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Prophet Benjamin sets his sights on Chutney Soca crown
Prophet Benjamin has been synonymous with conscious reggae, but in 2013, this Point Fortin resident is seeking to break into the chutney genre as he sets his sights on the Chutney Soca Monarch crown. On Saturday, Benjamin, aka Devon Samuel, will square off against 44 contestants, including chutney soca heavyweights such as Rikki Jai, as he competes in the semifinal round of the Lotto Plus 2013 Chutney Soca Monarch at the Rise Car Park, Chaguanas.
This year is the first time Benjamin has thrown his hat into the race to try his hand at chutney singing. His 2013 offering No Lookani, produced by Rishi Mahatoo, of Maha Productions, has been receiving a lot of airplay on local radio stations. His YouTube video has also been gaining popularity, with 9,300 views.
Benjamin, in an interview yesterday, said his decision to sing chutney should not come as a surprise, because he is a Trinidadian. “It is just a nice music. Chutney is a nice music. I am from T&T, it is a cosmopolitan country and different people have different likings. If I could bring happiness to the people in the chutney arena I would. Likewise, I would not go anywhere that would disrespect what I stand for,” Benjamin said.
Last year, Benjamin shocked many and sparked a bit of controversy when he entered the Soca Monarch competition with his song Throw Wine. The lyrics of the song mentioned Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. However, Benjamin expressed confidence that his 2013 offering would attract positive reviews, which he has already begun receiving.
“I keep getting calls from around the world. I did not expect it (No Lookani) would reach so far. I get a call from Bosnia. I have friends in that part of the world that listen to it, like it and playing it. From Guyana, Suriname go back to North America loving it,” he said. Benjamin added, “I am excited to spread the joy and love that Rastafarians have to offer.”
He said he expected to get some negative comments about his entry into the chutney arena, but put a positive spin on that. “If they do not do that, I would not be successful. Negative and positive bring electricity and the negative and positive opinions of people will bring spiritual growth and development.” Benjamin said he is excited about competing in Saturday’s semifinal, but admits he has no expectations for the finals.
“I am happy, I am looking forward to it. It is an opportunity to spread love and unity among the people and that is what I am about, love and unity. I feel a joy and I am feeling fun in the air, joy in the air. I am excited to make my people happy. I am excited to contribute to the East Indian community in our country.”
Benjamin’s manager Rick Davis believes the song, which is an authentic chutney song, will assist in the unification of the country. “That is our effort to unity here. Generally we know they would never give us the crown, but we going out there to give a hell of a performance and prove the sceptics wrong,” Davis said.
The 2013 Lotto Plus Chutney Soca Monarch grand final is set for January 26 at Skinner Park, San Fernando. A first prize of $1 million is up for grabs. Finalists who do not make it to the first five positions will receive $60,000 each. Last year, the popular Carnival event was staged at Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain, for the first time. Southex CEO George Singh announced last month that the event will return to its traditional stomping ground, Skinner Park, San Fernando.
This year the Chutney Soca Monarch final is being sponsored in part by Guardian Media Ltd, the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism and the National Lotteries Control Board, among others.