricardo Drue

     

    The former member of R&B group Crossovah has enjoyed a career of “Dreaming” (as his hot track of the same name suggests) and turning that into reality. From Antigua to Trinidad and now to Miami, he struts like Pitbull and seduces like Sisqo. He specializes in the soca genre, “the soul of calypso,” adding his tailored brand of pop influenced by Michael Jackson and Boyz II Men. His latest single, “Professional,” is streaming now.

     

     

    El-A-Kru

     

    Perhaps the most patriotic and giddy song since Men at Work’s “Down Under,” El-A-Kru’s “Antigua Nice” sums up the island nation beautifully. Its fast-paced verses and caffeinated vibe welcomed tourists as an unofficial anthem in 2007. Lead singer Tizzy certainly whips listeners into a tizzy with her strong vocals and sunny perspective. The partying posse continue to release singles that’ll have you raising your wine glass.

     

     

    Laurena Davis and TKO

     

    It’s always a bacchanal when Laurena Davis and TKO are around. Their new jam, “Dats What We Love,” gallops with traditional drumming and a jubilant synth. We can imagine Gwen Stefani digging this one, as it recalls “Hollaback Girl” with an almost punk-rock flair. Davis’ warm presence will make you want to join the festivities until your bones ache and your head is swimming in soca serenity.

     

     

    Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra

     

    If you think it’s impressive that the Rolling Stones have been around for 50 years, let the Hell’s Gate Steel Orchestra astound you— they’ve been drumming for 70 years. They cram dozens of musicians on stage, and most of them are children. They are a beacon during Carnival, a cultural spectacle that occurs every July. Leader Veron Henry recently told the BBC that pan drumming “was the devil’s instrument” when it first gained popularity in the Caribbean in the 1940s. Now it’s a smile-producing activity the whole family can enjoy. 

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