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‘I've always felt like a caribbean man'

CARIBBEAN CRUSADER: Machel Montano is one of soca’s biggest

HE ADMITS that there was “never much soca” in his house when he was growing up. But Machel Montano has made sure that his children are afforded no such option.

The Trinidadian soca star, whose hits include One More Time and Mr Fete, is one of the most prominent international faces of the genre, boasting a successful career spanning three decades.

From a boy who brought his mother to tears when he announced that he no longer wanted to study for his A Levels, to a man who has an impressive 14 solo albums under his belt, Montano has had a front row seat in witnessing soca’s metamorphosis and “growing popularity.”

“I was singing soca at the age of 10 and there would be only old people in front of me – there were no young people. When I asked where the young people were, they were all in the clubs doing dancehall and hip-hop.I have seen the genre come to fruition and now a lot of young people are interested and are taking part.”

Although a proud Trinidadian, Montano, who says he is heavily influenced by soca greats Superblue and Sparrow, has collaborated with a wide range of Caribbean stars, including Alison Hinds, Destra, Beenie Man, Shaggy, Vybz Kartel and Red Rat, to name a few.

His belief is that music, no matter the genre, should “create unity and bring people together.”

“I was born in Trinidad and I went to school for the first time in Jamaica. I was in Grenada every summer and I went to Barbados to perform every other two weeks, so I always felt like a Caribbean man! I have been exposed to so much of the Caribbean that I have a point of view that is advantageous.

“I see the uniqueness of every island, yet throughout the years I see that thing that makes us one. I dream of the day where there is one passport, one currency; we can travel more easily among one another and have music and culture that represents us as a whole.”

He says that his new work with Jamaican dancehall star Beenie Man, which will “celebrate our 50 years of independence in Trinidad and their [Jamaica’s] 50 years of independence” is a perfect example of that.

Montano, who recently spent three years living in Los Angeles working on his “international sound,” has also ventured further a field and worked on hits with US stars Pitbull, Chaka Khan, Busta Rhymes and Wyclef Jean as he continues bringing soca to the mainstream.

“Everybody that I have worked with is very special. Wyclef is a genius. Beenie Man is the same. I see the genius in all these people.”

What advice does he have for young people hoping for a career as long and as fruitful as his?

“The first thing is to stay true to yourself. I always try and make my music have integrity and purpose. The main purpose is for the better of humanity; to make people happy and to make them smile.

“I think that young people today have to see that as an artist, yes, you do have fame, you will have fortune and you will have fans. But the most important thing is your purpose and how you connect and how you touch people. I’m trying to find new acts that will fill the void when I’m not there.”

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