Raising Machel: Elizabeth Montano tells the story of son's 40-year soca career

Elizabeth 'Lady' Montano wrote the King of Soca based on her master's thesis --- The Making of Monk Monte. - ANGELO MARCELLE
Elizabeth 'Lady' Montano wrote the King of Soca based on her master's thesis --- The Making of Monk Monte. - ANGELO MARCELLE

With a moniker like “The Drone” – always overseeing everything, watching, and seeing to everyone’s interest – no one else but Elizabeth “Lady” Montano could be more perfect to write the biography of her son, soca star Machel Montano.

She has been propelling her son’s career from the beginning, giving him the freedom to express himself and share ideas, and has been a mother, confidant, friend, and manager to him.

As such, Montano, 72, has written a biography of Machel titled King of Soca, which will be released in June.

Soca superstar Machel Montano performs at the Maha Shiv Raatri show in India on Carnival Tuesday before a combined live and online audience of millions. -

The idea for the book came from her research thesis, The Making of Monk Monte: Creativity and Commodification in TT popular Culture, for a master of philosophy in cultural studies from the UWI. When she submitted it in 2018, one examiner suggested she add some chapters and use the book to get her doctorate but she did not want to study for another five years.

“When they told me about the PhD, I said, ‘It’s ok. I’ll do a book.’ But between 2018 and 2020, I concentrated on me. And then the pandemic came and that’s when I decided I’ll do the book as I had that down time, that quiet time as I was relaxing in Toco.

“As an educator I always believe knowledge is nothing if it isn’t shared. I thought with Machel being 47, being so young and having accomplished so much, I think I wanted to share that knowledge. I wanted it to be known while he’s still young, while he still has a lot to offer.”

Although Machel was born in 1974, she highlighted some of Machel’s influences such as calypsonians the Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener, and the relationship between their experiences and Machel’s. The biography covers 1956 to 2022.

She told Sunday Newsday releasing the book for her son’s 40th anniversary in the music industry was not planned, but it was completed at the right time which happened to be in time for the anniversary so that it could be part of the celebrations.

She said she wanted the book to be published immediately, did not want to depend on anyone, and wanted autonomy over the content so she self-published the biography under EESM Publishers.

“This way I could decide when I’m going to release it and what I want to include in it. I hope I could do some other things because I’ve been encouraged to do my memoirs. As it stands, anything under my name I’ll start with EESM Publishing.”

Montano has a bachelor’s degree in education from UWI, taught agriculture and science in Jamaica and TT, and was a guidance councillor.

Elizabeth 'Lady' Montano looks at a collage featuring her son Machel Montano, as she promotes the biography King of Soca at Xtatik Ltd, Gordon Street, Port of Spain. - ANGELO MARCELLE

Over the years she mentored and managed other people in the Xtatik family and has never stopped giving advice, though not as a professional or for renumeration.

“I’ve been like this since I was a child. I’m always teaching, always sharing knowledge, always like a mother, I’m always mentoring. So doing this is just part of me and I love doing it. I get this sense of achievement and joy knowing I helped someone achieve their goal.”

She retired as Machel’s manager in 2014 and handed over the reigns to Che Kothari, but she is still her son’s “go-to person” and is a director at Montanos' Chocolate Company Ltd.

She said she was able to make Machel successful locally and regionally but she did not have the experience to take him international. Also, in terms of technology, she could no longer offer him advice so she gave up the position to someone younger but she has always been there to support him.

She said he always had a very strong support system, including his family and management team, which has played a major role in his success.

Montano explained King of Soca covers various periods of Machel’s life and career including his early years, Winer Boy, Machel Montano HD, Monk Monte, and beyond his 40th anniversary.

It includes pictures and newspaper articles, a testimonial by journalist Peter Ray Blood who was “there from the start,” and contributions by many others including journalist and digital content creator Laura Dowrich-Phillips for some objectivity.

In this August 24, 2019 file photo, Machel Montano performs at the Island Beats Super Concert, Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain. - ANGELO MARCELLE

“He’s my son. I love his music. I’m a fan. Nothing is totally objective in life so there is no reason why I should say that I am objective. I can’t be totally objective. But I’m a professional so I know how to work it.”

She said she tried to capture characteristics that contributed to his success and hopes readers could draw from it. She also highlighted some of his “low points” because she wants people to know there were many highs and lows in any career.

“But every time we went down, we were able to come back up. And many times we came back up even higher than before. One of the characteristics of that was resilience and perseverance and we survived it all so it’s there.”

She also highlighted moments that meant a lot to her and the times he made history such as when he won the Caribbean Broadcasting Union’s Caribbean Song Festival in Barbados in 1987, becoming the first Trinidadian and youngest person to do so at age 12. He was also the first soca artist to appear on the American televised talent competition, Star Search.

Then, there was March 1, 2022 when Machel performed at Maha Shiv Raatri show in India to 140 million people live and online. She said it was a very proud moment for her.

Montano recalled Machel was already in India with his wife when he was discovered and asked to perform at the festival.

“I didn’t know what to expect but I knew in my heart that he would know exactly what to do. He would know what to sing, when to sing it, how to sing it and how to interact with the crowd. Whatever he’s doing, he’s very conscious of what’s going on and feeds off of it. He connects with the people and makes sure they get what they pay for or came to see.

“I think that his mission, stated as a young child, that he wanted to express himself and take the music to the corners of the globe, I think he did that in one performance in India on that Carnival Tuesday.”


"Raising Machel: Elizabeth Montano tells the story of son’s 40-year soca career"

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