Early on Sunday morning, the National Park erupted in cheers as Linden’s Brandon Harding was announced as the winner of the 2019 Soca Monarch crown. This marked a back to back win for the singer who insisted that he party “Alone” for the soca crown, but brought out all the stops with full back up dancers and stage props from his hometown.
Brandon barely edged his closest rival on stage, Stephen Ramphal, by one point. Ramphal’s infectious “Soca in My Vein” song not only saw him gaining the 2nd position, but also earned him the prize for Best newcomer for the competition.
Police Officer, Vintage, placed third and represented well for the Berbice region with his piece, “Soca King”. On this night of the competition though, there could only be one King.
Veteran soca artiste and former Monarch Jumo Primo paid “Tribute”, but got the Judges’ nod for the 4th position.
Based on their performances, the top four did not come as a surprise to most of the crowd that gathered inside the National Park.
Vintage was the fourth performer at the finals and he clearly took an early lead in the competition. From the time he took the stage in his red and gold costume declaring himself as the “Soca King”, it was clear that the competition was heating up early. He synchronized his dance movements with his dancers and grabbed the crowd’s attention from early on.
But his lead on the Judge’s score-sheet was clearly erased following the performance by Stephen Ramphal. The young singer, who is also in the Chutney Monarch Finals, started his performance with a video introduction that explained that the birth of soca was as a result of the sounds of Africa and India coming together. He used that same theme throughout his performance and brought out African and Tassa drummers onto the stage to at first play their drums by themselves, then creating a fusion of togetherness.
The final two performers for the night pitted the young defending King vs the much older former King. Brandon Harding appeared in the 14th position on a throne in the centre of the stage and proclaimed that he came alone to represent his crown after receiving the support of his hometown.
Brandon’s performance was near flawless, as he used his vocal ability to sing his way to the crown. Also dressed in red and gold, Brandon was surrounded by his dancers as he took control of the audience as the rainfall that had stared just before his performance eased and was blown away from over the National Park.
The audience also got a taste of Brandon’s lyrical ability as he sang about some of the other competitors in the race for the crown, declaring that Jumo was too old for the competition now and that Ramphal could not win two sets of money. The audience loved it and it appeared as though the Judges did too.
The former soca king, Jumo Primo, brought out all of the works to pay “Tribute” to soca music in the competition. With photographs of Guyanese music veterans being shown on the screens around him, Jumo brought out Yoruba Singers’ Eze Rockliff to sing his 1975 hit, Crerete. He also introduced the National School of Music on steel pan, but with the pan players on a separate stage with no microphones, most of the National Park was unable to hear their steel pan rendition of his “Tribute” entry.
And clearly affected by Brandon’s reference to him being old, Jumo, ripped off his top and declared that he was an old man in high definition. He wanted to show that he still had the moves that made him to be known as “Mr. Rubber Waist”, but his gyrations showcased more evidence of rubber than waist and that left him in position number four.
When the Judges’ decision was announced, Jumo left the venue while the Monarch and his first and second runners-up joined hands on the stage as they sang each other’s songs.
While the placement of the other eleven contestants was not announced, those who failed to make it to the top four, but gave good performances included Vanilla, Static, Lil Colwin and Nesta.
Vanilla’s performance also played on the unity theme with her rendition of the groovy “One Voice”. Static’s performance his song “All Out”, appeared constrained. He delivered a much better performance at the semi-finals.
Lil Colwin’s stage performance lacked the excitement that he delivered in Linden and in last year’s competition. While his voice was right and he did not make any noticeable mistakes with his song, the performance was too basic for the soca finals.
Nesta’s performance in the finals was also not as hot as her semi-finals performance. Although she came with more dancers and even drummers to play “Palm On The Bam Bam”, she was unable to deliver a performance that would have placed her into one of the top spots.
The competition was sponsored by the Department of Culture with support from the Carib Beer brand.