Brothers Imran (GI) and Saleem (Master Saleem) Beharry have always dreamt of winning the Chut­ney Soca Monarch title.

Last Saturday, the Beharry boys made history by becoming the first siblings to finish in the top two positions of the competition. The 2021 edition, CSM26, was held last Saturday at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA), San Fernando.

The amazing achievement gave GI (34), singing “Drink Together”, his second consecutive CSM crown and Master Saleem (32), singing “B.Y.O.B.”, his highest finish in the competition to date.

While the musical rivalry in the Beharry household is well known in chutney soca circles, both men insisted they adopted a tunnel-vision, self-focused approach heading into the competition.

“I am ecstatic about my win again this year. In the initial days prior to the competition, I was of the firm view that as artistes, we all needed to defend the culture. And with that resolution in mind, I did exactly that.

“I am (also) proud of his (Saleem’s) success and wish him all the best. Despite being related, I believe I approached the competition with the mindset that it’s a competition (first and foremost),” a contented GI said when he spoke to the Express via WhatsApp chat on Wednesday.

Saleem admitted to adopting similar tactics, saying his “focus was to go out there and give a memorable performance”.

“I believe my team and I were able to accomplish that. Placing second is what helped make history in CSM as two brothers captured first and second for the first time ever. There is no rivalry on my end of the spectrum, only love, admiration, support and respect for everyone,” Saleem said.

Grateful for the stage

Results and prize money aside, both men expressed genuine gratitude at having a stage at all for CSM26, given the setbacks and restrictions of the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic.

With Carnival 2021 officially cancelled and several marquee competitions and events within the festival following suit, they say it is a miracle that promoters Southex Event Management Company was even able to pull off the event.

“I have been a part of the competition for many years prior to this, but this year meant a lot to me as it gave me the opportunity to be a part of keeping the culture alive while bringing joy, entertainment and a form of relief to people during this trying time,” Saleem said.

GI added that he wasn’t worried about the competition. The Penal-based singer says he knew Southex CEO George Singh would do everything in his power to ensure it came off smoothly.

“I wasn’t worried about the competition not being able to come off at all because I knew that George Singh and Southex would battle all odds to ensure that the platform for chutney soca remains intact,” GI added.

The Beharry brothers both acknowledge it his been a tough 12 months for all music creatives, inclusive of musicians, singers and dancers. Through those difficult times, they say they find comfort in the passion for the art form and their love for their families.

“Consciously and subconsciously, music is always in my focus. Writing and producing music for me is a passion that comes from a place that is indescribable, which allows me to do it effortlessly,” Saleem said.

“It’s been a difficult year,” GI added.

“I took the opportunity to spend the time with my family—my wife and two sons. I also spent considerable time doing charity for those who were less fortunate in 2020. My management team was able to allocate funds from my winnings at Chutney Soca Monarch 2020 for this effort,” he revealed.

The Beharry brothers offered their prayers and hopes that there would be a notable turnaround away from the pandemic, and Trinidad and Tobago can begin to chart a course to a return to some level of normalcy.

The Government distributed the first set of Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday.

“For 2021, I am hoping the pandemic will dissipate and allow the art form to flourish. Too many artistes are suffering”, Saleem said.

“Twenty twenty-one is set to be a prayerful year, in hopes of overcoming our global situation,” GI concluded.

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