Machel Montano not only brought together some of the region’s most iconic musical acts for a once-in-a-lifetime, all-star stage show at his Machel Monday concert but also inspired a few of them to set aside some long-standing rivalries.
The annual concert was held on Monday night at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
Leading by example
Jamaican dancehall stars Beenie Man (Moses Davis) and Bounty Killer (Rodney Price), two sides of perhaps the longest-running musical feuds in the region, shared the same stage peacefully during a special segment hosted by veteran DJ Chinese Laundry (Anthony Chow Lin On).
Laundry himself later put aside his personal differences with veteran soca man and fellow radio station owner Neil “Iwer” George during a nostalgic performance of their own. It is unclear the root of their discord, but it is said the two men had not spoken to each other for nearly a decade prior to Monday’s show.
They must have all been encouraged by Montano’s own personal peace-making
moment with soca contemporary Bunji Garlin (Ian Alvarez).
The two men shocked soca fans last month with the release of their first ever official collaboration: the stickfighting-inspired single “Buss Head”.
It should be noted the two did in fact appear on a promotional track alongside Shurwayne Winchester and Raymond Ramnarine for mobile telecommunications provider bmobile during the early 2000s.
Machel and Bunji clash
On concert night, with both their bands set up side by side on elevated lifts, Machel and Bunji went “chune for chune” during a blissful 30-minute musical clash every soca fan has dreamt of seeing.
Machel started with “Pretty Gyal”, Bunji responded with “Snake Oil”, Machel countered with “Music Farm”, Bunji with “By the Bar” and on and on they went,
their respective bands transitioning smoothly between songs as if it were only one band playing the entire set.
It was an amazing moment in Trinidad and Tobago’s musical history to witness first hand a performance only the thousands in the venue could boast of witnessing.
And when Machel graciously conceded centre stage for Bunji to shine, it was apparent the mutual respect between soca’s biggest acts was both genuine and sincere.
“No disrespect to meh brethren, but this is now Bunji Monday,” Garlin told an enthusiastic crowd before unrolling his extensive catalogue.
The Fireman took them way back to his breakout hit, “Send that Riddim Crazy”, before turning up the heat with his well-reputed fiery arsenal, singing: “Warrior’s Cry”, “Blaze it Up” and “Fete is Fete”.
“Love is in the house tonight, you can’t deny it, love lives,” said an exuberant Montano when he finally returned centre stage to close the show with his road march contender “Beat It”.
Extempo tribute for Calypso Rose
The soca monk also paid tribute extemporaneously to Calypso Rose (McArtha Linda Sandy-Lewis) on her recent World Album of the Year award, which she won at the Victoires de la Musique awards ceremony in France two weeks ago.
He sang Rose’s praises in impromptu song before inviting multiple National Extempo champion Gypsy (Winston Peters) on stage to serenade the venerable calypsonian.
Gypsy, in turn, called on calypso veterans Baron (Timothy Watkins), David Rudder and chutney queen Drupatee Ramgoonai to all publicly offer their congratulations to the calypso queen.
Earlier, Chinese Laundry generated one of the moments of the night with a live sound-clash display that featured live beat-building by acclaimed French DJ/producer Manudigital, a live horn section and percussionists.
The veteran DJ-cum-party promoter/radio station owner then invited an all-star veteran cast of Jamaican dancehall acts to sing their hits live atop the beat, including Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Super Cat (William Anthony Maragh), Johnny Osborne and Admiral Bailey (Glendon Bailey), among others.
It was electric. A sound man selecting his tunes live, with artiste after artiste appearing to sing his selections while he maintained full control of their play as if it were a record.
Journey of a soca king
Machel meanwhile turned back the clock to his Xtatik days when he took first use of the stage just before 10 p.m.
A failed countdown clock and on stage power outages only delayed the inevitable as he once again delivered on his immense talent with an insanely high-energy opening set that included his original Xtatik HD dancers.
Nigerian dancehall star Patoranking (Patrick Nnaemeka Okorie) was the only international act to appear for his performance of his collaboration with Machel and Busy Signal.
Montano also reunited Sangre Grande super group Ace (Damian Oliverie), Menace (Sherwin Jeremiah) and Crym (Olufemi Williams) of 3Suns for a performance of “Dah Eh Nuttin”.
The soca king also shared the stage with several top soca and dancehall acts from across the region, including Barbadians: Rupee (Rupert Clarke), Peter Ram (Peter Wiggins), Marz Ville (Omar McQuilkin), Stiffy (Shane Atkinson) and King Bubba (Adam Elias). St Vincent’s Skinny Fabulous (Gamal Doyle) and Jamaicans: Charly Black (Desmond Mendez), Busy Signal (Glendale Gordon) and Linky First (Jason Henriques).