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Soca battles begin

International Chutney-Soca and International Soca semis this weekend

By Wayne Bowman wayne.bowman@trinidadexpress.com

Artistes are, as you read this, working feverishly on their respective presentations for the semi-finals of three major competitions taking place this weekend namely the International Chutney-Soca Monarch tonight at Rienzi Complex, Couva and the International Power and Groovy Soca Monarch at the Arima Velodrome on Sunday.

Some of the artistes are competing in two or even all three competitions and so they are really under the gun having to ensure that they have the energy and drive to deliver their best in every performance. And remember, most of them will also have several fetes to do over the weekend as well. People can still, however, look forward to fantastic deliveries from all the competitors with what as much as $1 million at stake. Once one makes it to the finals, that is.

In the Chutney-Soca competition fans of that genre are really looking forward to the return of Raymond Ramnarine of the band Dil-e-Nadan to the competition. It is safe to say that everybody loves him and his song, "I Ain't Marridin No More", which has been doing extremely well on the radio stations and also in the events that the band has performed in thus far. Ramnarine has been in studio working on perfecting the music alongside his brothers, Richard and Rennie as well as other members of Dil-e-Nadan.

Also among the top contenders is Rastafarian reggae artiste, Prophet Benjamin who is really making waves with not one, but two hot chutney-soca songs, "Lokani" and "Tribute to Kunal Ganjawala", which he recorded alongside Brent Evelyn. Prophet Benjamin will perform his, "Lokani" tonight, while Evelyn will do "Ganjawala" on his own with the plan being that once Evelyn makes it through to the final they will again come together.

Michelle X is another hot contender with her racy song titled, "Indian Man", her first attempt at chutney-soca for which she is receiving kudos. And while Michelle X is expected to heat up the place with her "Indian Man", Drupatee Ramgoonai will surely have the place burning up when she performs, "Indian Gyal", which she recorded alongside Machel Montano. It's doubtful that Montano will be at Rienzi tonight, but you can be sure he'll be at Drupatee's side should she make it through to the final.

The guns are drawn for Sunday's semi-finals of the International Power and Groovy Soca Monarch competitions. The competitors are rearing to get on stage to claim their space at the finals on Fantastic Friday. Every artiste is gunning for Montano hoping to be the one who will dethrone him taking both or at least one of the titles. He is not going to relinquish either easily and although Montano has not yet officially announced what songs he is going into battle with, he has signalled his resolve to retain through his releases such as, "She Ready", "The Fog" and his most recent release, "Float".

It seems, however, that the one to beat in 2013 is the high priest of soca, SuperBlue who returns to the Soca Monarch stage triumphantly with his song titled, "Fantastic Friday". The song has ripped through the nation like wildfire enjoying heavy rotation on most radio stations and even garnering more than 300,000 hits on Youtube. While there are critics saying SuperBlue will not be able to pull it off, there are thousands of faithful who believe he is well on his way to his sixth Soca Monarch title.

Soca fans have been saying that the Lyons are roaring this year because SuperBlue is back with a bang and his daughter, Fay Ann Lyons and son-in-law, Bunji Garlin have also returned after sitting out the competition last year. Garlin chose to enter just the Groovy category with his song, "Differentology", which still has folks mesmerised since its release in November. Yes, the song has been around that long and still sounds brand new every time it is played. Lyons is going up against her dear old dad, SuperBlue with her song, "D Stage Open". She has sat out the Groovy category, which she's won before.

Also of note in the Soca Monarch this year is Prophet Benjamin who last year made a spectacular debut to the competition and the soca arena as a whole with his infectious, "Throw Wine". He is in this competition competing in the Power category with, "Lunatic", a song that will have the crowd stampeding in the Velodrome come Sunday and making those less energetic or hardy run for cover.

