"Guns will be blasting for sure in this musical war." ~David Rudder, Dust in Dey Face
The music of Carnival is usually the basis for the drama that accompanies Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. However, this year, the drama is happening behind the music. With Machel Montano being found guilty of various assault charges and soca power couple Bunji Garlin and Fay-Ann Lyons choosing to bow out of the Soca Monarch competition, the battle is not just on the stage.
Soca Monarch and The Music of Trinidad's Carnival
After five years of fighting the charges, Machel Montano was found guilty of assault on December 11, 2012 from a brawl that erupted outside of Zen night club in 2007. According to C News "the ruling found him guilty on all five criminal offences: four charges of assault against Gerard Borwin, Brandis Browne, Janelle Lee Chee and Russell Pollonais, and using obscene language during the same incident." The soca artist, known for his high energy performances that keep crowds jumping and waving, was also recently suspended from his contract with TSTT, which meant that he would not be allowed to perform at BSquare. The news received mixed responses on social media as some were pleased that TSTT made the statement that they would not support an artist found guilty of assault. Others, however, felt that Machel was being made a scapegoat and that the artist was targeted due to his high profile. Despite his legal troubles, Montano maintains that he will retain his Groovy Soca Monarch, Power Soca Monarch, and Road March King titles. In his recent performance at One Fete, he said, "They telling me about Super Blue. I said, 'Super who?'" It is brave to call out the people's favorite.
Montano will be sentenced on February 25th - weeks after Carnival. Was the postponement due to public pressure, too? After all, people look forward to Machel Monday and seeing if he will keep his promise or if he will have to eat his words and bow to the High Priest on February 8th.
But who will not be at Fantastic Friday? Bunji Garlin and Fay-Ann Lyons have decided to sit this one out again. After reviewing the terms of the contract artists must sign to be a part of the competition, the Alvarezs have decided not to participate in the event. In a statement published on the Asylum Band's FaceBook page, "there are issues that must be addressed if the Soca Monarch competition is to be the great springboard for the soca art form that its founder, William Munro envisions it to be." Rather than asking for changes to be made to the contract, a move that could have jeopardized other artists' participation, the couple simply chose to not sign a contract with which they did not agree. This did not stop the duo from receiving accolades for their live shows. Bunji Garlin entertained the crowd at Red Edge fete by showcasing his freestlying skills while waiting for technical issues to be resolved. Once the video was posted online, Tweets and Posts with the catchphrase "Hurry Up and Fix It" popped up.
As someone who loves seeing the Asylum Band perform live, I am sure that there are those who are disappointed that they will not be in the competition. Despite what you might have heard, the couple has other obligations and will not be at Fantastic Friday at all...although it is pretty clear who they will be supporting.
Regardless of the outside issues, the International Soca Monarch finals will be worth attending or, in my case, watching online. Patrice Roberts will perform her mega hit "A Little Wine" and Denise Belfon will no doubt show why they call her "The Wining Queen." Also, with her surprise admissioin into the finals, Lil Bitts will have to come with something spectacular to get the crowd to "Raise the Dust." Will Machel keep his crowns? Will he have to relinquish his Power Soca title to the High Priest of soca? Either way, I will be watching to see if Friday will be indeed fantastic or if it will be fogged up.