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Destra Garcia: Soca Royalty Reflects on a Vibrant Career and Enduring Legacy

Destra Garcia, Trinidadian-born singer, songwriter, and undisputed queen of Soca, needs no introduction in the Caribbean. Her infectious energy and electrifying performances have taken the genre worldwide, making her a true ambassador of Caribbean music. But behind the dazzling persona lies a love for home – a love that expresses itself not just in her music, but also in her surprising post-tour cravings.

Destra Garcia

Early Beginnings and Soaring Success

Born in Laventille, Port of Spain, Garcia's musical roots run deep. Her grandfather was a jazz musician, and her father a skilled guitarist. This artistic heritage blossomed early, with Garcia winning her school's Calypso Monarch title an impressive five years in a row. After a brief stint with a girl group and a detour into business studies, Garcia found her true calling in Soca.


Her collaborations with prominent bands like Roy Cape All Stars and Atlantik propelled her to stardom. Hits like "It's Carnival" (a duet with Machel Montano) from her first "Red, White, Black" became anthems, solidifying her place as a Soca powerhouse.


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM) recently caught up with the Soca Queen Of Bacchanal herself for an exclusive Q&A session, delving into her most cherished memories, dreams, and the essence of her remarkable career.


A Q&A with Destra Garcia


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): Destra, what's the most memorable concerts/show you've ever performed, and why?


Some of the most memorable concerts or events I've performed at are the ones that surprised me the most. For example, the first time I played in Guiria, Venezuela, I didn't expect much because everyone speaks Spanish there. It's close to Trinidad, but I had no idea how much my music had impacted them. Every single song I sang, the crowd went wild! There were easily 20,000 people, both inside the venue and overflowing into the streets. Imagine them singing along to my most popular songs, word-for-word in English, even though Spanish is their language! That was truly unforgettable.

Another highlight is performing in Jamaica. Time and again, the dancehall and reggae fans there have shown so much appreciation for my music, they practically adopt me as one of their own. I fondly remember a time they introduced me onstage as the "Jamaican Queen of Soca" On the same show, they introduced Alison Hinds as the "Bajan Queen of Soca." I assumed they'd call me the Soca Queen of Trinidad, but it seems many Jamaicans genuinely thought I was Jamaican!


These unexpected outcomes and the enduring impact my music has are what make my overseas shows so memorable. Every show is special and dear to me. I don't have favorite countries because each brings a unique experience. I could go on about all the amazing times, but these two stand out. Of course, there are many other honorable mentions: Saint Martin, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Guyana, Grenada – the list goes on throughout the Caribbean. Antigua holds a special place in my heart, and the Virgin Islands – the entire Caribbean is my home away from home. Let's not forget places like Toronto, Canada; the UK; Europe; and cities all over the US. Ultimately, stepping onto a stage and feeling the love from the audience embracing me and the music is incredibly fulfilling, and that creates a sense of memorability all on its own.


Destra Garcia

Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?


If I could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, my ultimate choice would be Whitney Houston. Her voice has been a huge influence on me. Listening to her recordings and trying to emulate her singing style is what I believe trained my voice, even though I never had formal vocal training. When she passed away, I felt a deep sense of loss, even though we never met. I've met many celebrities and singers in my career, and meeting Whitney Houston was always a dream. Tragically, the one time she was in Tobago for the Jazz Festival, I was on tour myself. While I've been fortunate to meet and learn from other incredible artists like Patti LaBelle, Diana Ross, and Stevie Wonder—who are all in the same league of exceptional talent—none have impacted my life quite like Whitney Houston. If I could turn back time and collaborate with anyone, it would be her.


My second choice would be Bob Marley. As a fellow Caribbean icon, he's another huge inspiration. I would absolutely love to create something that blends my vibe with his legendary style.


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): Tell us about a hidden talent or hobby of yours that fans might not know about.


