Friday, December 15, 2017

Trouble for Machel and Ravi B


From left: pleaded guilty: Ravi Bissambhar, triple crown winner: Machel Montano

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Some were surprised, others pleased and some people could not believe it when Magistrate Maureen Baboolal-Gafoor, on December 10 at the Port of Spain Magistrates Court passed judgment finding Machel Montano guilty on five criminal offences.

The charges stemmed from a fracas outside the Zen Nightclub, Keate Street, Port of Spain in April of 2007 when Montano, Kernel Roberts, Rodney "Benjai" LeBlanc and Joel "Zan" Fevek got into an altercation with, Gerard Borwin, Brandis Browne, Janelle Lee Chee and Russell Pollonais who were also at the club that night.

Montano was found guilty on four counts of assault and the use of obscene language, while Roberts was found guilty on two counts of assault. LeBlanc and Fevek were both found not guilty on their respective charges of assault. Sentencing is set for January 17 and Montano and Roberts continue to work in studio and perform here and abroad delivering great performances including a recent one in New York at the Barklay's Center, Brooklyn.


Another artiste that ran afoul of the law and ended up before the Court was Ravi B (Ravi Bissambhar) who following the final of the International Chutney Soca Monarch competition of 2011 incited members of the audience to hurl bottles and other objects on to the stage. This was in reaction to Rikki Jai being declared the winner over Ravi B whose band Karma performed as a guest act following the results.

In October this year San Fernando Magistrate Rae Roopchand reprimanded and discharged Ravi B and also instructed that the entertainer will have no criminal conviction recorded against his name. Ravi B had pled guilty to the charge and expressed remorse. No one was injured nor was there any damage to the stage or equipment and so Roopchand acted under the under Section 71 A of the Summary Offences Act.


As the year closes and preparations for Carnival 2013 pick up pace a spanner was thrown into the works when the National Carnival Commission under the direction of newly installed chairman, Allison Demas announced changes to key events and activities of the festival.

Carnival mas bandleaders were up in arms over the change in the parade route that will have the masqueraders crossing the stage at the Queen's Park Savannah from west to east. This, bandleaders said, will have them moving into the wind and with the sun in the eyes of the masqueraders. People will be eating dust and may have parts of their costumes blown off said the masmen who are not at all happy.

The competition element of the Dimanche Gras show on Carnival Sunday has also been removed with the King and Queen of Carnival finals being held on Carnival Friday, while the National Calypso Monarch final will take place on Carnival Thursday. In defence of the argument that the King and Queen competition will clash with the International Soca Monarch finals, Demas said this will not happen as the King and Queen competition begins at 6 p.m. and will not run for more than three hours.


Staying with Carnival, the 2012 season was not without its bacchanal. Just a couple of days before the final of the National Calypso Monarch competition the calypsonians threatened to remain silent on the night if the prize monies were not increased to match those of other competitions. The initial first prize was $500,000 and the calypsonians including defending monarch, Karene Asche who had won $2m the year before were demanding a first prize of at least $1m.

As the calypsonians threatened, no money, no show Then Arts and Multiculturalism Minister, Winston "Gypsy" Peters stood his ground telling the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation that they will have to find the additional money on their own and not depend on the Government again. TUCO president, Lutalo "Brother Resistance" Masimba went in search of the funds and mere hours before the start of Dimanche Gras received word from a corporate entity that it would provide the additional half million dollars. The show went on well.


In May Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar shuffled her Cabinet removing Winston "Gypsy" Peters from his position of Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism and replacing him with Lincoln Douglas, MP for Lopinot/Bon Air West. Douglas seemed out of his element in the first weeks and within days had created controversy when the Ministry pulled financial support of the International Soca Awards in Hollywood, California.

Douglas again drew criticism for stating at the Tribe Mas Band launch that he wanted to invite organisations and companies including foreign entities to submit bids to produce Carnival. Douglas' pet statement, which he almost always includes in speeches is, "I don't like small ideas. I only want big ideas." As for Peters who is now at the helm of the Community Development Ministry, while some people in the culture fraternity were sad to see him go, others including calypsonians and panmen were happy he was shuffled out of the deck.


