Groovy king: Swappi  will defend his  title tonight.

For many years, it has been hailed as Fantastic Friday, but that is now quite debatable since some people consider the International Soca Monarch (ISM) of today to be a lacklustre version of what the competition used to be.

The ISM seemed to be on the road to recovery last year when Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez served as producer, delivering what members of the public and participating artistes said was a much better show compared to what had been presented in recent years.

Those hopes for continued recovery were dashed when in January, Lyons-Alvarez stepped down from her post. The appointment of Question Mark Entertainment founder Simon Baptiste as ISM creative director however reignited hopes of better days for the competition, founded 23 years ago by William Munro.

Baptiste is working steadfastly not only to bring the competition back to its glory days but to surpass that and finally bring the competition to real international success and true sustainable financial viability.

Baptiste’s aim is to produce and package a show that will be accepted on major television networks in North America and beyond, showcasing not only soca music but everything Trinidad and Tobago has to offer in the way of tourism and entertainment.

At this point, Baptiste is starting at ground zero because interest in the event began to dwindle when several of the top soca artistes, among them four-time winner Bunji Garlin, Lyons-Alvarez and Kees Dieffenthaller stopped competing over the past several years. Then when five-time winner Machel Montano retired from the competition, the number of people attending the final declined significantly.

There is the hope that tonight’s final will attract an increased number of patrons, if not for the excitement of the line-up of competitors—which includes front runner Iwer George—but because of the creation of a segment featuring guest performances by local dancehall acts being loosely called the “Zesser Movement” segment. This is expected to encourage the youth who are tuned into the dancehall music to attend the show and possibly gain a new appreciation for soca.

A platform for youths

Baptiste said contrary to a story in the Express that the decision to include the dancehall artistes in the ISM final was made in order to placate Trinidad Killa (Kern Joseph) and the zesser movement over Killa being left out of the preliminary although his song, “Power In Soca (Dyy Zess)”, remains one of the most popular in fetes, Baptiste told the ISM owners he wanted a create a space in the show for local dancehall artistes when he was initially appointed.

“I have always been finding ways to create platforms for our young artistes, regardless of what genre of music they perform. I had intended to include the zesser artistes in the show all along because it is a way to get the youth to come out and hear the soca music,” Baptiste said.

There is no defending monarch in the Power category tonight as Mr Killa bowed out of the competition because of issues he had with the ISM producers. Iwer George seems to be the favourite with his “Stage Gone Bad”, which he recorded alongside Dieffenthaller. Another frontrunner is Lyrikal (Devon Martin), whose “Rukshun” has been steadily growing in popularity throughout the season and is now a major force to be reckoned with.

In the Groovy category, Swappi (Marvin Davis) will be defending his title against 11 opponents. This category is actually proving to be exciting and also more heated than the Power category as several of the competitors have songs that have been doing very well in fetes. Among the front runners are Skinny Banton (Shirlan George) with “Wrong Again”; Viking Ding Dong (Andre Houlder) with “OutSide”; Blaxx (Dexter Stewart) with “Canboulay” and College Boy Jesse (Jesse Stewart) with “Happy Song”.


The total shutdown of all restaurants for the duration of this month has left the entire hospitality industry in a huge hodgepodge of uncertainty.

AS COVID-19 continues to impact people and countries around the world, teams have begun work…

WEEKS ago, terms like “social distancing” and “self-isolation” were alien concepts, today they have become part of our reality. But that comes at a cost. While social distancing and self-isolation can help stem the tide of COVID-19, they will also have a significant effect on the general mental health of the entire population, said counselling psychologist Jean-Luc Borel.

At only five feet, three inches Dr Sheila Rampersad is a tower of conviction.

Rampersad, who often waives and waves away her doctoral title in daily life, has championed the plight of everyday people for more than 30 years in journalism.

IN these exceptional times when we are told to stay indoors, I chose to take myself out and escape to one of the most beautiful cities in the world—Paris.

That’s the repetitive chant from cricket’s favourite champion, DJ Bravo, in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Like a batsman hustling to make it safely back into his crease after a streaky single, Bravo has slid back into the spotlight with his global rallying cry. The recording has landed him back onto music charts across Asia and Australia.