by SANDRA L BLOOD

 

Thirty-five members comprising the multi-winning Best Village team from Trinidad, titled, Soul Oasis Cultural Ambassadors (S.O.C.A), departed Piarco International Airport last month, to perform in Wales.

   They were led by artistic director, Sean Singh and his executive team: Vice-President/ Assistant Artistic Director, Stephen Singh; Dance Director, Cleavland Serries and Dance Director 2/Secretary/Treasurer, Mindy Giles with a mission to represent Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) in folk dance and to share cultural presentations of T&T at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, which is viewed as one of several large festivals in Wales.

   This competitive international festival of music and poetry is usually held the second week in July, and on this occasion, the 76th annual festival was held from July 4 to 9 at the Eisteddfod Maes and at the 4,000-capacity Royal International Pavilion, respectively.

   The days were categorized as follows:

  • July 4th being Alphie Bhoe & Welsh of the West End,
  • July 5th: The White Flower: Into the Light,
  • July 6th: Propellor Ensemble feat. Celebration of Nation,
  • July 7th: The Guy Barker Big Band,
  • July 8th: Choir of the World, Dance Champions & Vision of the Future 2023, and
  • July 9th: Stars of Tomorrow.

Artistic director of Soul Oasis Cultural Ambassadors (S.O.C.A.), Sean Singh, stooping, right, poses with his history-making winning team of the first-ever Dance-Off competition held on Stars of Tomorrow day at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod held in Wales on July 9, 2023.

  This year was said to be very special as the Parade of Nations returned and a Dance-Off was introduced for the very first time.

In the Traditional/Contemporary Folk Dance, S.O.C.A. performed against Kurdistan, Canada, Northern Ireland, India, and Indonesia, and in Choreographed/Stylised Folk Dance, against England, Northern Ireland, India, Indonesia, and Canada, and while Soca sweetens the world musically, on the 9th, S.O.C.A. condensed the world culturally.

   Not only did S.O.C.A. liven up the streets during the Parade of Nations, but also showed-off the artistic vibrancy/productive creativity of T&T to the world, physically and orally for all audiences throughout their competitive performances to get to the finals. Two standout moments were: teaching random people and press personnel how to do the limbo, and a press conference between the artistic director, the dance director 2 and the Welch Secretary of State, David T. C. Davies.  

Corey Herbert carries the T&T national flag as he leads the T&T contingent, Soul Oasis Cultural Ambassadors (S.O.C.A.), at the recently-hosted Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod's Parade of Nations.

  After proudly flying the T&T colours high and gaining much attention, S.O.C.A. returned on July 12, as not only winners of the Contemporary/Traditional Folk Dance category, but having created history on July 9 after winning Llangollen’s inaugural Dance-Off at the Stars of Tomorrow competition event, which closed off the festival.

   The Dance-Off was judged by the audience, and the true stars of tomorrow earned, in part, certificates and a Lucille Armstrong Dance Competitions trophy. The certificate for the historic win was authorised by Sarah Ecob (cadeirydd/chair) and Sarah King (cynhyrchydd-gweithredol/executive director) and reads:

“On behalf of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Llongyfyarchiadau – Congratulations to Soul Oasis Cultural Ambassadors, Choreographed/Stylised Dance, 1st, for your achievement at the International Eisteddfod. Diolch – Thank you for your valuable contribution to the furthering of peace & understanding through shared art & culture.”

  

Welch Secretary of State, David T. C. Davies, engaged artistic director of S.O.C.A. Sean Singh, centre, and dance director 2 Mindy Giles, left, in an interview during the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod held in Wales from July 4-9, 2023.

S.O.C.A. won the hearts of the people


Singh said that "with this accomplishment they have signaled to T&T and the world at large, that there is greatness, strength and productivity in culture no matter how small a nation is..."

   He further explained that S.O.C.A. was established in 2008 and revived by him in 2016, with reconstructed purpose and offerings including: singing, dancing, drumming, drama, swimming, gymnastics, costumes and prop construction. Singh described S.O.C.A. as "a positive alternative for youths to discover and develop their talents". He said:

   “We encourage our members to use the performing arts as a medium to preserve our local tradition and develop high-quality performers, worthy of being ambassadors for our country. We aim to become the premier cultural performing company locally and internationally.”

  Best Village executive, Jemma Jordan described S.O.C.A. as one of the forces to be reckoned with in T&T and said she’s proud of what they are doing to help strengthen the youth arm.

   “We continue to create quite unusual types of work and are always striving for great quality presentations and generally high standards from members," Singh added. "We are well on our way to achieving and maintaining our goal of excellence in its various disciplines.”

   The Eisteddfod Story revealed: “More than 400,000 competitors from over 140 nationalities and cultures have performed enthusiastically on the Llangollen stage.” S.O.C.A. now embellishes this story.

In response to the historical significance of this achievement, Singh insisted that while the team is elated about creating history, “most importantly, we won the hearts of the people". He said:

"The feeling was electrifying. We were overjoyed and filled with national pride to carry the red, white and black to new places and people.”

   In true T&T carnival fashion, from the Eisteddfod field on Abbey Road, through Bridge, Chapel, Oak, Market, East, and Parade Streets back to Abbey Road to the field, the festival officials and spectators saw the T&T flag aloft leading S.O.C.A. in a victory parade, as pan, drums and the chorus of performers played, sang, and danced to the refrains of sweet soca...

S.O.C.A. 's lead drummer Shaquan Singh and lead dancer Kyla Perkins, display one of the trophies S.O.C.A. won at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod 2023 held in Wales, in July.

Winner of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod 2023 Contemporary Folk competition held in Wales in July, S.O.C.A' s contemporary folk group, poses with lead dancer, Kyla Perkins, stooping, right.