Royalty reigns tonight at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain when Caribbean Prestige Foundation (CPF) stages the finals of the Digicel International Groovy and Play Whe Power Soca Monarch competitions. Scheduled to begin at 9 pm, the finals are graced by the participation of no fewer than eight previous monarchs, and "royalty" guest stars Vivica Fox, Tatiana Ali, Damien Dante Wanans, Darrin Benson, Baby Cham and Popcaan.
On the topic of stars, one of the premier guests tonight is defending National Panorama champion Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars.
This legendary Port-of-Spain steel orchestra is hoping to create history at tomorrow night's final by becoming only the second band in the competition's history to score a hat-trick of wins.
The biggest event in Carnival, and in its 21st year, tonight's Fantastic Friday production will also feature a NLCB Tribute to the Classics segment, featuring David Rudder, Lord Laro and Ronnie McIntosh. McIntosh is the 1995 and 1997 Soca Monarch champion and is regarded as one of the genre's foremost ambassadors.
In fact, this trio of special performers has been cultural ambassadors for many years, Laro being domiciled many years ago in Jamaica and singing a number of calypso hits, including his still popular Tempo.
The 1986 Young Kings and National Calypso Monarch, and Road March champion, Rudder is in a class by himself.
Twenty-seven years after his astounding achievement, Rudder is a still a major drawing card and is popular across the region, Europe and North America.
Tonight, the Groovy Soca category will be contested first, and will be kicked off by veteran Chutney Soca diva Drupatee Ramgoonai, singing Indian Gyal. Singing first in the Power Soca category is Lil Bitts, rendering Raise D Dust.
Of interest is that Destra and Machel Montano have selected the same position to perform in both categories; Destra choosing seven, and Montano nine.
In the Power Soca final SuperBlue will have the final say on the night as he sings in position 11 as the final competitor.
Challenging the local artistes in the Power Soca final are two strong regional finalists in Talpree from Grenada and St Vincent's Fya Empress.
Talpree, who will be singing Muddy Jab, is one of Caribbean's most popular soca artistes and is an exciting performer.
Singing Rum Please, the Empress, christened Lornette Nedd, is no stranger to local audiences and actually won the NWAC National Calypso Queen title in Trinidad last year. She is also St Vincent's reigning Road March champion and Soca Monarch.
On Wednesday, longstanding CPF consultant Jack Alexis was floating on a high.
He said: "This has been the best year up to now. Things have been moving smoothly. The stadium is ready and everything is in place. A lot of excitement has been generated and a lot of overseas visitors are already here."
CPF communications officer Karena Sukhu emphasised: "We want the public to know that the VVIP area is not inclusive of food and drinks. We've reduced admission to this area so patrons can have money in their pockets to purchase their preferred food and drinks. It has been a very hectic week for us as our celebrities began arriving on Wednesday."
Several state agencies have assisted CPF in staging this enormous undertaking, one them being the Public Transport Service Commission (PTSC).
The company has extended a number of services to the public including, on the day of the event, starting from 6:30 pm, there will be free parking at City Gate, Port-of-Spain.
Interested patrons can park their vehicles and board a designated PTSC bus from City Gate to the Stadium and back. The cost of that round trip is $10.
There will also be Soca Monarch branded buses on route in the following areas: San Fernando, Chaguanas and Arima.
These buses can be accessed anywhere along the routes, within the areas identified, and will transport patrons to the Stadium and back. The cost of that round trip is $10.
It's Carnival Friday, a mere month after saying farewell to Christmas. What makes today different and special is that beside the International Soca Monarch finals at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain, the finals of the King and Queen of Carnival will be taking place at the Queen's Park Savannah. This is one of the adjustments made this year to the traditional Carnival agenda.
Looking at the costumes at the semifinals last Tuesday night, I was really impressed by a few.
Among the kings, Gerard Weekes as AiTo Yujo Yorokobi (The Joy of Love & Friendship), from Brian Mac Farlane's band; Let There Be Light, portrayed by Earl Thompson, for Islandpeople Mas' Re-Humanize; De Agony of Human Bondage, played by Ronald Blaize, for Legacy's Trinbago to Rio; and, Ted Eustace as Moko in Flames, from Trini Revellers' Brazil Brazil.
Of the queens, if only for originality, my favourite is Danis Wantaim–The Dance of Reconciliation, portrayed by Liselle Frauenfelder, for D' Krewe's presentation of Zia. Weekes' costume is really a joy to behold and is perfectly made.
I am Carnival is the theme of Sunday night's retooled Dimanche Gras in the Savannah.
Void of the finals of the King and Queen of Carnival, and the National Calypso Monarch, the production is being marketed as "a galaxy of stars from the realms of calypso, soca, steelpan, music, mas, chutney soca, dance, theatre and comedy."
Expected to include the champions of C2K13, the potpourri of the best of T&T performing arts includes Shadow, Black Stalin, David Rudder, SuperBlue, Drupatee, Rikki Jai, Bunji Garlin, Fay Ann Lyons, Sugar Aloes, Denise Belfon, Rachel Price, Nikki Crosby and Penelope Spencer.
Showtime is 7 pm.
Order of appearance
Digicel International Groovy Monarch
1. Drupatee–Indian Gyal
2. Nadia Batson–Manager
3. Denise Belfon–Wining Queen
4. Ravi B–Prescription
6. Farmer Nappy–Stranger
7. Destra Garcia–Call My Name
8. Patrice Roberts–A Little Wine
9. Machel Montano–The Fog
10. Iwer George–Bubble
11. Blaxx–Nah Get Away
Play Whe International Power Monarch
1. Lil Bitts–Raise D Dust
2. Fya Empress–Rum Please
3. Talpree–Muddy Jab
4. Devon Matthews–Start It Up
5. Shurwayne Winchester–We Control D Road
7. Destra Garcia–Carry On
8. JW & Blaze–Timing It
9. Machel Montano–Float
10. Swappi 4D–Cha-os
11. SuperBlue–Fantastic Friday?