‘Carnival is not just about fete and fun’ – Machel Montano
Award-winning soca artiste Machel Montano says that for Carnival in Jamaica to see more growth, the entire island needs to understand the history of it.
"One of the most important things in finding where you're going is to understand where you're coming from. Carnival is not just about fete and fun, it is also about rituals and resistance," he informed the guests at a press conference for the upcoming WiFete music festival, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Thursday.
Pointing to elements of soca such as the popular steel pan, Montano said that not many persons know that the instrument is a product of resistance.
"When they [the British colonial authorities] took away the African drums away from us, we went to the Tamboo bamboo to create other musical instruments and it inspired the steel pan bands of today," he said.
The Soca Kingdom artiste-songwriter explained that educating the public about what carnival is and the role Jamaica played in the celebration should be taught across schools and be part of larger music conferences on the island.
Speaking to THE WEEKEND STAR, Montano further explained that Jamaica and its musicians are still learning about their influence on the world, and that the knowledge needs to be spread and applied.
"As I said before, Jamaicans have a way of branding and publishing things in a way that captures people and they do that and take it to the world. I believe the only thing Carnival in Jamaica needs is a little bit more education of the wider population, not just soca lovers, but the whole nation and people are ready and willing to learn," he said. "With a greater understanding of carnival's history, the celebration can distinctly grow much more than it is already growing."
Proclaimed the King of Soca, the Trinidadian artiste has produced countless hits including Mr Fete, Happiest Man Alive, Fast Wine. Montano, who celebrates four decades in the music industry, also believe in practising what he preaches. For this reason, he has recently started an educational journey of his own.
"I'm currently doing my master's degree in carnival studies at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, and it is very eye-opening because I'm learning so many things now, after I been in the music business saying calypso and soca for the past 40 years. But [I am learning] the kind of history and social sciences approach of what carnival means and the studying is different," Montano said.
"I want to enhance my vision into the plans I have for the future, but like I said, I can't know where I going unless I know where I coming from and I was right. It is exciting, eye-opening but tough as I have a lot of papers to write. It's a lot of research into what feels like new information from studying academic writing to pan yard studies (history of steel pan bands) and Caribbean carnival culture," he continued.
Montano as well as Bunji Garlin, the recently crowned Road March winner with the single Hard Fete, are two of the featured acts on the line-up for WiFete, which is slated for April 15. Bunji won his first Road March title in 2019 alongside Machel Montano and Skinny Fabulous with their massive hit Famalay.