Writer, Editor, Stand-Up Comedian

Stealing the show

Posted: March 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Machel Montano did not deserve to win Soca Monarch. There, I’ve said it. Go ahead and hate me.

Or love me. Because to the majority of the untold thousands in the Hasley Crawford National Stadium in Port-of-Spain last night, Iwer George was the clear winner. He had them under his spell with his jumbie song Come To Meh, and they loved it, from general to VVIP (more on that fiasco later), moving as one at his command. There was nothing really to fault in his performance; it’s not a great song but in Iwer’s hands it becomes one, and he sang it cleanly, throwing in a new verse (I refuse to say “freestyled” because he’s had ages to practice), with a relevant stage production. But it was the crowd reaction that should have cinched it.

Machel’s song is my favourite for Road March, it being timely and rather catchy, and it having a sweet, haunting melody, as I discovered when a jazz musician I know, Michael Low Chew Tung, slowed down the melody and played it in piano tones. But let’s be clear, folks. Machel’s performance, while technically correct and dramatically on, with his own new verses that drove some members of the audience wild, did not move the whole stadium the way Iwer’s did. (I would also like to state here that Machel should be ashamed for his anti-woman and insulting verse on Fay Ann and Bunji; it have picong and it have picong, hoss… that was LOW. But then again, we have the tradition of Madam Dracula. But then again, that was in another time, wasn’t it.) In fact, as my friend Tillah Willah pointed out on her Facebook page, a good part of the crowd was actually chanting “IWER” during Machel’s performance.

The crowd said with one hoarse, out-of-breath voice, “Iwer!” And the judges should have listened. People are talking about a conspiracy and I’m not surprised. There’s only one way Machel Montano would give up a long and presumably once-permanent ban on entering Soca Monarch: he was sure he would win.

Now to VIP and VVIP. I’ve gone to Soca Monarch lots of times, always in general admission. For a low price I could see all the big acts, hear all the big songs and have a great time among people who are there to sing, dance and dingolay. There are adequate portapotties, the food court is well supplied and the bars in the past few years have been plentiful and well-stocked, with great service. The year general admission was also all-inclusive, the food was fine and I didn’t have to line up at all.

This year a friend of mine payed for us to go to VIP. VIP tickets were $450 and promised free food. The drinks you had to buy. Well, we tried but got neither. There was no food by midnight, as I discovered after lining up behind about 40 other people when I arrived. Since the show started 9.30pm and ended somewhere around 6am, that is not acceptable. Worse than that, the bar ran out of vodka, red rum, Malta, water and even ICE! We stood by the bar for nearly an hour waiting to be served, shouting ourselves hoarse (actually, that was just me after the first 45 minutes of waiting patiently). As I sipped my consolatory lukewarm beer, a man I know came up, muttering, “William Munro know how to make money, boy.” He added, “He shoulda just put a gun to people head and say, ‘Gimme yuh money.'”

The stadium was so crowded the show had to be stopped several times to ask patrons to move into the stands as the field was dangerously overcrowded. Up in VIP we had our own overcrowding issues, worst of all at the ladies’ washrooms where there were six filthy, flooded, paperless, soapless stalls for what was surely a couple thousand people. I later overheard a lady talking about the VVIP washrooms and shot there like a bullet. There were only three stalls, but beautifully appointed with soap, toilet paper, papertowels and even hand sanitiser.

This VIP bathroon fiasco is in comparison to the VIP portapotties I saw at another fete (Customs Boys, thanks to a bligh from Sterling!) on Wednesday. Those were luxurious and well-maintained. There were no portapotties I could see in VIP at Soca Monarch, but there were ranks and ranks of them (no pun intended though they were, indeed, stinky smellying as portapotties are as a rule) outside in the common area.

Speaking of the common area, which was on the road ringing the stadium, here the lines were short and brisk, the food was plentiful, and they even had water. I feel sorry that my friend spent $450 for what he could have got for less in general admission: the chance to see the show and buy your own food.

Judging from the loud complaints that sang in my ears from my fellow patrons as we streamed out of VIP after Machel’s performance, it was actually William Munro who stole the show.

17 Comments on “Stealing the show”

  1. 1 rhoda bharath said at 10:56 am on March 5th, 2011:

    it have picong and it have picong? Sorry Lisa, it have picong period! And Machel didn’t throw the first stone. Whole season he getting bashed from people and the one night he lash back all yuh find he too harsh?

  2. 2 Nigel Reid said at 11:04 am on March 5th, 2011:

    Lisa your article is a bit skewed in that crowd response carries the lowest number of points. Besides crowd response what other category did Iwer beat machel in?

    20% of the points were via texts and I am sure HD slaughtered that

    And you are asking the judges to listen to crowd to determine the winner? then let crowd response equal 100% of the tally.

    Careful analysis will show that Machel outperformed Iwer in almost every other category save crowd response.

    70% of the points are based on technical merits…70%!!!!!

  3. 3 Trini said at 11:16 am on March 5th, 2011:

    Iwer win in my book!!! Machel only enter because Kamla tell him he was going to win…you feel he would have entered otherwise….that man have a fragile ego…they teif!! This government eh bet they corrupt!

  4. 4 Nigel Campbell said at 11:18 am on March 5th, 2011:

    Lisa, So true about Iwer. Bunji additionally clobbered Machel. I was in my car when results were announced, so was taken aback at the ranking. Iwer was a crowd favourite if I ever heard one. Truth be told, in front of the engineer/television tower, Machel had the crowd in his hands during his performance, but as I was receding near the end of his performance, I too heard the shouts of “Iwer, Iwer!” Ridiculous ranking. I need to ask Marva Newton, a judge,what was the rationale for the results.

