Promoters, artistes welcome call for Soca Monarch’s return

Soca star and businessman Neil
Soca star and businessman Neil "Iwer" George. - File photo by Jeff K Mayers

Some promoters and artistes have welcomed the call by Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell for the Soca Monarch’s return, with some saying that they would be interested in taking up the challenge.

Mitchell made the call at a prize-giving ceremony on April 10 for the winners of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (TUCO) 2024 competitions: National Freestyle, National Extempo, National Road March and National Calypso Monarch.

He said Soca Monarch had been absent for too long, the public’s interest had waned and revitalising it was crucial. He invited interested parties to partner with the government for a renewed competition.

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Promoters Association (TTPA) Jerome “Rome” Precilla said the association was happy for this call, as Soca Monarch was something needed in the Carnival space.

“We have a competition for calypso, we have one for chutney, one for Carnival bands, one for pan and so we definitely need one for the soca fraternity.

“Soca Monarch, in the past, propelled the careers of a lot of artistes. As much as some people may be disgruntled with Soca Monarch in the past, there is no doubt that it did help to propel the careers of many,” he said.

Rome added that a couple of TTPA members were interested and would be submitting when a Request For Proposals (RFP) is issued.

But Rome advised the government and the National Carnival Commission (NCC) to simply support the promoter or promoters selected and not to become too involved in the day-to-day running of it.

“The business of the government and NCC should not be in trying to put on events like these, but allow the promoters who are accustomed doing events like these that attract thousands of people to do what they know to do best and allow the government to just support that,” he said.

Rome said the competition should be self-sustaining.

“In the past too many people fully depended on government funding for these things to take place and, if the government pulls out or does not give as much funding, then the entire thing collapses. So this should stand on its own feet.

“It should make money from the door sales, sponsorship and different investors and get the support of the government,” he said.

Rome was also happy that the discussion was taking place now rather than later on, which would give future organisers enough time to host the event.

“I am happy the minister is putting this out there early so it would give enough time for someone to be selected to carry this out and ample time for the planning process to take place and get this thing right.

“It always saddens me to see other islands have their versions of the soca monarch come and outshine ours when we were the ones who came up with the idea in the first place. We were known as the Mecca of Carnival – still known as the Mecca – where our Soca Monarch product is now a shadow of the past.

“I am really happy it is being talked about now, really hoping it is successful and that we can bring back a competition like this to where it used to be; where people are interested in it and where the entire world can look at us and see some of our best acts on display.”

Similarly, promoter Randy Glasgow said he too was happy with Mitchell’s call. Glasgow, in an exclusive interview with Newsday in February, said he would be hosting a calypso competition for chutney and soca artistes in 2025.

But in a phone interview on April 11, Glasgow said he and his team would be interested in hosting a the Soca Monarch competition if the minister and NCC contacted him.

Glasgow said Mitchell was "spot on" and soca music was the driver of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival.

“If our Carnival has to be world-class, it must have good soca music to support it. So the idea of bringing back a competition is welcome and good news for all,” he said.

Glasgow said his organisation and NCC’s chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters had discussions last year to do something with Soca Monarch missing from the Carnival calendar. However, it did not materialise.

Glasgow said he started his career with the Soca Monarch working with the competition’s founder, William Munroe.

“So we are familiar with the Soca Monarch product and the competition and so on. So it is good news all around and we are happy for the soca artistes especially the younger ones and established ones,” he said.

The last International Soca Monarch was held in 2020 and was won by Neil “Iwer” George. Iwer also welcomes the call for the competition’s return but thinks it needs to revert to being a national competition.

Iwer said in a phone interview on April 11, “When something stops you need to start it over, and if you have to start it over you have to go back to where it start."

He said this would make it easier for politicians to justify the spend on the show.

Iwer said the international component of Soca Monarch had only come after the country outgrew the national one, and said if it grows again and the business community believes they can invest to give it the international appeal, "so be it."

But he wants to see some changes and proposed a Soca Monarch Concert Series.

“For a show like Soca Monarch now to appease the people and attract the people, it cannot be that same one song thing.

“It might have to be one from now and one from the past, because we are already feeding the people with the past.”

He said he may even consider partnering with the government to host the event.

Meanwhile, the 1995 Soca Monarch winner Ronnie McIntosh said the call for the competition’s return was good.

“It was so saddening that we consider ourselves the 'Mecca,' and we are going to have ‘The Mother of all Carnivals’ and we did not have a Soca Monarch, which we started,” he said.

McIntosh said he is anxious to see the renewed competition’s format and structure as well as those who would participate.

He said Soca Monarch was a musical war and needed names and clashes to draw crowds.

But returning the competition to its former glory would not be easy, as independent promoters had filled the Friday time slot the competition once occupied.

He said these promoters were not going to shift and so it would be difficult to get that back.

“If you don’t get the big names entering, you have to get the big names to guest appear. It is going to be a tough job. It won’t be as easy as pelting out money,” he said.

McIntosh said he himself would not invest in the event as the product had weakened over the years.


"Promoters, artistes welcome call for Soca Monarch’s return"

More in this section