Calypso Monarch competition or popularity contest?

When we heard that Machel Montano had decided to enter the 2024 Calypso Monarch competition in Trinidad, we were elated. This talented young man who has been performing since he was nine years old, had decided to use his well-established credentials as the dominant soca artist in Trinbago to help reignite young people’s interest in Calypso and hopefully get young people, and older patrons back to the calypso tents.

Machel Montano with mom and wife

We had hoped for a renaissance because Calypso had lost its way, as calypso artists, who are supposed to be the voice of the people, began advocating for different political parties, instead of criticizing politicians for their wrongdoings, incompetence or their lies, no matter which party they voted for.

Clearly, calypsonians has abandoned the people and became the mouthpiece of politicians and the people decided to stop supporting them. As a result, the calypso tents and calypsonians suffered economically.

Karene Asche

Dimanche Gras night came and we were ready for the show. The National Carnival Committee (NCC) had made significant strides in preparing the Savannah’s “Big Stage” and for the first time, it looked like the venue was professionally decorated and lit to present our “Greatest Show” to the world.

The calypso competition was intense, some of the topics were excellent, the musical arrangements were good, and importantly, most of the lyrics dealt with the country, its problems, and potential solutions. The Kings and Queens of carnival were breathtaking and the world witnessed the creative excellence Trinbagonians are known for.

Roderick “Chuck” Gordon

But alas, the hope for a renaissance was totally erased with Montano’s presentation of “Soul of Calypso”.

He proclaimed, and, we paraphrase, that Ras Shorty had created soca and soca had grown up and was now a man, and that it had the world moving to the right and moving to the left, and that soca was spiritual bacchanal just like Calypso. He concluded that “everybody done know, that Calypso is Soca and Soca is Calypso.”

But we need to remind Montano that Ras Shorty, the creator of soca in his number, Latrine Singers, admonished Iwer, Preacher, and Ajala calling them Latrine singers. Ras Shorty dealt harshly with them as he sang:

“Listening to mi radio in Piparo

Wondering what them fellas singing for Calypso.

Dotishness that is all they that giving we.

Foolishness only vice and vulgarity.

They only singing, singing a bunch of dotishness.

As the father of Soca, ah doh want them in jail

So ah bring the rod of correction for dey tail.

Preacher you singing shitia.

Ajala you sing excretia.”

Soca is calypso if it enlightens or empower the people, otherwise soca is, as Shorty said, Ta Ta.

Calypso is not spiritual bacchanal; it is spiritual consciousness.It evolved as a result of slavery and was and still is, the voice of the people, and it is used to communicate the needs of the people and propose solutions to satisfy those needs.

Karen’s presentation, No Excuses, had excellent lyrics and she delivered it well and the reason for placing her second was her blanket statement that poverty is no excuse for crime. Of course, she should have nuanced it, because statistics show that poverty does create criminals and history shows that poverty also causes revolutions.

Roderick placed third singing, Charlsie, I didn’t see Charles in the audience so I don’t know who he was singing to.

Kurt Allen

Mical placed fourth with DNA. This song belongs in the road march or power soca competition.

With crime running rampant in Trinidad, Kurt Allen’s presentation, De First Investigation, was the best performance of the night. He clearly identified the issues and placed the blame on parents, the police and the deficiencies in the investigative process.

Based on the results, TUCO, and the judges have shown that they hate to face the truth, and that TUCO does not represent Calypsonians. Worst, they don’t understand that calypso represents our culture, and soca without substance, is pure entertainment.

Machel Montano

Calypso, during the bacchanal period, indicates that within this period of unbridled freedom, intoxication, and ecstasy, we still have the ability to inform, educate and enlighten, we are conscious while unconscious after all, we can think and drink at the same time.