These are the Monarchs of Soca??

International Power Soca Monarch Results:
1. The artist formerly known as Iwer George (“Fete After Fete”)
2. Nadia Batson featuring KES (“My Land”)
3. Shurwayne Winchester (“Open D Gate”)
4. Patrice Roberts (“Sugar Boy”)

International Groovy Soca Monarch Results:
1. Biggie Irie (“Nah Goin’ Home”)
2. Chucky (“Turn Around”)
3. Nadia Batson (“Caribbean Girl”)
4. Shurwayne Winchester (“Alequa”)

I doh have anything against Biggy Irie or Iwer George (oops, I mean “The Artist Formerly Known as Iwer George” or “Mashin’ up Fete”), per se. But after making it through the full, what, eight hour marathon that was the Soca Monarch Finals last night, ah could only look on in bleary-eyed consternation once the winners were announced.

I don’t too closely follow what the judging criteria are for each competition, since I usually default to an assumption that most of them have the same kinds of expectations – a certain level of lyrical content, good melody, compelling presentation, solid rendition, and for Soca Monarch, the ability to generate a frenetic crowd response. (I could even do without the crowd response thing because I am tired of performers stopping the song to issue mandates to the crowd about what they supposed to sing and how the supposed to move.)

And I suppose somewhere in my head my assumptions about Soca Monarch criteria probably swirled together with some of the Road March and other calypso competition stipulations like the song being original, and having little to no sampling.

So blow me over with a feather when Biggy Irie won. Is everyone OK with the International Monarch of Groovy Soca, this poppy incarnation of Trini party music that’s been set to take the world by storm for a while now, having a recyled U2 tune as the chorus and main hook? I eh sayin’ the tune eh ketchy. But I’m thinking too of all the other performers in that category who had strong, original songs with tighter presentations… Nadia Batson, backed up by Jeune Agape. Former double Monarch Shurwayne Winchester singing yet another Indian-fused groovy soca tune. Yes, it’s becoming a tired formula but his performances with Shiv Shakti are always tight…and I didn’t hear any sampling. And after all that talent and relative originality, our International Groovy Soca Monarch and ambassador for our cross-over artform is… Biggy Irie socarising U2??

OK, so then the Power Soca category. I have to confess, I didn’t see all the performances. But I did see Nadia and Kes, Iwer, and dese two fellas JW and partner… Now, as soon as I heard “Fete After Fete” back in December, despite all residual distaste for the “han an an an an” days, I totally fell in love with it. Big tune, man. But then this is where I get confused about what Soca Monarch is looking for.

I was for Nadia and Kes, not least because Nadia is an amazing songwriter, her vibes always good, she could sing like nobody’s business (anybody hear the note she sustained toward the end of the tune??), and I think it’s a real good tune. My only grouse with the performance was the constant stopping and starting to try and get the crowd going. It didn’t flow, and iz also true that Iwer does never have to work too hard to mash up de crowd (“Mashing up fete is meh name”). So den Iwer take de stage wid he big tune, and my big ting wid dat is when Iwer performin’ live, no chance you could hear him actually pitch the notes as written. Iz not that easy on the ears.

But Iwer win. Biggy Irie win. And I am left wondering – after all the painfully drawn out performances, stringband of unnecessary guest performers, expensive pyrotechnics and spectacle, decent songs interspersed with some insufferable ones – what it is we are trying to say to the world, and to ourselves, about what Soca is and should be?

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3 thoughts on “These are the Monarchs of Soca??

  1. I didn't see the Groovy, but I was very fortunate to fork up tha 11.00 US to see the International finals on Jump TV from the comforts of my computer in cold Chicago. I'm still new with all tha soca madness and I (outside lookin in) can tell you that I wish I knew how was it that Iwer won. I guess we had to actually be there to see and feel it out. But I tell you this, Nadia blew it out of the water with My Land. That note put a tear in my eye. It made me wish that I was from Trini, although being a Caribbean girl, I felt her pride for her island! But it still saddens me that her "Caribbean Girl" song and alot of other songs (with the mention of islands)fail to mention Puerto Rico. I don't know if its because we are not in Caricom or we are commonwealth. To Singers: Please rep Puerto Rico(we may be a commonwealth, but we are a Caribbean Island). Sorry emotions got in there! If they did the finals like King and Queen, she is definately QUEEN NADIA. Now I dozed off a bit during one of my favorite songs "Open De Gate" but woke up again during the middle of it. And that mutha of a song, kept me up for the rest of the finals. That was my favorite to win. Overall, for what little I know about these competitions, I can say this, that its great that Trinidad holds competitions like that. It's nice to see something different and culturally beautiful. It's also going to help me when I get ready for Carnival in Chicago in picking out a song for my section. Yeah I feel ya with the stops in the song and some of the hurtful singing. But when you think about it, they keep it real and keep it live. I glad you brought this out for me to two cent. ~D~

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  2. We don't need to actually point out every island. Wether from Trini, the Bahamas, Jamaica, it's all Caribbean. I sympathize with your Puerto Rico disappointment, for the song didn't mention it. But the song brings out Soca in its best, most Caribbean rhythm.

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  3. Must say I agree with the post. Yeah I know it's an International (supposedly) competition but I didn't see what made Biggie Irie stand out. Maybe it's a Trini thing but I absolutely loved Nadia Batson's presentation for her song in the Groovy Soca part of the competition. Real ole time ting come back again. Simply beautiful! Strongly disagreed with Dimanche Gras results, nothing against Cro Cro but he wasn't exactly singing in tune with the music. Maria Bhola and Heather Macintosh however were amazing and Devon Seales… wow! The calypso is in good hands, but the public needs to know what is the criteria by which this competition is judged and who were the judges, cuz they obviously have blinders on!

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