It turns out some fans might be surprised to learn that I speak both French and Spanish! This language fluency is a bit of a hidden talent. As for hobbies, I'm actually a quite skilled swimmer. I even swam competitively for my school. So, these are a couple of things that people might not know about me.


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): If you could time travel to any era for a day, where would you go and why?


If I could travel through time for a day, the 1980s would be a tempting destination. However, I wouldn't want to be a child during that era. The chance to be a grown-up in the 80s, rocking the vibrant colors, the bold fashion, and channeling my inner Madonna – that's the real draw. The music scene back then was fantastic as well! It's the combination of the era's energy, style, and music that makes the 80s so appealing for a time jump.


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): What's the craziest fan encounter you've ever had?


Oh, the craziest fan encounter. There have been a lot. I'd like to mention one—a fan who is now a friend. He got a tattoo and I met him for the first time in France. He's from the UK and he sent an image of him getting the tattoo online, I think it was on social media. I didn't believe it. Then he came, and he was so amazing. So awesome. We became friends. That's a good fan moment.


There's another one where I called a fan on stage. I tell this one a lot. He wanted to wine and dance with me, but I wanted him to just jump and wave because I was singing "It's Carnival," which is more of a jumping song. He got upset and pulled my top down because I was wearing a tube top. I was so angry and embarrassed because my father was actually accompanying me to that show. I took my microphone and started to beat him with it. That was kind of crazy, overwhelming, and disgusting. But the first one was crazy and beautiful.


 Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): If you weren't a musician, what career path would you have pursued?


If I weren't a musician, I believe I would have pursued a career focused on helping women and children. Domestic violence and abuse are issues I'm deeply passionate about, and I would have gravitated towards a path that assists or empowers these victims. Providing safe havens or advocating for women's safety is something I would find incredibly fulfilling. My love for children also makes teaching an appealing alternate career. Perhaps someday I can still become a teacher, sharing my knowledge of languages or even music with the next generation. Ultimately, a career that allows me to make a positive impact on the lives of women and children is something I would find very rewarding.


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): Trinidad and Tobago have some amazing food. What's your go-to comfort dish after a long tour?


You know, strangely enough, Trinidad and Tobago boasts a lot of great food, and I love them all. Buss up Shut is a personal favorite. I enjoy a good pelau, and a nice serving of doubles any morning. Additionally, a comforting bowl of corn soup or a good bake and shark are always welcome. The list could go on and on.


But, oddly enough, after a lengthy tour away, my go-to comfort food upon returning home is actually KFC. Trinidad and Tobago is known for having the best KFC in the world, and I wholeheartedly agree! There's just something about that familiar taste that hits the spot after being on the road.


Destra Garcia

Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): What's your guilty pleasure song that you blast when no one's around?


So, my guilty pleasure song might surprise a few people. When I find myself alone in the car with no one around, I often reach for Alanis Morissette's 'Jagged Little Pill' album. There's something about that album that speaks to me, and my top two favorite songs from it are 'Ironic' and 'Hand in My Pocket.' Yes, I'll proudly admit it—I'm a superfan of Alanis Morissette. Those songs just make me feel alive, and I have no shame in belting them out all by myself. It's my little guilty pleasure, and I'm not sorry about it.


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?


Okay, that's a difficult question. If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, wow, what would it be? Man, too much of anything isn't good, and I love the variety that we have, especially back home. But if I really had to narrow it down... okay, here goes.


I'd have to say sushi. Yes, sushi. Why? Because there's such a variety of sushi. It's like a big heading with lots of subtitles underneath, you know? I could have California rolls, sashimi, all kinds of different sushi. So yeah, I think sushi would be it. I could do sushi for the rest of my life, no problem. But I have to have it with a Sapporo beer. So as long as they don't put restrictions on what I drink. Yeah, man, I think I should be all right.


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): If you could perform a duet with a fictional character, who would it be and why?