In July award-winning hip-hop artiste, Nicki Minaj filmed the video for her single titled, "Pound The Alarm" at several locations here. There was a lot of excitement especially for the hundreds of people who turned up at the Queen's Park Savannah in mas costumes hoping to be among those chosen to be featured in the Carnival scene shot in Belmont and at the Savannah. The video also featured cameo appearances by Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin and Fay-Ann Lyons. The end result was a music video that made Trinbagonians proud as it literally sold the twin islands as the place in the region to be if you want to party.

There was, of course, bacchanal from the moment Minaj landed until weeks after she left. The vehicle chartered to pick Minaj up at the airport was at the last minute unavailable and one had to be borrowed to get her. Director of the video, Benny Boom and his team then claimed that a Trinidadian who was contracted to provide a number of services and was paid in excess of US$100,000 disappeared with the money without delivering on any of the services. The last we heard of that, attorneys for both parties were dealing with the issue.


The Nation this year celebrated its 50th Anniversary of Independence and included in the festivities were a number of cultural events. TUCO held the Lord Bryner Independence Calypso Monarch competition, which was won by Roderick "Chucky" Gordon singing, "Bear With Me." There was also the Independence Chutney competition that was won by Rikki Jai who sang, "Mother Trinbago."

The cultural element of the celebrations was not without controversy among them the Go For Gold project placed in the hands of Machel Montano by the Government. This was the creation of a commemorative CD collection produced by Montano and the team he assembled. Some people objected to such a project being given to one person to control, others did not appreciate that Montano brought on board foreign artistes such as Jamaican dancehall artiste, Beenie Man, overlooking calypsonians and other local artistes and musicians. The most vocal about this was veteran calypsonian, Brother Valentino who in an interview with the Express said the CD, "was not saying s**t".


As is the case every year we lost several people from the culture fraternity the most recent at the time this was written being calypsonian Squibby who passed away on December 16 at the San Fernando General Hospital after a long illness. Other treasured people from the sphere left us in the past 12 months.


Sheldon John

Prospector (Carl Robinson)

Calypso Prince (Clifton de LaBastide)

Mighty Power (Sonny Francois)

De Guna (Eddie Yearwood)


Orville Wright

Jah Jah Onilu

Ralph MacDonald


Gyron Quan


National Carnival Bands Association

Band of the Year

Seniors - Large

Sanctification—In search of - MacFarlane Carnival

Carnival Queen

Chariss Bovell - Mother of Humanity—The Weeping

Junior Carnival Queen

Nikkita Katwaroo - "Gold Rush"

Carnival King

Roland St George - "Ralliez-Vous A Mon Panache Blanc"

Junior Carnival King

Ryan Sooknanan – "Platinum"

Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation

National Calypso Monarch

Duane O'Connor – "The Hunt is On and Long Live Calypso"

Young King

Duane O'Connor – "The Hunt is On"

National Calypso Queen

Fyah Empress (Lornette Nedd-Reid) – "Woman"

Junior Calypso Monarch

Aaron Duncan (Newtown Boys RC) - "Ah Learning"

Junior Soca Monarch (Primary Schools)

Aaron Duncan (Newtown Boys RC) "Carnival, Ah Home"

(Secondary Schools)

Ishmael Issac (Mucurapo East) "Are You Ready?"

Power Soca Monarch, Groovy Soca Monarch, Road March Machel Montano

Soca Chutney Monarch

KI – "Single Forever"

PanTrinbago National Panorama

Large Band

Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars – "Play Yourself" 279

National Schools Panorama (Primary)

St. Margaret's Boys' Anglican - "Wake up" 349


St Francois Girls - "Trinbago" 349


1. Success Stars Pan Sounds – "Pan Victory" 365

Tomorrow: State of the coalition