Soca Succession: Is it time for Machel to pass the Torch?

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On the heels of Chris Brown and Kelly Rowland announcing, last week, that Kes The Band and Machel Montano have been nominated for “Best Caribbean Performance” in the 2011 Soul Train Awards, people started posting about it on Facebook and Twitter… of course. However, on my timeline, what struck me was that most people focused on Kes, and didn’t mention Machel.
When I pointed out the omission to a friend, he said, “Nah we ain’t forget… I’m a supporter of Machel… but  (it’s) time for d fresh blood to break new foreign ground ent? Machel know as well… time to pass the torch”.
I’ve been thinking the same thing for a while now, but I’m careful to pass judgment and say that Machel’s time has gone for breaking ground, and that he’s too old to be marketable, because you really can’t predict someone’s ultimate potential. That’s not to say I’m not one of those people who haven’t criticised him in the past. And how can he pass the torch, if he doesn’t necessarily have strong, potential torch holders to pass it to? And why can’t he strive to be a bigger fish in the industry, while others try to be a big fish?
I’m no stellar fan of Mr Montano, but that’s mostly because I want to see a higher level of genius from him before I drop to the ground foaming with adulation. Why? Because I think, musically, he can be way better than he currently is.
Although Machel has long been hailed as the king of Soca, some people seem to be placing their bets on Kes as the future of the industry, and the one to take Soca international. Kes has the right package, and the potential. Sort of like Sean Paul. ‘Red’, mixed, and knows how to handle himself in interviews. Hopefully, he won’t grow Sean Paul’s dreadful mohawk. But I digress.
Kes obviously has a marketing team behind him that is helping to define his product of “island pop”, and is marketing him and the band as more than Soca, in a way that non-Caribbean people would easily be able to imagine his sound. Whether they imagine it as pop music, with bountiful amounts of steelpan or some ragga over it, I don’t know. But it’s easier for them to relate to island pop than Soca.
The issue here isn’t really about how are we going to take Soca international, or pitting one artiste against the next. That’s been discussed ad nauseum. And whether it’s time for Machel to pass the torch isn’t the real issue.
To me, the question is, where will the next generation of Soca stars come from? Do we just have to wait and hope they pop up? Is one of them reading this article right now? Is one of them currently five years old, running around in a yard in Manzanilla, eating a pommecythere? There are definitely talented young people out there, who we don’t get to hear unless their cousin is a friend of ours, and we like their Facebook page.
Let’s go back to Machel for a moment. In doing some research, I chanced upon an interesting blog post by DJ Uncle L, “What’s Next Moses? – Machel Montano and the Future of Soca”
http://djunclel.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/what’s-next-moses-–-machel-montano-and-the-future-of-soca/, which was published in December 2009. He said:
“I have always compared Machel to another great leader, the Biblical figure Moses… Moses was born a Hebrew, raised by Egyptian nobility, and eventually led the Hebrews out of captivity in Egypt. His intention was to lead them to the Promised Land of Israel, but as punishment for a temporary lack of faith in God, they would wander around the area for an extended period of time, and he was to never set foot on the Promised Land, eventually passing away before the Hebrews made it there. I see several parallels to this story, though I am sure that Machel would like to rewrite the ending… Machel Montano HD is easily the biggest Soca performer in the world (easily selling out shows in Madison Square Garden), but he remains a relative unknown to those outside the genre.”
If Machel is the Moses of Soca, does it then mean that the younger HD artistes are the ones to take Soca to the musical promised land? Who among the current crop of artistes can be the next big thing? And what will be their benchmark for quality? How will they break further ground, and produce music that is greater than, and more accepted than that of their predecessors?
Some people think Umi Marcano could cross over… if he pushes himself and gets new management. He certainly has a solid voice and charisma. Patrice Roberts can manage on her own too, I think.
There is no doubt that with some tweaking, some of the younger artistes can raise their profile. And just yesterday Onika Bostic’s  “All is Yours” blasted from my iPod, and I thought, “Imagine where she’d have been now, if she were still around”.
With succession on my mind, I wonder just how much impact competitions like Synergy TV’s Soca Star make. Besides Fireball and Umi Marcano, which of the Soca Star alumni have had the potential to make a mark on the industry? Will Chynee, Metro, and the others eventually rise to the top? Oh… and I really don’t want to see someone else ‘bunning a fire in a Soca yard’ for Soca Monarch finals next year.
With great talent, smart branding, strong performances – not jump and waving, a willingness to experiment with their sound, and using social media to reach audiences and create networks, maybe the current and next generations can figure out a way to maximize their potential.
What will differentiate the new generation is the ability to make a strategic move into new markets – whether it’s the US, Europe or Latin America, for example, and to impress their home base. There will be windows of opportunity based on trends in music, but more importantly, with Soca being such a niche genre, artistes will have to create opportunities. Indie artistes across the world continue to forge their way into new markets, and some eventually go mainstream based on the strength of their fan base and music. Maybe younger artistes can explore this approach.
Point is… we’ve got to expand our thinking, especially if the younger generation wants to reach further than the current big boys.
Maybe it isn’t about focusing on Soca only. Maybe Kes has the right idea, with creating fusion. Ras Shorty I created Soca. Maybe it’s time for the young uns to experiment and innovate, and seriously know their purpose. Are they doing music to be cool, or because they’re genuinely into it?
In an interview, Machel said the secret to his success is knowing his purpose. Now Machel was fortunate to have a family, who encouraged and supported his dream, early on. Hopefully, the next generation of stars will rise despite their own personal challenges, and the challenges of the industry.
And Machel can very well keep doing his thing, inspiring the younger generation, and maybe even do a few collaborations with some in his older years. Even if he never makes it big in the US or UK market, I think in his grey-haired days, he’d be proud if he saw that those after him made a great go of building on his path.
Who do you think will comprise the next generation of great Soca stars? Do you think Kes will get even bigger? What do you think the next generation of stars need to dominate the industry, and take the genre further?

