A SUCCESSOR to the throne.
That’s what soca King Machel Montano went in search of on Monday night as he brought his Soca Kingdom to theatrical life, during his Machel Monday showcase at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo.
Montano opened the Soca Kingdom with its title song and road march contender, sharing the stage briefly with SuperBlue (Austin Lyons). Venerable mas man Peter Minshall constructed the frame work around Montano’s stage show, using elements of his Eyes of God 2018 portrayal.
The soca king told the massive audience that filled the available stadium seats and most of the covered outfield that the night’s showcase was for the eyes of the people as they represent the eyes of God. He urged them to speak on what they witnessed and help him select a successor as their voice is also tantamount to God’s.
‘This is the Soca Kingdom of the world. It used to be Machel Monday, but yuh see now the Kingdom must progress. The Kingdom must succeed. So we going to deal tonight with the succession of de Kingdom, because the future is in the next generation.
‘Ah bringing the most talented and ready to succeed in the kingdom. So all yuh just watch dem, give dem some love and leh we celebrate in de land,’ Montano said to a massive cheer from the feteing crowd.
Soca’s youngest veteran Preedy (Akeem Chance), hit maker Trevon Turner and soca princess Nailah Blackman followed in sequence.
Love for Turner
A benevolent Montano gave each act individual time to shine on soca music’s biggest stage. The soca monk humbly performed backing vocals as his loyal disciples celebrated the contenders. Their waving rags and gyrating hips provided the ultimate endorsement.
Preedy was first to make full use of the spotlight. The Maloney born crooner danced on stage just after 11 p.m. to put his distinctive vocals atop the Physique Riddim.
Montano had just cued him in with a performance of his ‘Rough Wine’ on the same drum pattern. Preedy responded with a composed outing of his ‘Winning School’ before switching gears to the groovy ‘Say Yeah’ on the popular Parallel Riddim.
Blackman, meanwhile, had the whole venue talking about her outfit choice more than her stage show when she tagged in with ‘Baila Mami’.
She wore a black, glittering, flared pants and matching longsleeved coat that opened at her midsection. Her fashion choices may be radical, but her vocal integrity remains intact after another impressive outing. She followed with ‘Oh Lawd Oye’ before inviting Jamaican dancehall star Shenseea (Chinsea Lee) on stage top perform their duet ‘Baddish’.
Turner, however, got the most love, of the three, from the receptive audience. The Morvant-born rising talent looked every much the forerunner to rule the soca Kingdom when he joined Montano on stage for a performance of the ‘She Bad (Remix)’.
He underscored his soca credentials with ‘Holding On’ on the popular Folklore Riddim, before switching tempo to his kaiso crossover smash hit ‘Champions’ on the Upendo Riddim.
Crowning a Prince of Soca
Montano bowed in appreciation. Turning to the massive stadium crowd the five-time International Soca Monarch (ISM) then provided the ultimate endorsement of the night crowning back-to-back reigning ISM winner Voice the prince of the Kingdom.
‘This is the year for what? This is the year for what? Introducing the Prince of the Soca Kingdom, Voice, Voice,’ he screamed to the loudest crowd cheer of the night.
Voice (Aaron St Louis) revelled in their adulation. The San Juan youth man saved one of his best vocal performances of the season for the MM showcase. And by the time he got to the chorus of his ‘Year for Love’, he had already made good Montano’s declaration.
‘Sit down rock back, tell Soca Monarch I will be back for my third title,’ he sang, to even louder cheers.
French Montana falls flat
If there was one part of the show that fell flat, it was the segment that featured Morocco-born American hip-hop star French Montana (Karim Kharbouch).
The ‘Unforgettable’ singer never really excited the tiring crowd and looked out of place in the Soca Kingdom. If nothing else, his appearance inspired the audience member quote of the evening, as one woman shouted Kerwin Du Bois’ ‘Feteland’ lyrics: ‘Now is not the time for dat, this is not the place for dat.’
Soca acts Neil Iwer George, Bunji Garlin (Ian Alvarez), Destra Garcia, Patrice Roberts, Shal Marshall (Stephenson Marshall), Olatunji Yearwood, Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez and SuperBlue all made cameo appearances during the second half of the show.
Road March contenders George and Roberts joined Montano and Blue on stage for a united presentation under the Soca Kingdom banner.
It was another youngster in Erphaan Alves, however, who shone brightest and proved ready to take up the mantle to drive the music forward.
The former teenage soca star performed his earlier hits ‘In Your Eyes’, ‘Getting On Bad’ and ‘Come From’ , inspiring Montano to remark on his musical growth. His transition to soca megastar proved complete when he cued the HD band into his 2018 monster hit ‘Overdue’. Every voice joined in unison on the song’s chorus, drowning out the house system.
After more than four hours and multiple guest acts, the 2018 edition of Machel Monday came to a climax with the two kings of the Soca Kingdom on stage. Together they got the last iota of energy out of achy feet and tired arms, and activated the countdown to Carnival Monday on the road where almost everyone, save perhaps for Iwer and Patrice, will be looking forward to ‘wine and fling it up’.