THE glamour that went into the stage appearances of chutney stars at the 2013 Chutney Soca Monarch competition was almost as entertaining as the spicy music itself.
Forty-two artistes performed for a small but appreciative crowd Friday night during the semi-final round at the Rienzi Complex in Couva.
Apart from the favourites— Drupatee Ramgoonai, whose "Indian Gyal" is receiving tremendous airplay, Raymond "Showstoppa" Ramnarine with "I Ain't Marriding Again" and Sally Sagram with "Wine on Meh"— there were also some curiosity factors.
The crowd was eager to hear first-time and usually conscious-music maker Prophet Benjamin with "No Lokani", which has so far been well-received.
Swiss national Natalia Wohler also engaged the curious crowd with her offering, "Wine out the Fever".
Ramgoonai, Ramnarime, Sagram and Benjamin have all made it to the list of 17 finalists, who will battle for the 2013 crown and the $1 million first prize at Skinner Park, San Fernando, on January 26.
Friday night's competition was off to what seemed a slow start, almost one hour late and with a scattering of patrons by the scheduled 8 p.m. start time.
Once the show got going, however, there were no hiccups, with a constant flow of artistes taking the stage.
The first group of performers were mostly newcomers, but notable performances among them came from Kerron "Lionheart" Williams and Nigel Gobin.
Absent was Oscar Benjamin.
Some promoters for the new artistes were unhappy with the fact that slots were assigned and not pulled from a traditional hat, as they felt the crowd was bigger and more receptive to those artistes allowed to play later in the night.
There were also complaints that the sound system was at times "muffled", which was more noticeable in the first quarter of the show, including during the performance of Chris Garcia.
The show was itself considered a success by most patrons who spoke to the Sunday Express, however, as they felt the artistes did not skimp on the glamour and special effects—including stage pyrotechnics—that are as much a part of the show as lyrics, music and choreography.
The night was incident-free and police officers were clearly stationed all along the Southern Main Road in the vicinity of the Complex, assisting patrons and directing traffic and parking.
The crowd reacted the most to the performances by Ramgoonai, Ramnarine, Sagram, Rikki Jai, Michelle Xavier, who delivered a highlight performance with "Indian Man" and Kenneth Supersad with "Bad Talking Woman".
The 17 finalists who will compete at Skinner Park on January 26 are:
SALEEM 'STINKY' BEHARRY
HUNTER & JUNJEEZY
ROGER HINDS – (GUYANA CHUTNEY SOCA MONARCH)
KI PERSAD – DEFENDING CHAMPION