FOUR-TIME Power Soca Monarch winner Ian "Bunji Garlin" Alvarez has accused fellow soca artiste Machel Montano of "playing politics" to win tonight's $2 million bmobile Power Soca Monarch grand prize.
Montano, who has never won the Soca Monarch competition, has been picked to walk away with the $2 million prize this year by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.
Asked to comment on this, Alvarez, who won the Soca Monarch title in 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2008, told the Express yesterday the Soca Monarch crowd is not one that can be easily fooled.
"No matter who put whatever in place, if anybody put things in place from before, on the night, the crowd knows who they want as their winner, and they would not accept anything less," Alvarez said.
Alvarez, performing in various soca fetes over the past week, has been using his freestyle flow of singing to address the perceived political ploy being used by Montano to win this year's competition.
A YouTube video entitled "Bunji Garlin spits fire at 'Mr HD'" at Army Fete 2011 is currently being circulated on social networking sites.
"He gone up by Kamla to drop off CD, ask she to come in the video but she sending Gypsy. You ent see, you ent see, you ent see is politics playing on we, but when next week Friday come, tell them they cannot beat me. But they so caught up with two million. I will beat them from the stands to the pavilion. Hold a burn, hold a burn, that boy going to learn. You cannot pay for Soca Monarch, that's a title you earn," Alvarez sang at last week Friday's Army Fete, at the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain.
In response, Montano, in a telephone interview last night, said he was elated about the endorsement by the Attorney General and appreciates being appreciated for honouring the Calypso King, Mighty Sparrow, and Calypso Queen, Rose, on Monday night, during his concert.
Asked whether he does not consider it to be a political endorsement, he said he saw it as "one from a man who saw his work and decided to salute it".
"It's not politically motivated as some have suggested because if a PNM (People's National Movement) senator or even a common man endorses him in that way, what would they call that? In any case, the Government does not judge these competitions, so they have no way to show favour to him in that regard."
The People's Partnership Government has increased the bmobile Power Soca Monarch's first prize to $2 million this year, as well as the three other major Carnival competitions— Chutney Soca, Panorama and the National Calypso Monarch.
Montano has entered the competition this year for the first time since 1996, the year when Austin "SuperBlue" Lyons won the third of his seven Soca Monarch titles.
Montano is expected to perform his soca song "Advantage" tonight at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
In the music video for "Advantage", Montano is seen receiving a key to the Savannah big stage from Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Winston "Gypsy" Peters.
"Leh we thank the Government. They take we off the pavement. And it was well worth every cent. I say they're intelligent," Montano sings before Peters hands him a golden key.
Three-time Power Soca Monarch winner Neil "Iwer" George echoed Alvarez's view that the Soca Monarch crowd cannot be tricked.
"All I can tell you is the competition is very sticky. It is the biggest show. It is the show with the most eyes on it. And this is one of the shows, definitely, where the winner has to be the winner. The winner has to be the winner; there is no other way they can go about this show. All that is said and done before the competition will have no impact. The winner is selected on the night by their performance," George said.
Ancil Isaac, one half of reigning Soca Monarch duo JW and Blaze, said Ramlogan's statement would only bring additional pressure on Montano and would not affect the other competitors.
"Well, you see, at the end of the day when you see headlines like that, it really doesn't put pressure on us, it puts pressure on the person who is being backed. Because if he doesn't win, then the pressure is on him. There's no pressure on us; it draws the attention away from us and let's us do what we need to do," Isaac said.
William Munro, chairman of Caribbean Prestige Foundation (CPF), the company responsible for the Soca Monarch competition, said he saw nothing wrong with Ramlogan's public support of Montano.
"Everybody has their preferences. I, for one, like Patrice (Roberts) but that does not mean that she is guaranteed to win. I like her because I have seen her grow as an artiste from the Junior Soca Monarch to where she is now," Munro said.
Roberts, a member of the Montano-formed HD Family, is competing in the Groovy Soca Monarch as a solo artiste and alongside Nadia Batson in the Power Soca Monarch competition.
Judges will allocate 80 per cent of the points and bmobile customers, the other 20 per cent, to decide the winners of both the bmobile Power Soca Monarch and Groovy Soca Monarch.
—with reporting by Nigel Telesford