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Word of Monk
Today is Machel Monday, and fans of soca star Machel Montano are counting down to the most anticipated event of the Carnival season tonight at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port-of-Spain. In the run up to the show, Digicel, for whom Montano is an endorsee, gave the fans an opportunity to question Montano, aka Monk Monte, about his life and his career on their Facebook page. They chose 15 questions at random and the T&T Guardian exclusively shares those responses.
1 Sharon Rampersadsingh-Ashton:
How did you manage all the negatives people had to say about you and still attain the status of being the best soca artiste in the world? How did you turn those negatives into positives?
First you have to know the truth about yourself and your life and know what you are here to do. Once you know the truth, stay focused and “To thine own self be true” you will find ways to block out negatives. When you want to be about love and caring about one another you will focus on being like that and immediately you will block off the things that don’t match your focus. For me, I’ve always stayed focused on what my mission is and that has always been to take soca music and my culture to a level that is beneficial to my people and the wider humanity. So once you stay on that mission and stay true to yourself, you can achieve whatever is meant for you to achieve—which is success!
2 Jerelle Jordan:
What innovations would you recommend to the industry?
First of all, pay attention to the things the world is leaning towards at the moment. Things like the environment; the progression of mankind; energy saving; alternative energy; clean energy and living in one with the environment. Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean inventions or creations or technology…it could also mean the way of life: living greener; living healthier; eating healthier and paying attention to what is necessary to move the world forward as well as inventing means and ways for us to get along better as a people. For the soca and music industry, I think it’s important to not only embrace our technology but also understand our traditions. Take for example the “Triangle of Monk,” you have the tradition which is the past; the things that were brought to us from our ancestors, the origins and studying them well but at the same time contrasting them with the things that are technologically happening in music today. Putting them together and finding a balance that will speak the truth about the present moment. What do we need our music to say? What do we need our music to do? What can we use from the young people and the elderly people? Put them together to make it more formidable. I think that one of the greatest innovations could be to open the mind and really pay attention to trends that are worldwide and trends that are progressive towards humanity.
3 Lee Yum Tom Pack:
If you had to choose another profession what would it be?
It depends; I enjoy doing a lot of things. I enjoy nature and I love creating and inventing stuff. I always loved the idea of being a lawyer, to argue a good point and debate a good point and succeed. I think ultimately I would love to work in the music field, the music business. Doing stage; doing lights; doing sound; studio recording—a lot of which I already do on a daily basis. I think that my profession will definitely have to be something where I work with people. You know even if I was not in the music field, I would definitely be going out there and meeting people on a natural level, showing people around parks, mountains, trees and rivers—just being one with creativity and nature.
4 Brendon Mad Izm James:
It seems to me, watching your IG—your social media account of your trips—that you are on a spiritual journey. Have you been given any advice that has changed your perspective?
I have been on a spiritual journey all my life, from day one. I was stillborn; no heartbeat, no breath and for me ever since I understood myself and knew those things about myself, I knew that I was very much connected to the spiritual side of life. I was very grateful to be alive, to be premature but still turn out healthy. I always considered the gifts that I had to be from beyond. just to acknowledge the talent that people usually say that I have, I acknowledge it to be something that is beyond me and from a higher place. I think the journey of spirituality has always been that moment that I enjoy talking to my inner voice—and that inner voice is a higher power—and really feeling the connection that it has pointed my life in, in terms of the connections with people. So I have gotten advice from many people; many books; my parents; many priests; shamans and pastors and many people around—who say something that is worthy of listening. None of my perspectives have changed really—my perspectives have only been developed and I’ve become more focused on finding my true self and finding out what that true nature of life is about and that true essence of life. So spirituality is something that exists within all of us and it exists deeply in me. I am just trying to follow that calling deeper and deeper in every way.
5 Glen Saxon:
You recently released a song produced by Advokit. Tell us more about how that collaboration came about.
How do collaborations come about? People work in the music business and you meet them when they come across your path and you recognise their talent. People submit songs and present ideas to you and they make contact with you and that’s how you come across the collaborations. Collaborations are very organic. If someone is doing good work, like Advokit is doing in the community and in the industry, at one point it will come across your path. If those people do songs and intend for it to be connected to and work with the right artiste one day, that will naturally happen. I think that was an organic coming together. I have known Advokit, I know people he has worked with, like KC and producers and one day they just sent songs and said hey, here are some beats and some song ideas, see if you’ll be interested, then we worked on what we thought was great.
6 Gerard Llanos:
Please share the lessons learned from the Real Unity incident and coming back from that catastrophic incident to produce the biggest show in Carnival.