If I could perform a duet with a fictional character? That's a fascinating thought. I mean, what fictional character could actually sing? The only ones that come to mind are the animated characters from Disney. I remember the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" singing with Belle, and he was an incredible singer. His voice was just wonderful. And then there's Gaston from the same movie, who was quite impressive as well. So maybe one of the characters from "Beauty and the Beast." Personally, I think that Disney animated story had some of the best musical numbers ever. I've seen most of them, like "The Little Mermaid", but "Beauty and the Beast" stands out. I feel like a male voice would complement mine, and that movie had two of the best male singers performing with Belle. So, yeah, how's that for a fictional duet partner?


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): What's the most surreal moment of your career so far?


The most surreal moment in my career so far? That would have to be the time when I fell off the stage in Bermuda. It was a whirlwind of disbelief, was this real? Was it happening to me? I couldn't wrap my head around it.


The transition from the excitement of gearing up for the stage to the shock of finding myself in agony was swift and jarring. One moment, I was stepping onto the stage to the roar of the crowd, and the next, I was in intense pain.


Heading to the hospital, grappling with my fear of needles as I received injections for the excruciating pain from a broken ankle, was a surreal experience unlike any other in my career. I had never broken a bone before, so this was completely new territory for me.


I pray and hope it never happens again, but that moment will always stand out as one of the most surreal experiences of my career.


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): If you could have any superpower, what would it be and how would you use it to make the world a better place?


If I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to transform hate into love. Imagine being able to touch someone filled with hatred and transform them into a loving person! With a world that sees things through loving eyes, tolerance, patience, and understanding would naturally increase. Love fosters good communication, when we listen with love, we truly hear and understand, which is the foundation for solving problems. Without love, our actions become mere labor, and our perception becomes skewed negativity. Love brings positivity to everything we do. So, my dream superpower would be to touch those filled with hate and transform them into loving individuals.


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): If you could swap lives with any fictional character for a day, who would it be and what mischief would you get into?


If I could swap lives with any fictional character for a day, I'd definitely choose Hermione from Harry Potter. I mean, who wouldn't want to cast spells and delve into the world of magic? Plus, Hermione's intelligence and quick wit make her adventures seem like a blast.


As for mischief, well, I'd probably use some of those spells to turn all the teachers into animals and throw a spontaneous party at Hogwarts. And why stop there? Maybe I'd even sneak in a lesson or two about soca music before turning them back to normal, just to shake things up a bit.


The possibilities are endless in a fantasy world like that. With fiction, the sky's the limit!


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM): Which one of your song titles best describes you, and why?


I'd say it's "Lucy," although perhaps not just for the title itself. "Lucy" encapsulates a part of my personality—it tells a story that resonates deeply with me. You see, I grew up as a real good girl, always at home, not venturing far. But then Carnival entered my life, and they say I transformed. It's essentially my life story woven into a song. So, while it may not be solely about the title, the essence of the song itself truly reflects who I am.


Caribbean EMagazine (CEM):Lastly, fast forward 20 years from now. What do you hope people will remember most about Destra Garcia?


Twenty years from now, I hope that people remember my music. I hope that it lives on, like some of the music I hear from so many celebrities and entertainers that I admire. So I hope that they remember my music first of all, and then I hope that they remember me for what I stand up for and my values, and the fact that I believe in God, I love God, and I strive to be a good person. You know, my humility, my strength, me as a woman, making strides being an alpha in my genre. A force to be reckoned with, but as a female, how strong and how tough I was. For me, looking at my genre of music and my career, and I would compare it to someone like Calypso Rose, where she was a soul, a lone female in the world of men. There were other females too, but she stood the test of time and she's still here. You know, she just released an album two years ago or three years ago, and she was in her 80s. So, twenty years down the road, I hope that I'm still on stage, but if I'm not, I'd like people to remember that I was a boss. I still am a boss, twenty years from now.


As Destra Garcia continues to captivate audiences with her electrifying performances and unwavering commitment to her craft, her legacy as a true icon of Caribbean music shines brighter than ever before.

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