  5. 5 Caroline Taylor said at 12:02 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    Lisa, thanks for that. On point. Now I does be schuppid and like to give the judges & organisers the benefit of the doubt until compelling evidence to the contrary – could Iwer possibly have been penalised for running over the prescribed 8-minute time? Even so, I thought the next best performer was Bunji. Machel’s performance to me was desperate and unfocussed; the vocals terrible; the presentation hackneyed; and I thought his composed-and-practised-at-home “freestyle” was pathetic and bigoted. He is not my Soca Monarch champion at all. But there we have it. Dat is mas?

  6. 6 Isaac Rudder said at 1:16 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    1. It’s a good thing the actual crowd & it’s response is not the only thing responsible for the judging… nor is it the only thing that the judges need to vote for

    2. Performance and crowd response are 2 very different things. For me, yes, Iwer did have the bigger crowd response by miles, but on a serious note, they were equal in the performance level.

    3. Your song selection DOES matter in Soca Monarch… whether you like to accept it or not… and Machel’s song is miles above Iwer George’s… plain and simple

    and finally

    4. Never forget that texting to vote is a facet of the process. And I can assure there are 50 times the Machel lovers internationally than there are Iwer lovers. And yes, you can text from Digicel + International Texting too…

  7. 7 Vaughnette said at 1:40 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    Great review Lis. One point and very very true.

  8. 8 Corve DaCosta said at 2:02 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    I watched the show and I thought Iwer won. The crowd was shouting his name and he had then in a frenzy. I was shocked to hear Machel won, even a live feed I was watching, one commentator was shocked. Even Iwer during his interview before the announcement thought he won, saying the judges should do the right thing. Great song by Machel, didn’t like his delivery – his statements on stage and the arguments after with other performers.

    He won, there’s always another year. I’d love to experience Trini carnival though.

  9. 9 Natasha said at 2:13 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    …so I watched it on tv, missed most of the crowd reaction, but did not feel Machel’s performance other than to appreciate it was well timed…when it did start…
    I felt Iwer could only have lost because of himself, and I felt his performance was NOT well timed, and the crane and video antics may have cost him the title…..
    Mind you, it was Machel who is the MOST experienced, demanding and timely in terms of performing out of ALL contestants, so, grudgingly or not, crowd response or not, d brother was most qualified on the night WHEN IT COUNTED FOR THE JUDGES to win.. A lil help with the texting ala Rikki Jai would not have hurt either.
    I jus sayin’……

  10. 10 lise said at 3:02 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    I don’t mind picong but I find his comment was backward and sexist coming from a modern man who is managed by his mother and knows women are capable of being good decision makers and managers. Picong is actually really important in calypso… I miss good picong.

  11. 11 lise said at 3:07 pm on March 5th, 2011:

    Maybe, as another response suggests, Iwer lost points because of time? His stage show did go on. The song Iwer sang was no less flimsy than any other soca song (lyrically and melodically). The thing about the crowd response is not merely to suggest that the audience is always right. I actually had a line like that in there and remembered Soca Monarch shows where bottle pelt for that same thing so I took it out. I think what I’m getting at is that so many people can’t be wrong, or something so. I don’t think there was any inherently superior aspect to Machel’s performance last night except that he’s Machel and Iwer is Iwer.

  12. 12 steve r. said at 6:48 am on March 6th, 2011:

    I think we need to make deeper analyses of these events and what actually transpires around them. If we are to be honest we must state that politics and not necessarily musical or entertainment value was at work in both Machel’s victory and Iwer’s popularity in the build-up to and on the night of the International Soca Monarch final. Many patrons went to Hasely Crawford Stadium to shout Iwer knowing that he could not win given the politics at work (Soca Monarch dedicated to Kamla; first words of Machel’s song “let we thank the government”, etc) and also knowing that had there not been the spectre of those politics at work , Iwer on his best day is not near the class of Machel on his worst–at least in a contest of musicianship or performance. Machel deserves to win, if only to help our society grow up a little bit and question its “good sense” of hypocrisy. By Ash Wednesday, when Machel wins the Road March title, I can almost predict that some Trinis will be singing a different soca.

  13. 13 choy boi said at 11:29 pm on March 8th, 2011:


  14. 14 Trinidad & Tobago: Carnival Results · Global Voices said at 9:02 am on March 9th, 2011:

    […] from the most talked-about Carnival competitions here and here, while Lisa Allen-Agostini weighs in on show-stealing at the hotly-contested Soca Monarch contest. […]

  15. 15 Trinidad & Tobago: Carnival Results | Daringsearch said at 9:05 am on March 9th, 2011:

    […] from the most talked-about Carnival competitions here and here, while Lisa Allen-Agostini weighs in on show-stealing at the hotly-contested Soca Monarch […]

  16. 16 Trinidad & Tobago: Carnival Results @ Current Affairs said at 9:13 am on March 9th, 2011:

    […] from the most talked-about Carnival competitions here and here, while Lisa Allen-Agostini weighs in on show-stealing at the hotly-contested Soca Monarch […]

  17. 17 lise said at 1:25 pm on March 10th, 2011:

    …and this newspaper report agrees with you! http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Munro__Iwer_can_only_blame_himself-117709578.html

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