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Above: Machel Montano and Superblue perform at Machel Monday, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain, February 5 2017. Photo: Jermaine Cruikshank

As we look back at Carnival 2018, Trini Good Media reflects on the biggest events of the season. First up, Franka Philip reviews Machel Monday, the annual concert held by soca superstar Machel Montano on the Monday before Carnival.

Is Machel Montano trying to tell us something? The soca star spoke about “succession” in the soca world so many times that you’d begin to wonder whether he was preparing us for his step back from it all.
He didn’t simply mention succession but he also gave the stage over several times during the night to a number of the young bright stars of soca including Nailah Blackman, Preedy, Voice and Turner. At this concert themed The Soca Kingdom – also the name of his 2018 Road March with Superblue – Montano explained that T&T was the land of soca and we need to ensure that our Kingdom continues to flourish.
For several years, Machel Monday seemed to have lost its way as Montano tried to put too much into the concerts and turned them into marathon sessions (remember the random appearances by Indian singer Mahalakshmi Iyer and US DJ Fatman Scoop??). This year, there was a clear effort at editing and keeping the show tight and the acts relevant – although the jury’s still out on US rapper French Montana.
Here are some of the big highlights from Machel Monday.

1. Machel and Superblue

For the entire show, guest after guest hailed Montano as the King in the Soca Kingdom but at the end, he pointed to Road March king Superblue and said, “I am the Prince of Soca, this is the King of Soca.” The magic that Superblue brings to the pulsating Soca Kingdom with the piercing line, “wine and fling it up” is undeniable. Superblue is older and slower now, but such is his appeal to soca lovers, he was easily able to get the huge Stadium audience moving to classics like Jab Molassie, Signal To Lara, Bacchanal Time, Wine on Something and Fantastic Friday. Soca Kingdom prevailed at Machel Monday and all the tactics and strategies employed to push this tune gave it primacy on the road on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

2. The dominance of young soca artistes

Soca fans have often wondered what the landscape would be like without Machel Montano. Admittedly, Montano is peerless in the soca arena but the present – and the future – are illuminated by young stars like Voice, Nailah Blackman, Preedy, Turner and Erphaan Alves. Most of them came to industry prominence because of their songwriting skills but after stepping boldly into performing, they are now household names. Montano’s pride in working with talented young people was evident when he introduced and performed with the winners of the Digicel Music Academy held in Jamaica in December 2017. Trinidad’s Abdiel Matamora and Lucian duo Lu City (Tyler Auguste and Jean Farrah) didn’t seem overawed by performing in front of thousands of people.

3. Bunji Garlin

Soca fans breathed a sigh of relief last year when Bunji and Machel resolved their differences and teamed up for the big hit Buss Head. So after a year of working together, their friendship looks properly set. Many have said they miss the raw, feisty Bunji Garlin who gave us noughties hits like Blaze the Fire and Fiery but what his performance at Machel Monday showed is that he has evolved into a more nuanced artiste. The crowd responded to his 2017 hit Big Bad Soca more than they did last year, for example! Bunji’s potency as a lyricist is evident in this year’s songs Vintage Garlin and Bacchanal and Water.

4. Patrice Roberts

“You created this monster,” Patrice Roberts told Machel as they hugged onstage at Machel Monday. Patrice was a shy lass from the rural town of Toco when she joined Montano’s band – then known as the HD Family. Carnival 2018 belongs to Patrice Roberts and it’s not just her impeccable style and her slew of hits, but a real confidence that has won the hearts of fans. There was a collective melting of hearts when she told her one-time boss, “Everything I am today is because of you, thank you”

5. Minshall is back!

When veteran mas designer Peter Minshall and Machel Montano collaborate, the result is usually spectacular. This time, Minshall brought the masqueraders from his 2018 presentation for Exodus Steel Orchestra, The Eyes of God, to the Machel Monday stage. The masqueraders in lily white sailor costumes carried massive banners with huge, spooky eyes painted on, creating an amazing backdrop. A most breathtaking moment was entrance of The Eyes of God’s King, a Pegasus with towering wings called Death and the Maiden. Death and the Maiden was crowned King of Carnival at Dimanche Gras on Carnival Sunday.

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