Afrobella of the Month — Alison Hinds, The Other Barbadian Music Goddess

Rihanna is fly. Rihanna is beautiful. Rihanna is becoming quite sexy. I say becoming, because compared to Alison Hinds, the reigning queen of soca, Rihanna is still not yet a woman (despite her newly acquired penchant for voguing in fetish gear). Alison Hinds has that grown and sexy thing down pat, and she’s been one of the Caribbean’s most popular entertainers for over a decade now. She was the pride of Barbados back when Rih Rih was singing Hero in school. In case you’ve never heard of her before, allow me to introduce you to the amazing Alison Hinds.

Born in England, she moved to Barbados at age 11. From then, she was steeped in soca. According to Wikipedia, she joined the band Square One in 1986, and played just about every hot club and fete in Barbados and the Caribbean islands en route to fame and fortune — dropping hits like One For the Road in 1992. Square One’s star was rising in Barbados, but not throughout the island archipelago just yet. In Trinidad, the first I heard of Alison Hinds was with her monster hit, Raggamuffin, in 1996. That song won Alison Hinds her first road march victory at Crop Over — the first time a woman had won the honor in Barbados. Raggamuffin was a certified hit throughout the islands, and ushered in what Trinis referred to as “The Bajan Invasion.” After that, everyone waited with anticipation to hear what Alison and Square One was about to drop next. Her commanding voice became like a rally cry for the party to kick into high gear. She singlehandedly changed the face of soca and paved the way for the younger generation of female frontwomen to come. As she says in this feature in Vibe magazine — “Several female soca artists have told me, “You inspired me so I could do this too.” I feel like I’ve had a huge impact on young Caribbean women.” She really has. Her combination of strength and sexuality has become a blueprint for the genre. Every up-and-coming soca starlet dreams of being Alison.

After Raggamuffin, Alison’s career took off like a rocket. It was hit after hit — DJ Ride, Iron Bazodee, Togetherness (that is the workout jam right there!) and my favorite of all favorites — the song from Suriname that Alison made an international hit, still a sure fire party starter all these years later — Faluma. Alison sings it in a Surinamese dialect called Sranan Tongo, and language aside, you probably won’t be able to get it out of your head once you hear the chorus. (I also find it hilarious how English-speaking Caribbean people will try to sing along when nobody has any idea what the lyrics are besides “faluma ding ding ding.”) Faluma became a huge hit in random and unexpected countries — apparently it was number one in Guatemala for an unprecedented 49 weeks!

Alison is a soca star and her music is party music. So of course she’s sexy and sometimes scandalous, but she’s never nasty. She’s very aware of what her individual audiences want — peep this video where she explains the subtle differences between Barbadian and Trinidadian audiences. In that interview, Alison also promises to stay true to her Caribbean roots on her then-upcoming solo project. “I am a Caribbean woman at the end of the day so I have to stay true to my roots and to who I am and what I am about,” she declares, and as an island woman, that makes me happy. That means that Alison is not only aware of her strengths, but it also means her strengths are in her roots. She will never forget where she comes from, lose her identity and move wholesale into the lucrative grips of hip hop or R&B. If and when she does, it’ll be on her own terms, repping the islands to the fullest. In that interview (which is also featured online at Jouvay.com), Alison dismisses the rumors that she was splitting from her band, Square One. That was in 2003, before her solo album dropped, and before she had her baby girl Saharan in 2004. Now Alison is a solo artist, and her crowning achievement is Roll It Gyal, which she released in 2005. Here’s the video, which is H-O-T.

Now Roll it Gyal might take some of you by surprise — there are definitely more scantily clad, gyrating women than you might expect from the typical Afrobella musical feature. Don’t let the images fool you into thinking this is a hoochie mama video. Behind the in-your-face sexuality, there’s a refreshing message. Here are the lyrics. This is the bridge —

“Go to school gyal and get your degree
Nurture and take care of your pickney
Gyal you work hard to make your money.

If you know you smart and you sexy
Never let them abuse you body
Show it off gyal and let the world see,
Roll it gyal, roll it gyal.”

Check it out for yourself and tell me what you think.

Listen to that beat, her flow, and the message. She’s got the whole package. Now tell me why this song never made it on to like, MTV Jams or 106 and Park along with the rest of the crap? It dropped in 2005, but to me, this still sounds fresh, it’s just as sexy a video as anything you’ll see on the charts, and the message is positive and empowering, rather than degrading. (The song came out in 2005, and there’s already a watered down remake by J Status and Rihanna).

Alison is now almost 40, and she lives on a horse farm with her family in Barbados. I definitely think she’s got a lot more steam left in her engine, and many more hits to come. Alison says she’s willing to do anything to take calypso worldwide, she dreams of putting together a Vegas style theatrical soca show. I know she’s got the talent and the determination to do it. I’m just waiting for like, Kanye or Timbaland to holla at Machel Montano for a track, or for Gwen Stefani (or, hello Rihanna) to duet with Alison on her next album or something. It might take a little American A list star power to get the ball moving, but calypso definitely has a shot at international success. With a woman like Alison Hinds flying the flag, we can’t miss the mainstream.