Crisis situations in business…hmm…that lesson! If I had to learn any lesson from Real Unity, is that, things don’t always go right. Things go wrong in life. Sometimes you try your best to avoid things that may come your way, things may not turn out the way you want them to, but if you’re living your life and you believe in the ebb and the flow, sometimes things don’t happen the way you want it, and when that happens…there are many sayings like, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” You have to know how to be resilient. You have to know that failure is a part of success and sometimes when things go wrong, it’s not even a failure, it is a life lesson that you learn. Ultimately, the lesson learnt is that you never give up doing what you’re doing no matter what might happen even if it looks like a bleak moment or a sad moment. You can sometime look back on those moments and see that they were very triumphant moments. When “Real Unity” happened, it really wasn’t something that was within my control but I was able to take control of the situation and make right with it. I was still able to be there and be focused and be caring and I tried to understand where the mistakes were made and the people responsible and at the time how to rectify it and move on and be more professional going forward. The ultimate lesson is that no matter how bad something looks it will always have a brighter day ahead and you can always win and conquer any tragedy.
7 Donna John:
What’s your greatest joy?
My greatest joy is sharing love with people, my family, friends and fans. My greatest joy is probably living and having lots of joyous moments in life. I love seeing my creativity affect other people in a positive way and sharing those moments with everyone around.
8 Hassan Voyeau:
Which smartphone do you use?
9 Johanna Thomas:
If the world was going to end and you had one last performance, where in the world would you perform and why?
Hmm…That’s a strange question…and I will have to give more thought to it...it will have to be closer to the time when the world is coming to an end, because that decision is one that will be made as it pertains to the end of the earth. Until that day comes, you can’t really answer that question. I may be needed somewhere to soothe and inspire people to save the earth. I might even be on the moon, like in the movie Armageddon; I may have to perform on the moon to save the world from the meteorite ending the world.
10 Nadia Sun:
What is the best piece of advice your parents gave to you growing up that you would definitely pass on to your children?
I always remember my father, when I was leaving school, saying: “Choosing to work for yourself is not as easy as working with someone else. Just make sure that what you’re putting in is what you’re going to get out. It’s never going to be a 9 to 5. You will clock your card when you decide.” I remember stopping in that moment and thinking about those words. I think about it in those days when I work 23 hours a day and sometimes what feels like 28 hours. I feel like I took his words to heart and knew what I was signing up for. When I’m a bit down, I remember my mother saying: “You know you were born dead and you came back. You must have a purpose, you must have something great to achieve. You must know that you can come back from any situation.” Those two things will always stay with me.
11 Nazmin Khan:
I know you rose to stardom as a kid. Throughout it you faced criticism and received praise. What do you do to help the youths who might aspire to follow in your footsteps achieve their goal?
What do I do? If people could see my life, they would see what I do to help the youths. I have helped many people become household names as entertainers. I’ve helped them build their careers, given them financial portfolios and their understanding of the music business. I think helping is leading by example and reaching out to give youths advice—working with them and sharing experiences, giving them the opportunity to work side by side with you, seeing first-hand what you do. To measure what help is given would be difficult since everyone may be able to help in a different way. Most important is the hands on, which I have given a lot of youths. I’ve shown youths the way to read a manuscript, do a live show and carry themselves as an artiste and how to build their dreams.
12 Roshad Smith:
Every year the MM brand grows larger—how have you managed to maintain such consistency in your music with so many other things going on?
Hard work! Consistency in music takes a lot of hard work. It takes owning your skills, being true to yourself but most importantly observing and paying attention, being open to new things. You have to see the trends as they change and also see music as purposeful and make it relative to you and where you want it to go, what you want to say and sound like. You can only do this by observing the different songs out there and use the process of elimination, use what defines who you are and what you want to be. Try to do and be your best. Keep your standard very high. Keep your mind open and remain open to working with people who have other ideas. Sometimes you need to listen to yourself. Once you develop and own your skill you’ll be able to recognise what’s a hit and what is not—what is you and what isn’t. You will recognise when you do your best and when you do not. You have to stay focused and know when to put your songs forward.
13 Safiya Kellar:
How do you feel now about joining the Digicel family after endorsing another network in the past?
It feels good to move on as always. It is not in my nature to stay stagnant, it is always about change, and change is inevitable for me. Every day the weather changes, situations changes, your body and mind. So change is very natural for me. I like change for the positive. Knowing that I’m with a new network and knowing the changes that will come about because of that, I feel very comfortable and happy that I’ve made a move to bigger and better things.
14 Roger Pedro:
Your artistic offerings are of a very high quality—does it take a lot of money for this to happen? And how do you intend to continue this legacy?
I think that sometimes quality can take money but it can also take creativity. You can produce something of a high standard without even spending a cent. It all depends on how resourceful you are. A high level of quality can be very simple and not take much of a budget. You could deliver a well-written song with a beautiful guitar or play a simple recording for not so much money but it could be of a really high quality. So it’s not always necessarily about money. When you know you’ve developed a supply and demand, a system and a way, you could do great things and you’re rewarded greatly and you reinvest that money in the right place to make it go on.
I think that it all begins in your mind, you always have to strive to do better and even exceed that and continuously strive to do better and move on to higher heights, so that whatever you do will be of a higher quality because it represents you and your standards.
15 Rohan Sagram:
If you had to interpret ‘HUY HAA!!!’, what would it mean?