The invitation is wide open for Trinidad Killa (Kern Joseph) to perform at the International Soca Monarch 2020, says organiser Simon Baptiste.
“I would love for him to be a part of it. I stand by what I said from day one: he is a phenomenal artiste. I think he has to be there and I would do everything in my power, in terms of speaking to him and trying to make things work,” Baptiste told the Express following the Soca Monarch semi-final draw yesterday, at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain.
The Question Mark Entertainment CEO said while he will do “everything in his power” to have the controversial soca and dancehall chart-topper appear as a guest act on the Soca Monarch stage, he cannot reverse the judges’ decision to exclude him from the semi-final round of the competition.
“I also have to stand by my judges. I’m not going to tinker with the results; that is not who I am, and that should send a message to (all competitors) that you have to come out with your absolute best. You may have a big name, but you have to back it up,” he said.
To the surprise of many soca fans, Trinidad Killa was not selected as a semi-finalist for the competition despite having a top-ten soca hit in “Power of Soca (Dy Zess)”. The semi-finals come off on Sunday at the Arima Velodrome.
The preliminary round of Soca Monarch saw hundreds of submissions of audio recordings by soca artistes from across the Caribbean and diaspora. A total of 60 acts were selected to move on to the semi-final round—30 in the Power Soca and 30 in the Groovy Soca categories—by an adjudication panel that included sound engineer Martin “Mice” Raymond, dancer La Shaun Prescott, musician Sharda Patasar and veteran journalist and jazz music promoter Nigel Campbell.
The Arima-born singer took to social media earlier this week to voice concern over his omission, and later made public a 33-minute phone call with Baptiste, in which he pleaded his case for entry. Trinidad Killa, singer of the polarising dancehall track “Gun Man In She Hole”, alleges he is being made a scapegoat for the violent lyrics of the musical “zess” movement which he spearheads.
We can zess to soca
Baptiste said there is space for zess culture in soca music. He said while the youthful movement must be embraced as an evolution of local music, both its practitioners and older opposing audiences must be open to criticism.
“It is an art form that has its beauty, but we also have to watch what we’re saying. I think overall, there is a message that is being delivered. As adults, yeah, we hearing things that aren’t great lyrically, but maybe they trying to tell us something, too. Maybe we need to sometimes stop being so critical and step back,” he reasoned.
Baptiste, who has had a hand in the careers of soca stars Maximus Dan (Edghill Thomas) and Kees Dieffenthaller, said he understands Trinidad Killa’s disappointment at not making the Soca Monarch cut. He says the rules of the Soca Monarch competition ought to be adjusted next year to consider chart-topping songs at the preliminary stage.
“His emotions, I understand them, but we need to find ways of working things out, otherwise we just spinning top in mud. It’s absolutely a good thing to have an artiste like him feel so passionate about Soca Monarch, and he is definitely somebody you want to champion,” Baptiste said.
The Soca Monarch head said the system as is isn’t fair. He suggested an audience poll that saves acts similar to US talent search shows like The Voice.
“Can a system be fair in these situations? Probably not. It makes sense in terms of how the system is currently set up, but we need to make it make sense for the people. Maybe there are things we need to do, similar to what The Voice does where people get like a save.
“I can’t do anything about it this year, but I certainly believe in the future, the music charts have to be a consideration, otherwise these things will always happen and people are going to be like how did that happen,” Baptiste said.
The experienced, well-travelled music promoter said it would be hypocritical to exclude local dancehall acts from the competition after having Jamaican acts on the bill in the past. Jamaican dancehall star Linky First (Jason Henriques) competed in the Soca Monarch in 2017 with his ubiquitous hit “Rock and Come In”. Jamaican dancehall legend Beenie Man (Moses Davis) has also performed as a guest on the show on a couple of occasions.
“For years, with Soca Monarch, we had no objection to dancehall artistes getting involved in the thing.
Should there be a space for our youths and their movements? Absolutely. The thing is always going to evolve, and from the time you start turning your back, you turning your back on people who really just trying to connect with you,” Baptiste concluded.