Machel Defends Fantastic Friday Event

(TT GUARDIAN) – Soca star Machel Montano is defending his decision to host his One Show on Fantastic Friday (Carnival Friday), while also dismissing the suggestion that it is responsible for the cancellation of this year’s International Soca Monarch (ISM) competition.

The ISM organisers surprised fans of the event a few weeks ago when they announced they had decided to cancel the show due to a lack of financial support.

Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell subsequently revealed that Government was unable to give the organisers some $10 million and other concessions to host the show and instead offered $3 million and concessions.

Many people have since criticised Montano for what they called “putting the final nail in the coffin of Soca Monarch,” which is traditionally known as one of the biggest events on Carnival Friday.

Speaking for the first time on the issue yesterday, Montano said he does not see a controversy.

“I care about Soca Monarch because I was there from the beginning,” Montano said, noting that 25 years ago, he and Soca Monarch founder William Munroe sat in a meeting together “where we spoke about one day it will come that this model will no longer be sustainable.”

He said they discussed ideas about what the possibilities could be.

But amid the current public discourse, Montano was clear that people need to be honest about the decline of the show over the years.

“People don’t know anything about Soca Monarch, but as soon as Machel says One Show Carnival Friday, the first thing is they will remember Soca Monarch, they just remember it,” Montano told Guardian Media.

“They weren’t there, they didn’t go, and nobody cared that it was losing money. It’s not just losing money for the promoters, which we should feel sorry for, it was losing money for the whole country, taxpayers’ dollars paying for that.”

He said the ISM’s demise is something that should not be taken lightly.

“We don’t want to spend our money on losses. As a country, we don’t want to subsidise things that don’t work because one day it is going to catch up to us.”

Montano said for too long, many of the aspects of culture have been functioning on that level, and gave the Dimanche Gras show as an example.

He explained that the true energy of the ISM competition was the Power Soca genre but noted that he feels the genre was experiencing a slump.

“… the real thing about Power Soca songs was when you had Bunji going up against Machel, going up against Fay Ann, going up against Destra, going up against Iwer, you had Blaxx coming around the corner, sometimes SuperBlue…Now, if over those years you have Kees gone, Machel gone, Fay Ann gone, Bunji gone, Destra gone, Iwer gone, who will you have?”

Citing this, Montano also questioned the public’s suggestion that youths would be stifled without the ISM.

“Soca Monarch was never a platform for the young artistes, it was a platform for the top artistes,” Montano said.

In fact, he said it was because the Soca Monarch only had young artistes that it could no longer sustain itself.

As it relates to his new show, Montano said it will accomplish things that Soca Monarch could not.

“One Show is about how could you have the Mother of all Carnivals without a Mother of all Shows, like a huge show,” he asked.

“Soca Monarch will not do that on the Friday night, it hasn’t been doing that and the nation has accepted that because for the last five/six years, it have multiple shows happening on that night. People who used to go Soca Monarch going all-inclusive fetes, they going boat ride, they going Duck Work, they going here, they are going there.”

He said in commemoration of his celebrating 40-plus years in the business, he wanted to do a show on a day which had the biggest Carnival audience, as people would usually come into the country closer to the weekend before Carnival.

He said Carnival Saturday is Panorama and the Sunday is Dimanche Gras and when he and his team looked at it, they felt Soca Monarch “was in a retooling stage,” hence the decision to schedule his concert then.