For over 30 years, the name William Munroe has stood firmly within the entertainment industry of Trinidad and Tobago. From trade, business and real estate, the Caribbean Prestige Foundation founder delved into entertainment in the 70s, and to this day he remains embedded in the fibre of T&T's Carnival culture.Over the years Munroe's ambitions have proven successful, with many being launching pads for artistes of the 70s and 80s, whose names are well respected today.In 2011, many hear the name William Munroe and immediately think Soca Monarch. But truth be told, Soca Monarch is but one of the many culture-related accomplishments under his belt.
From calypso to soca
In his chat with the T&T Guardian in December, Munroe, who celebrates 19 years of staging the Soca Monarch International competition this year, explained that he first got involved in entertainment as an executive producer of calypso music in the 70s. He became involved in recording, and subsequently exposed a number of already known and some new artistes of that era, among them Shadow, Merchant, Ajala, Kenny J, Black Stalin, Composer, and even the current Culture Minister, Winston "Gypsy" Peters.
Between 1972 and 1982, Munroe's name gained prominence in the art form of calypso when he single-handedly revolutionised the calypso showcase arena."I was the first individual to build a home for calypso in the Caribbean," he said .Referring to the Kingdom of the Wizards Tent he constructed at 111-117 Henry Street in Port-of-Spain, Munroe said prior to his involvement, he felt that calypsonians of that time did not represent themselves well, and he moved to change that.
"I love glamour, beauty and innovation," said Munroe, indicating that this was lacking at that time, so he stepped in and offered the artistes bigger wages in a bid to have them present a higher level of showmanship for the world to see.According to Munroe, the building was later leased to the Martineau brothers and called Spektakula Forum, after a decline in attendance one year.Today, Spektakula Forum is no more and the building is occupied by the Trinidad and Tobago Sport Company.
Confident of a sold-out show
With big ideas and a persevering attitude, William Munroe trekked forward. "Once I know I can achieve it, telling me no is like telling me yes," he highlighted, and added that he did not like to be limited. Beyond his years in the calypso tent arena, Munroe is credited for introducing the Kings of Kings Competition in 1984. Calypso Expo followed at the Hasely Crawford Stadium and Jean Pierre Complex, much to the appreciation of thousands near and far.With his desire to foster change in the attitudes of both the people on the ground and the people in commanding positions as it related to the exposure of local culture, Munroe founded and backed many other initiatives. In 2011, he is highly revered for his 19 years of hosting the International Soca Monarch Competition.
With plans already under way, Munroe excitedly stated, "When people hear who are the guest artistes and celebrities, they'll be running to get their tickets, and they better do that because I am confident that tickets will be sold out this year."Plans, according to the cultural developer, are quite big this year as the teenage years of the competition come to an end.
"This year we want to give it a blaze of glory," he said.
Munroe seeks bright,innovative minds
Commenting on the efforts of the artistes this year, Munroe said, " The music is really good," crediting the high standard of production to the government's decision to offer a $2 million dollar first prize purse in 2011. "When that was announced, my phone wouldn't stop ringing. Everyone was calling to tell me they were entering," he told the Guardian, with a laugh.He said the competition belongs to the people of T&T, adding that there is tremendous potential to make money. "People think I make so much money with Soca Monarch. They couldn't be further from the truth.
"There is however tremendous potential to make a lot of money- but the competition still needs nurturing," he said."I am honestly from the bottom of my heart tired, and I want to give it up but I need to get some young minds to take over and take it to a higher level," said Munroe.
In honour of thePrime Minister
Even as he speaks of retirement from the helm of the Caribbean Prestige Foundation, William Munroe tediously works alongside his team to showcase the talent of the Caribbean. Again in 2011, winners of Soca Monarch competitions across the Caribbean will automatically be entered in Trinidad on Fantastic Friday."Soca Monarch is an investment that Trinidad and Tobago will reap the benefits of," he said, adding that the show creates 4,000 jobs.
"We have a great product that is accepted already. We have to build it because the world is not accepting mediocrity," he incited, urging the people of the island to support what was theirs, and to come out with high energy and full support on Fantastic Friday March 4."On the present government's involvement in this year's competition, Munroe offered words of appreciation for its support."This year, the production of the International Soca Monarch is dedicated to the Prime Minister for the financial incentive and the government's innovation. I want to thank them for working with the product, something that the previous government, did not entirely support."
• The 2011 International Soca Monarch Competition (Groovy and Power) will be officially launched tomorrow evening at The Hyatt Regency, on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, at 7 pm.