The war is on tonight as Trinidad and Tobago will battle Grenada for soca supremacy when the finals of the International Soca Monarch (ISM) and Groovy Soca Monarch (GSM) competitions take place at the North Park, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, from 7 p.m.
From the moment National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters announced the NCC had bought into the ISM and that his niece Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez had been installed as ISM chairperson, Lyons-Alvarez came under scrutiny.
The questions came as fast and furious as a power soca, leaving the former ISM winner little time to breathe, let alone respond to most of the questions being posed. There were questions of nepotism, her being Peters’ niece; the securing and handling of finances, monies owed to service providers of last year’s competition by the previous ISM board; and Lyons-Alvarez’s husband’s band being chosen to provide the accompanying music, and more questions.
Lyons-Alvarez was not overwhelmed though and maintained her focus on rescuing the dying ISM, which at that time was on it last throes. The decision to demote the GSM to only a secondary category created a furore as last year’s Soca Monarch, Voice (Aaron St Louis), who this year had yet another groovy offering, decided to sit out the competition. Other artistes with very popular groovy songs also refused to compete.
A Power revival
The move however to revive the power soca movement by making that style the main focus of the ISM was in fact embraced by the public, for the most part. After several years of slim pickings, as far as power soca is concerned, this main category in the ISM 2019 made the competition. In fact, the return of power at the ISM semi-finals in Arima made that stage of the competition the most exciting in years.
Lyons-Alvarez enjoyed the last laugh over her critics when she and her team presented the ISM semi-finals at the Arima Velodrome. This was the most well-produced semi-final in the history of the competition.
From the days when the semis were held at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, on a stage resting on old oil barrels to the rickety stage with its ramshackle backstage area at the Velodrome, Lyons-Alvarez and her production team provided a state-of-the-art stage, with innovative sound and lighting. The Asylum Vikings Band delivered near-perfect musical accompaniment and the layout and infrastructure of the Velodrome was comfortable for artistes and patrons alike.
Even the interaction between the ISM promotions team and the media was the best ever in the history of the competition, guided by Kristy Abu Bakr. We were informed of every aspect of the competition throughout the roughly six-week period, from the launch to this morning.
Titles may leave us
Tonight’s final will be very heated as Trinidad may end up on the loser’s end in both the Power and Groovy categories.
Everyone seems to share the sentiment that the only person who can beat Grenada’s Mr Killa with his megahit, “Run Wid It”, is he himself. It is hardly likely that Killa will drop the ball or whatever else he may pick up tonight. Trinidadian soca fans are pinning all their hopes on the self-proclaimed water god, Iwer George. We wait for showtime to see if the ISM Power title leaves our shores for the first time.
As for the Groovy category, which we did lose once some years ago to Biggie Irie of Barbados, it is also in jeopardy of being wrested away from us by another Grenadian, V’ghn, with his hit, “Trouble in the Morning”. Hopefully, front-runner Swappi has a very good chance of keeping the title at home with his “Party Start”.
We shall see what fate brings.
What we do know is that because of Lyons-Alvarez’s ferocious determination to never fail at whatever she does, the people of T&T have fallen in love with the ISM competition once again and are hoping the Power and Groovy titles remain owned by us—lock, stock and barrel.
Order of appearance
1. Lil Natty and Thunder (Dingaan Henry, Nyelon Williams) —“Get In Your Section”
2. Terri Lyons—“Mad”
3. Jo Jo (Joanna Huttton)—“Start It”
4. Chingee (Shaquille Mark)—“Rolling Stone”
5. Granny (Nikki Crosby)—“Jiggle It”
6. Mr Killa (Hollis Mapp)—“Run Wid It”
7. Iwer George (Neil George)—“Blessings”
8. Mr Legz (Hector Thomas)—“Wining Challenge”
1. Teddyson John—“Vent”
2. V’ghn (Jevaughn John)—“Trouble in the Morning”
3. Rayzor and Tim Tim Rayzor, Keron Boodoosingh)—“X Pose”
4. Blaxx (Dexter Stewart)—“Gyal Owner”
5. Ricardo Drue—“I Got You”
6. Mandella (Mandella McDonald)—“Tombstone”
7. Preedy(Akeem Chance)—“Lost and Found”
8. Swappi (Marvin Davis)—“Party Start”