Alison Hinds is a strong and sexy woman of color who is unafraid to blaze trails and be herself. No wonder she’s Afrobella of the Month! Congratulations, Alison! Keep on doing you and making us island women proud.

If you love what you’re hearing, treat yourself to her album, Soca Queen.

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Comments

  1. I love Alison Hinds. She is so beautiful.Being a dred myself, I am so happy to see her rockin’ her beautiful locs. “Roll It” is one of my favorite Soca songs by far!

  2. Being of Bajun descent, I’m glad to see that somebody has realized that Bajun music actually existed before Rihanna became popular. Alison isn’t the “other” music queen, she’s the first! Thank you!

  3. Excellent feature on Alison, Bella. She is such a beauty, now moreso than ever. And “Roll It Gyal” is my jam. Whenever that video comes on VH1 Soul or BET J you can find me rollin’ it. Big up all Caribbean massive!

  4. JahGyal says:

    I’ve always always always loved Alison Hinds and Square One was and is my favourite soca band, dem jus know how to party. I think I loved Alison even more when I got the chance to interview her some years ago, she was humble, yet proud, unassuming, yet powerful. She’s just an amazing presence to be in. And as a proud West Indian woman I always relish being in the presence of other proud West Indian women, plus me jus always love her hair and her style – jus always fresh and age appropriate. Big Up to Alison Hinds. And big up to AFROBELLA for giving a true Caribbean queen some shine.

  5. BKBajan says:

    Let me hear my militant Raggamuffins. . .. I love the queen of soca Alison. . . this is a really good post, enjoyed reading it. I must say, I discovered this blog a few weeks ago and I look foward to reading it daily, especially anything regarding natural hair (I cut my silky 4 months ago). . short, thick, nappy and loving it! Faluma ding ding ding, lama. . . you’re right that’s all I know :)

  6. I’ve heard only a little bit about Soca music from a friend from St. Lucia. But this is the first time I’ve heard of Alison Hinds or any other Caribbean artists or anything else about the Caribbean culture. Unfortunately, they don’t teach much about the rest of the world in the U.S. schools. But one day, I want to be able to visit some of the countries from the Caribbean. We people of color are beautiful. Love it.

  7. And when you see Alison in person, and I don’t mean on stage, but just at the supermarket or something, you can’t take your eyes off her. She’s got it like that. Plus she has skin like butter. Flawless. Flawless.

  8. thank you for introducing me to something new bella! i’m digging the music and this woman is breathtakingly beautiful. i wish i could get my locs to look like that. ‘sigh’

  9. Thanks for the spotlight on Alison.. I’ve loved her for years and yes she took ova as queen of soca after Calypso Rose :) *I’m dating myself* but SOCA will always be live! Interesting thought on a little star power to help her cross over.. Sometimes its what the crossover comes with that sours the deal.. Hmm Faluma.. the memories of that song.. LOL

  10. When I was in college, they always used to play Faluma at Caribbean events but I didn’t know that it was Alison until now! VH1 Soul used to play Roll It Gal on Island Vibes but as with most Caribbean videos and music, if you don’t have a famous last name, come from famous parentage, or have a rapper in your video it most likely won’t get played during prime time if at all.:(

  11. jamericuban says:

    I love Alison! Faluma is on one of my workout playlists on my iPod, and you’re so right; I don’t know any of the words besides “faluma ding ding ding” LOL.
    Over the years I’ve tried to subtly let my non-West Indian friends know that there is a whole world outside of Sean Paul, Rihanna, and especially once I got to college, Bob Marley. I will be passing this post along!

  12. I love the Roll It song. I love songs that have dignity. I would love to hear more quality music in America.

  13. Ethanie says:

    Afobella I thank you soooo much for writing this. The world needs to know about the Caribbean, our people and our music. Allison is the QUEEN of soca music and she represents the voice of many that the world will soon here about. To see her perform live is will be the best money you ever spent. She also has a great interview on gottempo.com. Check it out when you get a chance. Faluma & Togetherness are on constant rotation on my soca playlist.

    Caribbean people unite!

  14. Sumatra77 says:

    Great article, again! I love Alison. I just recently started looking for her music to work out to. Every time “Roll it” comes on when I’m on the treadmill, I kick it into high gear. It’s such a great song!

  15. funny this comes up cause ppl at my job are all of a sudden interested in bdos music, ppl,etc due to ms.rihanna. rihanna and alison are like apples and oranges so i wont even dive down there.dont get me wrong, i like riri shes different. im so happy she ripped that bey weave out and is now rocking the non r&b look, with her s&m costumes lol…but alison is like the tina of soca songstresses, wit destra as the beyonce lol.the worse thing rihanna can do is mingle wit soca. she’ll muck it up and lose fan base.soca is precious.
    and im wanna those west indians who really dont want soca to go mainstream. sorry bella lol. okay..the artists will make a lil pocket change, but where does the creativity/authenticity go? its like the music gets soo watered down to get that poppish feel once it hits the airwaves. and now its like every soca artist is out to get that same 15mins kevin little got for that song, that all the soca that was coming out the last couple yrs sounded like r&b/pop songs!!
    anyway i can go on and on..

