Trinidad Carnival: Soca Competition 2011

Trinidad Carnival: Soca Competition 2011

Soca ball: the stars of the Trinidad and Tobago carnival

It is carnival in the southern Caribbean, with fierce competition to see which soca songs will become this season’s anthems. Here are some of the favourites …

  • Edwin ‘Stats’ Houghton and Chris ‘Jillionaire’ Leacock
  •, Tuesday 8 March 2011 11.18 GMT

Carnival 2011 celebrations climax on Tuesday 8 March with the parade of bands. But the big story this year involves the controversial Soca Monarch competition held (as every year) on Fantastic Friday. The relevance of this competition has been hotly debated lately as many of soca’s biggest stars – Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin, Alison Hinds and others – had effectively retired from participating, mainly on the grounds that this was not what their music was about. But the big guns almost unanimously returned to the festival stage, wooed by the prospect of a first prize worth $2m.

The result was a hard-fought lyrical war between the soca triad of Montano, Garlin and Iwer George. In the end, Machel took the purse with Advantage while Iwer – who some say was robbed of the crown – came a close second with Come to Meh, in which he instructs partygoers to “come to me!” and “go away!”. His onstage props included not only traditional blue devils and moko jumbies but a makeshift airplane that hovered over the crowd, leading patrons “to the left” and “to the right”, but were no match (in the judges’ eyes) for Machel’s explosive stage presence. Surrounded by dancers on Cirque du Soleil-inspired support wires and 30ft setpieces, Machel took to the stage with the intensity and crowd command that has left audiences mesmerised across the world.

His ode to the beloved stage at Queen’s Park Savannah – which was demolished several years ago and only rebuilt this carnival – rings deep in the heart of Trinis everywhere, as carnival, and by extension “crossing the stage”, is a fundamental part of the Trinidadian ethos.

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