On the heels of Chris Brown and Kelly Rowland announcing, last week, that Kes The Band and Machel Montano have been nominated for “Best Caribbean Performance” in the 2011 Soul Train Awards, people started posting about it on Facebook and Twitter… of course. However, on my timeline, what struck me was that most people focused on Kes, and didn’t mention Machel.

When I pointed out the omission to a friend, he said, “Nah we ain’t forget… I’m a supporter of Machel… but  (it’s) time for d fresh blood to break new foreign ground ent? Machel know as well… time to pass the torch”.

I’ve been thinking the same thing for a while now, but I’m careful to pass judgment and say that Machel’s time has gone for breaking ground, and that he’s too old to be marketable, because you really can’t predict someone’s ultimate potential. That’s not to say I’m not one of those people who haven’t criticised him in the past. And how can he pass the torch, if he doesn’t necessarily have strong, potential torch holders to pass it to? And why can’t he strive to be a bigger fish in the industry, while others try to be a big fish?

I’m no stellar fan of Mr Montano, but that’s mostly because I want to see a higher level of genius from him before I drop to the ground foaming with adulation. Why? Because I think, musically, he can be way better than he currently is.

“Kes has the right package, and the potential.” 

Although Machel has long been hailed as the king of Soca, some people seem to be placing their bets on Kes as the future of the industry, and the one to take Soca international. Kes has the right package, and the potential. Sort of like Sean Paul. ‘Red’, mixed, and knows how to handle himself in interviews. Hopefully, he won’t grow Sean Paul’s dreadful mohawk. But I digress.

Kes obviously has a marketing team behind him that is helping to define his product of “island pop”, and is marketing him and the band as more than Soca, in a way that non-Caribbean people would easily be able to imagine his sound. Whether they imagine it as pop music, with bountiful amounts of steelpan or some ragga over it, I don’t know. But it’s easier for them to relate to island pop than Soca.

The issue here isn’t really about how are we going to take Soca international, or pitting one artiste against the next. That’s been discussed ad nauseum. And whether it’s time for Machel to pass the torch isn’t the real issue.

To me, the question is, where will the next generation of Soca stars come from? Do we just have to wait and hope they pop up? Is one of them reading this article right now? Is one of them currently five years old, running around in a yard in Manzanilla, eating a pommecythere? There are definitely talented young people out there, who we don’t get to hear unless their cousin is a friend of ours, and we like their Facebook page.

Let’s go back to Machel for a moment.

