Sat | Apr 1, 2023

5 Questions With ... King of Soca Machel Montano

Published:Friday | March 17, 2023 | 12:13 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Machel Montano
Machel Montano
Machel Montano
Machel Montano

When Machel Montano from the ‘Royal House of Soca’ sits down for an interview, with every answer, he comes correct, providing more than enough material to assimilate. Plus, he also throws in an ingredient, which many don’t care about, graciousness.

Bestowed with the ‘King of Soca’ title “by the people”, Montano fully comprehends the assignment and leaves no door open for debate about which head should wear the crown.

His bio on the kingsofsocablog gives an insight into his credentials. It traces Montano’s career from its genesis in 1982, at seven years old, and notes that at age nine he formed his band, Pranasonic Express, which was later renamed Xtatik. His debut album, Too Young To Soca, was released in 1985 to rave reviews. In April of 1986, Montano appeared on the popular television show, Star Search, bringing soca music to US national television. The following year, he placed second in the Trinidad and Tobago National Song Writer’s Festival with his song, Dream Girl. In 1987, at the age of 12, he was the winner of the Caribbean Song Festival held in Barbados and distinguished himself as the first Trinidadian and youngest to ever win this prestigious contest.

In February, Montano celebrated 40 years in the music business with an event billed as the ‘Machel 40: One Show’, a super successful concert which was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Five Questions With caught up with the soca giant and Caribbean man for a quick interview shortly after he flew into Jamaica last Wednesday for a press conference to support the WiFete festival at Sabina Park on April 15, which he is headlining.

1. You wear the title, King of Soca. To what extent does this honour impact your lifestyle, musically and otherwise?

First of all, it’s an honour and very humbling that I could be referred to as the King of Soca by the people. It’s not something that I really set out to really become. I don’t think that a King of Soca really exists, I think that there are many kings of soca. I just feel like one of the chains in that link to people like Super Blue and Lord Shorty who went from calypso to actually creating soca. That title is more about the responsibility that you hold ... taking the art of soca across the globe, representing for the entire soca fraternity and inspiring the young ones coming up in the way that you have been inspired.

2. You have been shaking the place with Destra and Nicki Minaj. How did this collab manifest?

This year is actually the 20th anniversary of one of the biggest soca anthems, It’s Carnival, a collaboration between Destra and myself. Talking to Destra about it she said, “Yow Mach, we should do something to celebrate that. Should we remix it and include somebody like Nicki Minaj?’ I said I feel like we should get back in the studio and create something new ... and that was Shake the Place. Nicki has always been a big soca fan, and she had said ‘If you are ever doing smething and I can jump I will.’ Boom! Nicki heard Shake the Place, saw the video and reached out to me and Destra. ‘We started talking at 5 am her time and she was like ‘I can go in the studio and record this now.’ It wasn’t something that was planned.

3. In the past you have collaborated with reggae and dancehall artistes. Is there any Jamaican act that you would want to collaborate with now?

I always want to collab with Jamaican acts. I love reggae and I love dancehall. I’ve collaborated with Red Rat and Shaggy and Busy Signal. My ultimate collab was Bob Marley and I got permission to use Jammin’ in my song called Need It. I really love the Marley family. I love people like Skip Marley, Damian, Jr Gong, Stephen. It would really be a dream to work on soca in a reggae soca style, with positive conscious vibrations because this is the goal for me going forward. But, I love a lot of the new acts coming out now, because there is a marriage between soca and dancehall happening right now. Whoever is on the cutting edge and interested in the fusion of the music, I would want to work with them.

4. Jamaica is calling and you have answered. What can fans expect from the King of Soca at WiFete on April 15?

This is an exciting moment for me. I don’t know if people understand the relationship that I have with Jamaica. I lived in Jamaica early in my life — I always boast about it. I went to school for the first time in Jamaica when my parents were at Mona . I love the days of Byron Lee and performing at carnival when it used to be at Cinema 2. I’ve done pop-up shows, but it’s been eight years since I have been able to bring my band and my dancers and do a soca show in Jamaica so I’m really grateful for WiFete. Look forward to Machel Montano at 150 per cent!

5. Tell us one thing about yourself that people would be surprised to know.

They call me Monk Monty. I live a very Monk-like lifestyle. I practise a lot of yoga. It’s been five or six years I haven’t eaten meat; I dont drink alcohol I stopped smoking and all these thing have transformed my life by me becoming a yogi. But I still have a lot of fun in the parties. The reason for me changing my lifestyle is because I want to be as healthy as possible. The Machel Montano that you think is a ‘bacchanalist’ doesn’t come as a one-sided coin. The flip side is ... as much as you will hear loudness, you will hear silence.