THE COUNTDOWN has started to Fantastic Friday (Carnival Friday) when the biggest event of that weekend, the International Soca Monarch competition, takes place at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain.
The competition, which made its debut on the pre-Carnival calendar in 1993, has been successful over the years in providing an outlet where soca music can be exhibited on an international stage and enjoyed by fans of the genre. It was the brainchild of businessman William Munro, chairman of Caribbean Prestige Foundation, who remains a driving force behind the event.
Since 2001, artistes have vied for two separate titles — Power Soca Monarch for uptempo songs and International Groovy Soca Monarch for slower-paced songs. Recently an additional award has been added. The People’s Choice involves text message voting by bmobile subscribers who can vote multiple times for their favourite artistes during the competition. The artiste who receives the most votes is given an additional cash prize.
Super blue (Austin Lyons), the first artiste to win the title, has won the competition a record five times. Although several artistes have come close to equalling that record, it remains unbeaten. His daughter, reigning Power and Groovy Soca Monarch Fay Ann Lyons, made history of her own last year when she became the first female winner of the International Soca Monarch in the Power category and the first female to win both titles simultaneously.
The only other artiste to simultaneously capture both titles is Shurwayne Winchester.
Now established as the biggest soca event in the world, the competition attracts artistes from throughout the region and draws an audience of millions annually via live television and online broadcasts. Internationally-acclaimed recording artistes such as Machel Montano, Maxi Priest, Alison Hinds and Destra Garcia are among those who have graced the Soca Monarch stage.
The finals are now televised and broadcast live to viewers locally, throughout the Caribbean and other regions of the world courtesy the MTV Tempo Television Network. It is also streamed online and is estimated to reach more than 150 million people worldwide through internet broadcasting.
The international appeal of the competition extends well beyond viewership. Award-winning Hollywood actor Samuel L Jackson is expected to head the list of celebrities who will visit this country for the finals on February 12. Also expected in TT for the show are actor and film director Danny Glover, who attended last year.
Here is a listing of the winners to date:
POWER SOCA MONARCH
1993 - Super Blue - Bacchanal Time
1994 - Super Blue - Flag Party
1995 - Ronnie Mc Intosh - On De Road
1996 - Super Blue - Bounce
1997 - Ronnie Mc Intosh -Ent
- Super Blue - Barbara
1998 - Super Blue - Ato Party
1999 - Kurt Allen - Stampede (Dus Dem)
2000 - Super Blue - Pump Up
2001 - Shadow - Stranger
2002 - Bunji Garlin - In de Ghetto
- Iwer George - Gimme ah Bligh
2003 - Iwer George - Ah Home
2004 - Bunji Garlin - Warrior Cry
2005 - Bunji Garlin - Blaze it
2006 - Shurwayne Winchester - Can’t Wait
2007 - Iwer George - Fete after Fete
2008 - Bunji Garlin - Fiery
2009 - Fay Ann Lyons - Meet Super Blue
GROOVY SOCA MONARCH
2005 - Michelle Sylvester - Sleeping in my Bed
2006 - Shurwayne Winchester - Don’t Stop
2007 - Biggie Irie - Nah Going Home
2008 - Shuwayne Winchester - Please Stay
2009 - Fay Ann Lyons - Heavy T Bumper