  16. Wow I screamed in surprise when I saw Alison’s photo staring back at me! Such an excellent choice for Afrobella of the month! I bought her Soca Queen CD for a friend of mine from Germany; and as she puts it “Roll” is a head worm! The song is such a huge anthem for Barbadian/Bajan & Caribbean women…for women anywhere it the world! The CD is definitely a great choice to add to anyone’s collection.

    I think Che makes an excellent point we in the Caribbean tend to believe that unless you get a Grammy or some other international award, our music doesn’t match up and this is so not true.I am happy that Rhianna has achieved all she has so quickly, but I am equally as happy and proud when I reflect on the musicians/entertainers who may not have got a North American contract or any worldwide recognition but who nevertheless epitomise excellence and fly Caribbean flags high time after time… Blessings all

  17. Kenyan Dread says:

    I love the song though I didn’t really know who’d sung it. Thanks for profiling Alison.

  18. I don’t like Rihanna because of her crazy antics, but I’m happy she’s bringing much needed publicity to Barbados. Unless you’re a wealthy european socialite, most people tend to not know anything about Barbados. I’ve heard about Allison before and I am happy that she’s making great music.

    hairsmystory.com

  19. Have never heard of her name but the music definetly rings a bell. nice to put a face to the music!

  20. Thank you for this great article. I love Allison and really enjoyed seeing her at this past Miami Carnival.

  21. Rock on Alison, it good to see another Bajan put us on the map. Her music has been around for years, she is a good singer. “Viva Barbados” ..
    http://www.Beadafuldesigns.com

  22. SutmingSweet says:

    Wooot! Everytime I hear Faluma I still have to get up and dance. I never knew what the heck she was saying but I loved it. She’s gorgeous and talented.

  23. Last time I was at my parents in St. Martin I was watching TEMPO and Ms. Hinds was all over the channel. I never hear Caribbean music out here. Thanks for the post Bella.

  24. Alison is beautiful… Thanks for the article, Bella.

  25. i love alison hinds but i totally didn’t recognize her in that top photo! She looks photoshopped. But i love me some photoshoppin LOL

  26. Lexelle says:

    Thank you so much for giving me the history behind “Faluma”. I love that song but always wondered what language she was speaking. My cousin got a mix tape with soca hits on it from the 80s and 90s and once I found out that “Faluma” was on the playlist I had to make myself a copy. “Faluma”, “DJ Ride” and “Iron Bazodee” are all on the CD and are my favorites to listen to when in the car. Great job on this profile!!!! It’s definitely appreciated.

  27. bonifant says:

    Love
    Love
    Love
    Allison

    Thanks for repping and supporting Caribbean women and culture Bella :)

  28. I love Alison Hinds, the reigning Soca Queen. She has a powerful voice and energy to match. And her locs…beautiful!

  29. She is such a goddess! Love love love!!!

  30. LB (Miss Lisa) says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the music of Alison Hinds. I’ve heard her before, but didn’t know it was her. She is truly a beautiful lady that Rhianna can never come close to in comparison. I love her dreadlocks and nose ring. She has the grown up sexy that can be appreciated by men and women without being too crude. Now this is the kind of music I could listen to all day to stay upbeat and positive. Togetherness and Roll it Gyal, now those are the jams for real. I’m definitely going to get Soca Queen. Thanks for putting the spotlight on such a remarkable lady.

  31. Thank you for featuring Alison.She is even more beautiful in person.Her skin is flawless and her locs are magnificent.

  32. wow!!!she looks good…i love her skin color…thanx for sharing this one

  33. Your mom will tell you that she has been my favourite female soca artiste for many years. she is a dynamic performer and has some really great songs. We have seen her perform a few times in Trinidad and she is special.
    D

  34. Hey my name is skylar and my cusin is Allison Hinds! Yes this is true after my moms cousin married Allsion. If youhave any question you can ask me!

  35. Greetings Sistren,

    This is the first time I’m visiting your website absolutely fabulous. Bajan born and bred. I luv how you rep for the Caribbean culture with Allison Hinds. I will put my people onto your site for info and knowledge.

    Blessings
    Tanka

  36. You can download the mp3 here, please delete it after 24 hours to keep things legal

  37. N.A.Crawford says:

    Although I am of Caribbean decent with some Bajan roots, this year is the first I have heard of Alison Hinds, and I have hurried up and downloaded it Roll it Gal on my ipod. The girl got talent and to be honest, I didn’t care for Beyonce’s spin on it and got cussed out behind it on You Tube, but I don’t care. The lady needs more exposure here. I know she comes to the US, but I live in the deep south, and until I was checking on some other music, and check hers, I would have never known about her. I look forward to hearing more.

  38. bajan ninja brandon says:

    wunna kno only of alison hinds but im sure since u like she might even like artist like rupee tempted to toych which was a hit worldwide and lil rick hypa dawg

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] own Alison Hinds has been my workout inspiration from the moment I first heard this song! You may remember this 2008 post about Allison that details the history of the song. Alison’s version of Faluma was first recorded in 1997 and [...]

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