No Chutney Soca Monarch this year in Trinidad

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Southex Chief Executive Officer George Singh made the announcement earlier today (January 4th) that the 23rd edition of the Chutney Soca Monarch will not come of this year. Here’s the release by Southex.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen,

We want to firstly thank you for being here this morning, you will note that the launch of Chutney Soca Monarch which was scheduled to be held this morning at the Queens Park Oval in the NLCB Box was cancelled due to circumstances that we will later expand upon.

This year represents 23 continuous years of Chutney Soca Monarch and we wish to highlight its continuous and integral contribution with respect to the development of Culture and the Arts in Trinidad and Tobago throughout that time.

The first Chutney Soca Monarch which took place in 1996, was held on a stage made of barrels and ply wood and its first prize was that of a Kia Pride. The competition saw the rise of Sonny Man who stole the show with his hit song Lootay-La. The show continued to grow over the years and through the development of the art form, the genre of Chutney Soca Music found a home in Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival celebrations, seeing it become one of the largest and most anticipated annual production/ competition to date. It is also worth noting that this show has been and continues to remain the only constant avenue in which Chutney Soca music and the artistes both known and new, who create these songs are able to catapult themselves to international renown.

The growth of the Chutney Soca Monarch and its reputation reaches far throughout the globe attracting not only tourists but producers and promoters involved in different incarnations of Carnival around the world. The Chutney Soca Monarch apart from being an event has enabled artistes to raise their own standards and travel year round garnering an income that was not previously available without this platform to have their music showcased.

The pinnacle of success with the Chutney Soca Monarch came around 2010 when the then Government invested heavily in the cultural aspects of Trinidad and Tobago enabling the show to achieve levels of production that rivaled that of any international production of the like kind. It also saw a huge financial incentive given to artistes thereby enabling them to create more elaborate and creative performances. During that period the Chutney Soca Monarch was able to make an even larger footprint on the global market with viewership reaching an all time high of 100,000+ viewers from 50 different countries tuning in live for the final event which was broadcasted over the internet.

To date the Chutney Soca Monarch has been able to touch more than 500,000 people at a time through the various aspects of social media and productions filmed and broadcasted.

However at present the times are different. This current Government has slashed the investments into the further development of the Chutney Soca art form by more than 90% throughout their tenure in office and 80% this year alone, in what can only be described as an absolute insult to the arts and their importance to this great nation.

On January 3rd 2018 a mere one day before the launch of the 23rd Anniversary of the Chutney Soca Monarch, the offices of Southex contacted the National Lotteries Control Board with regard to the payment of their Sponsorship package; a package that was previously approved by the then board of directors. I was informed that I was required to attend an urgent meeting that morning at the offices of NLCB. Whilst there I was greeted by the CEO and informed that there was a change, a change to which he was awaiting a final decision on. Within a few minutes a phone call was received by the CEO and taken outside of the said meeting. A few minutes later the CEO re-entered the room to which he stated that there was an email confirmation and directive by the Ministry of Finance that stated that the Chutney Soca Monarch was no longer to be the recipient of any funding whatsoever. It was stated that the NLCB would no longer be a sponsor after having a longstanding relationship spanning a period of 15 years.

In the lead up to this years Chutney Soca Monarch, we have been faced with an insurmountable resistance from major government entities; the home venue of Skinner Park was no longer an option as low funding and the exorbitant rent of same had pushed the event to seek an alternate venue after having been there for 22 years.

The Government over the last three years has consistently reduced funding to Chutney Soca Monarch and various members of the present administration have stated directly to us that ‘Chutney Soca’ brings no value to Carnival. These statements are made all while the government has approved, according to a recent newspaper article, a budget of $146 million to the NCC, of which I am aware that close to $10M in the past have gone towards temporary toilet facilities. The rest being spread across vendors who consistently raise the same expensive structures at exorbitant prices to the citizens of this country. Why has the government not cut their funding? As I have been reliably informed, the “Status Quo is too well entrenched”.

It is sad to say but the real culture and growth, the source of the very thing that drives Carnival has been forced on the shoulders of private entities that have grown these shows beyond their own abilities to afford them and therefore we rely on the government for support. Trinidad and Tobago has an influx of hundreds of thousands of visitors during the 2 month lead up to carnival all of whom come to our shores to take part in each and every cultural aspect this country has to offer.

We are unsure as to the reason and motives behind this sudden pull out from Chutney Soca Monarch by the government but we hope that we are among many who share this sentiment as it would be a very peculiar state of affairs if there were other cultural events receiving sponsorship this carnival with the exception of one.

Nevertheless we at Southex have dedicated 23 years to the growth and shape of an industry. An industry that now sees thousands of people employed and expressing our culture at its finest through Song, Dance, Choreography, Production, Stage Design and much more. We are saddened by this turn of events and find the timing rather suspicious given recent events.

Therefore please be advised that the 2018 Chutney Soca Monarch is hereby formally cancelled due to low government and state support and our inability to fund the venture privately as a result of its sheer size and expense.

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