Machel Takes The Crown At Dimanche Gras

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By Michael Mondezie

Veteran soca king now rules calypso realm.

‘This is the greatest moment!’

So declared a regally adorned Machel Montano, calypso crown atop his head and trophy in hand, as he leaned on his new red Suzuki Vitara, atop the Queen’s Park Savannah stage in the early hours of Jouvert morning yesterday.

Earlier, veteran singer Mavis John opened the signature Dimanche Gras show with a jazzed-up rendition of Patrice Roberts’ Carnival anthem ‘Anxiety’. John later invited Roberts on stage to deliver the song at full speed. Soca stars Nailah Blackman, Lyrikal (Devon Martin), Destra Garcia, Nadia Batson, Farmer Nappy (Darryl Henry), Iwer George and chutney soca act Ravi B (Ravi Bissambhar), among others, all appeared.

Montano’s win at the National Calypso Monarch final at Sunday night’s Dimanche Gras show makes him the most decorated entertainer to ever walk these shores. The soca monk has won every major title in calypso and soca, including the Junior Calypso Monarch (1986), Young Kings Monarch (1991), two Groovy and five Power International Soca Monarch titles, as well as ten Road March titles.

‘Ah think this is the greatest one because it was not one that was designed by me. This is a moment I could never have dreamt. I was trying to win ah next Road March so I could be up there with Kitchener, but ah didn’t know going back to school would bring me here. And that is the greatness of God, you can’t dream up what the creator could dream for you if you just follow what you need to do.

‘So, it has to be great, when you experience something that you could not have thought of, and it was so easy. When I say easy, it was a lot of hard work, but it was effortless, it was joyful,’ a jubilant Montano told the Express as Carnival officials, journalists and fans clamoured for his attention following his victory.

In truth, it looked very easy for soca’s biggest star on competition night. He didn’t have the best song, nor the best voice of the 12 finalists, but he took them all to school with a masterclass in performance art with his self-proclaimed hit ‘Soul of Calypso’.

Performing in position three, Montano brought his own big screen, dancers and pyrotechnics to deliver a charismatic stage show, filled with famous cameo appearances. Three generations of the Lyons clan, soca icon SuperBlue (Austin Lyons), his daughter former National Calypso Monarch (2020) Terri Lyons and grandson Mathias, helped Double M make strong links between calypso and soca.

Veteran calypsonians Trinidad Rio (Daniel Brown) and the embattled Cro Cro (Weston Rawlins) also made surprise appearances, much to the delight of the cheering crowd, among them Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell.

Montano’s display, his third attempt at the title, earned him the title and a total prize package valued at $.8m, inclusive of the vehicle and cash.

Karene Asche, singing the anti- crime cry ‘No Excuse’ and Chuck Gordon (Roderick Gordon) demanding reparations be paid by Britain to their former colonies in ‘Charslie’, were second and third and took home $.5 million and $300,000, respectively.

Early favourite Mical Teja (Mical Williams) with his ubiquitous ‘DNA’ looked a bit off the pace on competition night and finished fourth.

Defending Monarch Ta’zyah O’Connor placed ninth, while National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Winston ‘Gypsy ‘ Peters, who continues to face criticism for competing in NCC-funded and -managed competitions due to a conflict of interest, finished tenth.

‘A lot of people say Machel was going in Monarch for the first time, but I’ve been here in 1986, it was the first time I was here and I came fifth. The second time I was here was in 1991 and I came third. And the third time I am here, God bless,’ Montano continued through a toothy grin his mother Elizabeth and wife Rene at his side.

Social media was abuzz with news and discussions about the Calypso Monarch competition all of yesterday, some in praise, some critical.

Montano says he purposely included children in his performance to help bridge the divide between the older and younger generation. His performance featured several children from the Newtown Primary Schools and other schools across Belmont.

‘The children, they were the joy of my last week. I spent everyday with dem, dey didn’t want to go home, dey wanted to practise all night, they wanted to sing calypso. And there is something special about that, when in the midst of hearing calypso is dying and seeing these little children,’ Montano said.

The new Monarch says he now redirects his focus back towards his ongoing Carnival studies at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).

‘I feel it (school) was important (because) for me to go where I want to go next ah have to know where ah coming from. A lot of the stuff I have learnt, I did not know and I’ve been in this industry for 40 years. I am learning it in university and I feel like this should be taught in primary schools, this is our indigenous culture, why we didn’t learn bout this then, but is never too late,’ he said.

Montano also hit back at those who claimed he was singing ‘a primary school calypso’ saying its simplicity is exactly why all peoples can connect with the song.

‘I take the primary school children and according to some of them out there I take the primary school calypso, that everyone can sing, a vehicle that everybody could understand, but it have great depths in the story, the main message of this song is all ah we is one. All ah we is one!’ he asserted.

Montano revealed he is working on a thesis on steelpan focused on his hometown pan side Siparia Deltones.

‘It’s about my community because I want to try to help my community and I believe in pan and I believe what we could do for the nation by starting in the communities. So that’s my next step. School is still on, the first day of school was last week Thursday.

As for the defence of his title next year, Montano says his fans can expect him to be back with a few more surprises.

‘Yuh must defend yuh crown with honour and the fun for me is just getting started so I will be here and I encourage all, all, to get involved. Come fuh meh, ah ready fuh it.

‘I could extempo all the time,’ he responded to a query from the gathering group of journalists before breaking into an extempo melody: Soca had a brother everybody know I studying torah, his name was extempo When it comes to this family, nobody cyah test me so Is uncle extempo teach me, all about calypso ‘I’m a great extemporaneous calypsonian, so Gypsy watch out,’ Montano concluded with a smile and a wink.

Calypso Monarch results and song title

1. Machel Montano-Soul of Calypso

2. Karene Asche-No Excuse

3. Chuck Gordon (Roderick Gordon) -Charlsie

4. Mical Teja (Mical Williams)-DNA

5. Helon Francis-Representing We

6. Stacey Sobers-Abraham-Respect the Tribe

7. Aaron Duncan-Character

8. Kurt Allen-De First Investigation

9. Ta’zyah O’Connor-Focus

10. Gypsy (Winston Peters)Ungrateful

11. Brian London-Hell

12. Dillion Thomas-It Wasn’t Me

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