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Viewers in Trinidad and Tobago Ready the Toilet Paper for This Year’s Soca Music Competition

Screen shot of a YouTube video of Pternsky's performance of 'Non Stop' at the International Soca Monarch Semi Final, 2016

YouTube video of Pternsky's performance of ‘Non Stop’ at the International Soca Monarch Semi Final, 2016

The semi-final round of the 2016 International Soca Monarch music competition took place at the Grand Stand of the Queen’s Park Savannah in the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, on January 17, 2016. To the surprise of many viewers, many of the performances were uninspiring and lacking the usual gusto. The technical ineptitude of the coverage was partly to blame, too.

In the follow-up to the semi-finals, contestants get the chance to compete for a crown or title in the annual dual-contest International Soca Monarch, also called the Power Soca Monarch, (performing upbeat songs) and International Groovy Soca Monarch (for slower-paced tunes). The final is held at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Carnival Friday, which has come to be known as Fantastic Friday. This year, it falls on February 5.

Leave it to social media users to express their impressions about this year's performers, some of whom had difficulty keeping it together on stage. A choppy, low definition live stream of the soca music event aired on CNC3 TV, and was discussed using the trending hashtag #IsmChubble (a hybrid formed by melding the names of the music event and the popular entertainment page, Wa Chubble Is Dis? [What Trouble is This?]).

Twitter user Kejan Haynes poked fun at the quality of the live stream:

He wasn't the only one:

Singling out Princess Adana's rendition of the song ‘Hit Meh’, Facebook user Lichelle Hills felt that the poor audio quality had an adverse effect on competitors’ performances:

I sorry adanna but @CNC3TV have rel poor quality rn so I couldn't hear whether or not you performed well #IsmChubble

Denzel Chronixx Tidd added:

I feel absolutely sorry for the musicians who backing the contestants of ISM this year… ‪#‎IsmChubble‬

Between the lacklustre performances and the sub-par coverage, Twitter users were having a field day:

One Facebook user thought the event was bad enough to warrant the use of toilet paper (Carnival show audiences have been known to throw wet toilet paper at artistes to vent their dissatisfaction at the standard of their performance):

Toilet paper time please start firing ‪#‎ismchubble

Soca Queen Patrice Roberts, the only female to make it to the finals, didn't escape unscathed, either. Feedback on her performance of ‘Money Done’ was unpleasant, to say the least:

Facebook user Janine Charles-Farray commented:

I can't fathom why Ms. Roberts thought that this song would be appropriate in a freshly announced recession. So fiscally irresponsible. *snobface* She giving us some serious church-growl on that “ALL” as well. Ouch on the vocal chords. ‪#‎ISMChubble‬ P.S. CNC3, that interview camera needs refocusing, level blur!

While the number of negative comments was overwhelming, Twitter user Sophie Wight was quite pleased with the new artist, Voice (Aaron St Louis), who also made it to the finals:

Soca music veteran The Mighty Sparrow, who has been facing some health challenges, did not put on an A1 show and was ridiculed for it in Nigel Tyrell P. Reid's Facebook status—but Isoke Efia Edwards came to Sparrow's defence:

‘To mock your elders is to wreck the house where you have to stay tonight.’ Better than that Nigel. Shadow is one of our Kings…our elders remain the Voice of God. Everything is not a laughing matter.

Facebook user Abeo Jackson thought the competition should be taken more seriously, and she offered some advice for the future:

Dear ISM and all other Carnival Calypso and Soca competitions:
Here is an idea. For free. Consider it a gift.
All carnival competitions that have a performance element should be real incubators for developing artists and their craft. You claim to be such, but let's face it, no you are not.
These mega competitions should be having workshops year round facilitated by professionals and teachers in the field. I.e. Let's start with:

1. Acting workshops to deal with understanding self, understanding the stage, basic blocking, character and script analysis (your lyrics are your script, your script is your Bible), being exposed to different styles of performance

2. Dance/movement workshops i.e. Basic intermediate and advanced body and spacial awareness, body conditioning to help develop stamina and understanding and surmounting personal limitations,

3. Costume concept and design workshops,

4. Performance and Carnival history workshops.

All these workshops should be facilitated by these competitions hand in hand with the Ministry. Only then will the ting start to make sense.

Out of 70 soca artists, only 18 made it to the finals, including Olatunji, who will be defending his 2015 International Groovy Soca Monarch title.

Maybe everything will run smoothly next month after the organisers prepare for the defining moment of the competition, but the Facebook event page The New Renaissance Movement isn't confident:

Soca is alive and well, but soca monarch is dead. ‪#‎ismchubble‬

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