In doing some research, I chanced upon an interesting blog post by DJ Uncle L, “What’s Next Moses? – Machel Montano and the Future of Soca”, which was published in December 2009. He said:

“I have always compared Machel to another great leader, the Biblical figure Moses… Moses was born a Hebrew, raised by Egyptian nobility, and eventually led the Hebrews out of captivity in Egypt. His intention was to lead them to the Promised Land of Israel, but as punishment for a temporary lack of faith in God, they would wander around the area for an extended period of time, and he was to never set foot on the Promised Land, eventually passing away before the Hebrews made it there. I see several parallels to this story, though I am sure that Machel would like to rewrite the ending… Machel Montano HD is easily the biggest Soca performer in the world (easily selling out shows in Madison Square Garden), but he remains a relative unknown to those outside the genre.”

“If Machel is the Moses of Soca, does it then mean that the younger HD artistes are the ones to take Soca to the musical promised land?” 

If Machel is the Moses of Soca, does it then mean that the younger HD artistes are the ones to take Soca to the musical promised land? Who among the current crop of artistes can be the next big thing? And what will be their benchmark for quality? How will they break further ground, and produce music that is greater than, and more accepted than that of their predecessors?

Some people think Umi Marcano could cross over… if he pushes himself and gets new management. He certainly has a solid voice and charisma. Patrice Roberts can manage on her own too, I think.

There is no doubt that with some tweaking, some of the younger artistes can raise their profile. And just yesterday Onika Bostic’s  “All is Yours” blasted from my iPod, and I thought, “Imagine where she’d have been now, if she were still around”.

With succession on my mind, I wonder just how much impact competitions like Synergy TV’s Soca Star make. Besides Fireball and Umi Marcano, which of the Soca Star alumni have had the potential to make a mark on the industry? Will Chynee, Metro, and the others eventually rise to the top? Oh… and I really don’t want to see someone else ‘bunning a fire in a Soca fete’ for Soca Monarch finals next year (cue Ras Star).

With great talent, smart branding, strong performances – not jump and waving, a willingness to experiment with their sound, and using social media to reach audiences and create networks, maybe the current and next generations can figure out a way to maximize their potential.

“Maybe it isn’t about focusing on Soca only.”

What will differentiate the new generation is the ability to make a strategic move into new markets – whether it’s the US, Europe or Latin America, for example, and to impress their home base. There will be windows of opportunity based on trends in music, but more importantly, with Soca being such a niche genre, artistes will have to create opportunities. Indie artistes across the world continue to forge their way into new markets, and some eventually go mainstream based on the strength of their fan base and music. Maybe younger artistes can explore this approach.

Point is… we’ve got to expand our thinking, especially if the younger generation wants to reach further than the current big boys.

Maybe it isn’t about focusing on Soca only. Maybe Kes has the right idea, with creating fusion. Ras Shorty I created Soca. Maybe it’s time for the young uns to experiment and innovate, and seriously know their purpose. Are they doing music to be cool, or because they’re genuinely into it?

In an interview, Machel said the secret to his success is knowing his purpose. Now Machel was fortunate to have a family, who encouraged and supported his dream, early on. Hopefully, the next generation of stars will rise despite their own personal challenges, and the challenges of the industry.

And Machel can very well keep doing his thing, inspiring the younger generation, and maybe even do a few collaborations with some in his older years. Even if he never makes it big in the US or UK market, I think in his grey-haired days, he’d be proud if he saw that those after him made a great go of building on his path.

Who do you think will comprise the next generation of great Soca stars? Do you think Kes will get even bigger? What do you think the next generation of stars need to dominate the industry, and take the genre further?

 

Check out the rest of this week’s issue (24/10/11; Issue 78):

Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!

 

Karel Mc Intosh

Karel Mc Intosh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Outlish Magazine. She's also the Lead Communications Trainer at Livewired Group, where she conducts workshops in business writing, social media, and other communications areas. A real online junkie, when she isn't surfing the Internet, she's thinking about surfing the Internet. Find out more about her here or tweet her @outlishmagazine.

2 Comments

  1. hyacinth pierre

    October 30, 2011 at 11:07 am

    What the a)))? Why does Marchal have to pass anything? Give the man he props. He is de best best!!!!! Bring chune for Carnival 2012 Marchal.!

  2. Pinkie

    December 15, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I believe Erphaan Alves could be a force to reckon with. Coming out of Junior Soca competitions credibly, and a past Synergy Soca Star finalists. I believe he has his foot planted firmly on the ground, with a lot of good things happening for him at this time.

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