The decision of soca superstar, Machel Montano, to refrain from live performances during the Carnival season is possibly one of the most difficult decisions he had to make in his long musical career. Many fans and revellers consider this move as creating a vacuum in live musical performances during these Carnival celebrations. However, this musical move can be a very strategic manoeuvre if Machel utilises this period to re-evaluate his guiding philosophy in relation to where he wants to take the music. Many local musicologists and older commentators have attributed blame to Montano for the direction of soca music in the last decade, since the local media have always touted him as the major flag-bearer of the new generation of soca performers in the post Rudder/SuperBlue era.
The arrival of Montano in his Big Truck for Carnival in 1997 heralded a new dawn in the evolution of soca. Most of the young soca artistes and revellers lined up behind this musical vehicle expecting Montano to lead them to "the musical promise land," but this was not to be. When he arrived at the junction of musical decision, he had the options of remaining in a state of musical inertia, drifting with the musical tide in the direction of left or right to anywhere, or to make a conscious effort to take the music to another level with clearly identified qualities and specific goals. Almost a decade and a half after the musical masterpiece of Big Truck, the question remains, Has Montano employed his attained leadership role in the local musical scene to improve the standards of soca music and increase the universal acceptance of soca?
Montano has remained a dominant star in the Trinidad/Caribbean Carnival diaspora but has not been able to generate the same level of success outside of this diaspora. Recently, looking at a local weekly television programme, Kevin Lyttle, of St Vincent, articulated a clear vision where he wants to take soca music. He also enumerated his love for the Japanese response to the music and highlighted his performances in Russia. Although he has his own record label, he has been able to ensure the marketability of his music through his association with a major international record distributor.
Montano has a tremendous influence on many of the soca performers who have entered the arena over the last decade, and numerous young participants in the annual Synergy Soca Stars competition emulate his presentation and the lyrical content of his songs. This writer heard the son of an outstanding previous Road March Champion, Soca Monarch and Calypso Monarch, referring to him as "Father," this confirming the notion that several young soca artistes regard him as a father figure/leader in the soca industry. The frightening aspect of this scenario is his apparent lack of appreciation of this responsibility.
Andre McEachnie, Carnival
Studies BA (Hons),
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