Never count out Iwer George who in the past couple of years has come so very close to taking the Power title, but was denied by Mr Double M. Iwer is hoping his, "Bubble" will earn him the Groovy title and well, as for the power, he may go with "Jump Up Ting" or "Unfinished Business". Iwer and Montano have been quite chummy lately so I wonder if one will take it easy on the other at the final this time around if the boss from Point Fortin makes it through.

The competitions see the expected regulars returning to the stage among them being; Tallpree, Shurwayne Winchester, Nadia Batson, Skinny Fabulous, JW and Blaze, Lil Bitts, Devon Matthews, Benjai and Blaxx. There are a number of newcomers and artistes who have been away from the Soca Monarch stage for some time; Chris Garcia, Anselm Douglas, Fyah Empress, Mikey, Squeezy Rankin, Sean Daniel, Charli Griffith and Timel Rivas who is among the youngest to ever compete.

Chairman of the Caribbean Prestige Foundation, producers of the competition, William Munro said he is more excited than ever over the Soca Monarch of 2013. One reason is because this is the 21st edition of the competition, but more so because of the return of SuperBlue, Fay Ann and Bunji. Munro said he is looking forward to fierce, yet good natured competition this year and reminds the people that anything can happen on the night of the finals, meaning the winner can be one of the favourites or even a lesser known newcomer who delivers a great performance that moves the crowd and impresses the judges.

International Power Soca Monarch semi-finalists: 1. Iwer George 2. Tallpree 3. Timel Rival 4. Prophet Benjamin 5. Shurwayne Winchester 6. MX Prime (formerly Maximus Dan) 7. Fya Empress 8. Nadia Batson 9. Skinny Fabulous 10. Superblue 11. Lil Rick 12. Peter Levels 13. Trevor Gore 14. Anslem Douglas 15. Swappi 16. Megan Walrond 17. JW & Blaze 18. Mikee 19. Lil Bitts 20. Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez 21. Olatunji Yearwood 22. Devon Matthews 23. Chris Garcia 24. Benjai 25. I-Stan Scott 26. Destra Garcia 27. Squeezy Rankin 28. Blaxx 29. Erphaan Alves 30. Ronald Wickham International Groovy Soca Monarch semi-finalists: 1. Sean Daniel 2. Santeney Rampersad 3. Ravi B 4. Michelle Xavier 5. Denise Belfon 6. Nesta Boxill 7. Farmer Nappy 8. Patrice Roberts 9. K. Rich 10. El Jay 11. Sheldon Bullen 12. Kerwin Du Bois 13. Chucky Gordon 14. Mr Renzo Music 15. Bunji Garlin 16. J Angel 17. 5 Star Akil 18. Drupatee 19. Shurwayne Winchester 20. Nadia Batson 21. Supa Jigga TC 22. Destra Garcia 23. Shal Marshall 24. Iwer George 25. Blaxx 26. Denyse Plummer 27. Benjai 28. Lyrikal 29. Yankey Boy 30. Charli Griffith International Chutney-Soca semi-finals: Jason Ramlal Kenneth Salick Jude Nidhan Ranjeev Ramdeen Michael Salloum (Soca Elvis) Navin Prabhoo Naresh Prabhoo Lalchan "Hunter" Babwah Veekash Sahadeo Rajin Dhanraj O'Neil Bhajman Michelle Xavier Rick Ramoutar Boodram Holass Reshma Ramlal Hemlatha Dindial Kerron Tyron Williams (Wackerman) Kareem Noel Nigel Gobin Devon Samuel (Prophet Benjamin) Omadath Maharaj Oscar Benjamin Chris Garcia Dave Lall Saleem Beharry Brent Evelyn Natalia Wohler Neeshan Prabhoo Anil Bheem Ambika Yankeran Kavita Maharaj Sassy Ramoutar Leon Caldero Rikki Jai Sally Sagram SW Storm Kenneth Supersad Dolly Boy Drupatee Ramgoonai Anant Hansraj Sara Ali Yankeran Adesh Samaroo Raymond Ramnarine Terry Gajraj Joey Ramoutar

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