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Sensational Sunday: Soca Monarch semis in Savannah

Friday, January 15, 2016
International Soca Monarch judges adjudicate during bull pen preliminary judging.

On Sunday, 69 artistes will take to the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, to compete in the 2016 International Soca Monarch (ISM) semi-finals. 

Yes, this year things are quite different with those moving on from the semi-finals being able to perform in what is being described as a “one soca monarch,” on Fantastic Friday on February 5. This means there will no longer be two separate categories but artistes can perform either a power or groovy soca. 

Last November, director of the brand Peter Scoon announced the change, saying in an interview he believed the separation over the years negatively affected the show in an effort to package it as a television product. 

He stated there were too many gaps and that did not resound well with the pay-per view broadcast. Therefore, the alternative was the best for the 2016 ISM competition.

Seventeen of the best in the semi-finals will now move on to the final, reducing the length of the competition and giving the artistes, according to organisers, a greater opportunity to compete on a more level playing field. 

To get the opinion of some of the competition’s past winners, hosts and even judges, on the change in this year’s competition, T&T Guardian spoke with former judges Judy Noel and Joel “Signal To Noise” Morris, as well as host Mark Anthony and former winner Ronnie Mc Intosh.

According to Morris, who has judged the competition for 12-plus years, he does not see the reverting of the competition as a bad decision but rather, he feels artistes now have a better chance at placing in the competition. He said having the two categories, at times posed a challenge or even disadvantage to some artistes.

“For instance,” he said, “an artiste may have had a great groovy soca but no power song, either because he was not interested in singing a power song or just could not write or perform one and his strong point might have been more so in the groovy, but then when he is competing in the groovy category, his song might be great but then look at how many other groovy songs he had to compete against, his only chance was in the groovy category and vice versa for someone in the power category. 

“So, I believe that going back to this old system was actually a way of going forward in leveling the playing field and giving artistes a good clear and fair competition.”

Noel, Arima secondary schoolteacher, has been a judge of the Soca Monarch competition on 15 occasions. Describing the role of a judge in this competition as “a challenge,” she added, “it is a challenge but we work with strict criteria and this helps. For the preliminaries we work with melody, arrangement and lyrics. We stay strictly within those parameters and they dictate the main basis for our assessment. At the semi-final you also look at stage performance,” she tells the T&T Guardian.

CNMG’s Mark Anthony has been the show host of the Soca Monarch finals for 20 years. One of his fondest memories was the 2001 victory by the Mighty Shadow.

“I just love this competition,” said Anthony. 

“When Carnival begins I look forward to just Soca Monarch. It’s about excitement and getting an adrenaline rush. I love every thing about it.

“Being around William Munro all those years has not just been inspiring but I have fed off his energy. He was so passionate about this event that I shared his vision and enthusiasm.

“I could never have grown tired of hosting the finals because whenever I stepped out there on that stage I simply wanted to be the best representative or ambassador for T&T soca music.

“No kidding, when one competition ended, I began counting down the months, the days, the hours to the next Fantastic Friday.”


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