Image courtesy National Chutney Foundation of T&T (NCFTT).
SHASTRI BOODAN

The finals of the Intellectual Chutney Monarch (ICM) would be streamed live on Thursday 24 February 2022. 

Head of the National Chutney Foundation of T&T (NCFTT), Dr Vijay Ramlal Rai, said the event ran into some hiccups when the Calypso and Extempo competitions were cancelled. Dr Ramlal Rai said the ICM was carded to be staged on the same night at the same venue. When this fell apart because of funding, the NCFTT had to look at other alternatives.

The NCFTT head said the ICM would take place at the Kaiso Blues Café at Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, at 6.30 pm, and would be streamed via the ICM’s Facebook page.

“The participants would be judged also online by judges from the Carnival/Cultural Judges Association of T&T,” he added. 

Dr Ramlal Rai said the NCFTT applied for funding for prizes from the Ministry of Culture.

“The Minister had mentioned that $5 million was set aside for cultural events like this. We had applied for funds from this $5 million. Depending on how much we get, we would be able to either give all participants a handsome appearance fee or prizes; nobody would walk away empty handed. The crown would also be given to the first ever ICM,” he explained.

Dr Ramlal Rai said the NCFTT had little time to organize the event but due to the Foundation’s years of experience in producing the Junior Intellectual Chutney Monarch Competition, it was easy for the NCFTT to select the best artists from the Chutney arena. He said several chutney artists were contacted and 22 submitted presentations of their work. 

“Based on the content of the submissions, 10 finalists were selected. However, two of the finalists are unable to make it because one is in quarantine and the other has to attend to private business,” he told Guardian Media.

He added: “These songs would be nation building songs and steer Chutney in a positive direction. The NCFTT is pleased that the President of TUCO and its organization have extended support in working and in collaboration with NCFTT being a major factor in mainstream carnival.”

The eight finalists include:

● Adesh Samaroo

● Anthony Batson

● Britney Lightbourn

● Daddy Chinee

● Destiny Rattan

● Edward Ramdass

● Keron Williams-Wackaman

● Paris Coutain

Guardian Media spoke with a few of the participants. Adesh Samaroo, 42, who shot to fame with his monster hit ‘Rum Til I Die’ when it was released in December 2000, said the ICM would do the artform well.

“We can see more constructive lyrics coming forward to address some of the social impasses we face. The biggest thing affecting society is the impact of COVID-19,” Samaroo said.

Samaroo proved that he was no one hit wonder and went on to score big with hits that include ‘Rajin Jeem Jeem’, ‘Caroni Close Down’, ‘Basanti’, ‘Marajin’ and ‘Doh Macco’.

Another contestant, Anthony Batson, 27, of Couva grew up in a multi-cultural segment of the community and sang with a Bhajan on Hindi devotional song group. He went on to excel in local Indian singing and was the first winner of the National Junior Chutney Soca Monarch. He also placed second on Mastana Bahar, a local television talent show.

Batson told Guardian Media: “I am very happy to see an intellectual component to Chutney.  The creativity would go more than just to produce lyrics that people can dance to.”

Ricardo “Daddy Chinee” Melville started performing with Kaliyan in the 1990s and went on to work with other big bands as Guyatones, Melobugz, Sound Rev, and Dil-e-Nadan, until he formed his own band Hypnotic.

“The ICM is great for the culture of T&T,” Melville said.  “We see the music of T&T moving forward and there is a growing international demand for our music.”