Soca Phenom Master of the Pen
“It’s always a good feeling to know there are persons who admire how you carry yourself”
Off stage, Gamal Doyle is always calm, cool and definitely always collected, but that is the quiet before the storm. He moves in stealth mode, easing into the back of a room as silently as he entered it. In fact, if it weren’t for his height and sometimes flashy outfits, you might not be sure that he was even there. On stage, Skinny Fabulous is a burst of pure energy with a voice that booms in full hundred beast mode.
When we spoke with Skinny, that stage energy was restrained as the Caribbean region – just like the rest of the world, had been under pandemic lock down for 5 months. Instead of touring he was spending time discovering the beauties of his homeland St. Vincent & the Grenadines while promoting its tourism sector. Then there’s his many business ventures – a retail store, a party supply store (Playtime by Uncle Skinny), Oxygen Mas, and a new culinary endeavour. Oh, and an album rumoured to be a “creative mix of Soca and Dancehall.” Skinny’s much-anticipated body of work is expected to contain 16-18 all new tracks with guest appearances.
When asked what he misses most about not performing, his response came quick and simple, “People.” This love of people was evident during his showcase at the exclusive Estate 101 in Trinidad, which featured as part of the venue’s ‘Soca at the Estate’ carnival series. Skinny’s ‘Fam Jam’ allows him to connect deeper with fans.
Studying human behaviour is where he writes from – surprisingly, something he mostly does on planes. In fact, he says 90% of the hit songs he’s created over the last few years were written in flight including “Happy,” “Naked,” “Famalay,” and most recently “Conch Shell.”
Ironically, the self-professed people-watcher admits to not being an avid social media user and only posts when the mood strikes. Luckily for his followers, he’s been enjoying TikTok and appreciates its different method of engaging his audience. And although he was featured on Digicel’s One Love Concert in October, he’s also not into virtual performances. He says “Something about it makes me feel incomplete so it feels like I’m cheating myself. I need people, so performing through a phone or to a camera is weird for me.”
Skinny Fabulous has cemented himself as the artist to flip mortal enemies into unlikely companions on the same hit record. “Famalay,” last year’s mega hit featuring Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin, brought a kind of legitimacy to what he was already trying to achieve. Dispelling the notion that it was created specifically to be a road march contender, he said “The science behind it was never about that, the science was in the message”, and he felt his message would be better received if it reflected the song’s theme, which is ‘togetherness.’ The win happened as the historical icing on the cake, as 2019 will always be known as the year a non-Trinidadian was a part of a road march title.
As for this year’s collaboration “Conch Shell” with Machel and Iwer George, it too was based on unity. After taking the song to Machel – who he often writes for, the idea to include Iwer came as a way to show the public that the years before were just talks in music and that the two could actually come together in harmony. Side note: during Machel and Iwer’s 2018 lyrical battle, it was Skinny who penned Machel’s answer back “Dr. MashUp”, thus it only made sense that he would be the one to bring them together.
The Progression of Soca
Most say the key to growing the genre globally is to make it more palatable by slowing the pace or working with international celebrities. With more than a decade in the business, Skinny feels differently. Comparing it to the Latin music market, he points out that Soca fans only support the music by attending events, whereas Latin artists gain platinum status without major markets due to their fanbase downloading the music, something Soca fans rarely do. He reasons, selling units is ultimately what will put Soca in the matrix of measurable ways and recognized by the musical bodies that determine Grammy nominations, and Billboard placement. From the inside, he too like many of his comrades, is in full support of a regional structure that develops and supports its artists academically, artistically, and legally.