by Sampson Nanton, Lead Editor, Content
On a day when his music would usually be celebrated by tens of thousands on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago, soca star Machel Montano on Tuesday thrilled millions in India as he performed at Sadhguru’s MahaShivRatri’s celebrations.
It was his first major public performance since his final Machel Monday show in 2020, which culminated in an on-stage wedding to his then-bride Renee Butcher.
Instead, on what would have been Carnival Tuesday in T&T, Montano was introduced to a live audience estimated in the hundreds of thousands and a live-streaming audience in the millions (the show attracted 120 million in 2021), as ‘The King of Soca’ who has had collaborations with Pitbull, Drake, Ariana Grande and Shaggy.
Dressed in a red and black kurta, he began his four-song performance with ‘Come Awake,’ a song written for the Sadhguru’s Save Soil campaign which was the theme of Tuesday’s 12-hour show.
He was backed by the Sounds of Isha, together with singers and dancers, and his lyrics called on his audience to “face the challenge, reverse the damage,” in reference to the earth.
It drew appreciative applause from Sadhguru who was seated in the front of the crowd facing the stage, and who will accompany Montano to Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana and Belize next month to collaborate on the Save Soil movement.
“It’s no longer a tomorrow problem, it’s about survival today,” a line in the song said.
Moments later he broke into a more familiar tune, his 2005’s ‘Dance With You’ and it didn’t take the crowd long to do just that.
Video of the event captured fathers holding up their babies while jumping and swaying, and women in their traditional saris among thousands on their feet waving their hands.
Sadhguru, too, rose from his chair and as he walked closer towards Montano’s performance, he was captured on camera as a sole figure in front of the massive crowd moving his feet around in a classic dance to the soca music.
That only triggered more emotions from the crowd, many of whom were only able to see the stage from on large screens, and thousands rose up from their chairs to join in, waving their hands, jumping, clapping and dancing.
The sound ended with applause and gave Montano the opportunity to pause and introduce himself as a soca artist “from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.”
“You might know it as the West Indies,” he added, to which the crowd cheered loudly, given India’s association with cricket against the West Indies team.
“This music I’m doing is called Soca music. It means The Soul of Calypso. It was created by a legendary musician and singer by the name of Ras Shorty I and he made this soca music by collaborating African rhythms and Indian music,” he said.
Montano then introduced Ras Shorty I’s daughter, Marge Blackman, to perform a collaboration called ‘Touch the Ground,’ a song he said he was premiering at the festival and which fit perfectly with the theme.
The beat alone was enough for some, as the moment the musicians began playing, members of the crowd were already up and moving again.
“When we mistreat the earth we destroy our home, and without our home, what do we have to call our own,” the song said before Montano and Blackman broke into a “Nana Nana” chant.
As the cameras again moved across the massive crowd it was evident that they were also enjoying this one.
Montano himself appeared to be fully thrilled by the opportunity to perform to his biggest audience ever, while receiving a reception many could only dream of.
But he also kept the message alive.
“Right now in this world, it’s up to us to save soil. Are we ready for this challenge? Right now Sadhguru is on his way across the globe. Are we ready to ride with him?” he asked.
It was the segway into his final song, ‘On My Way’, a 2015 tune from his Monk Evolution album.
His call for the crowd to dance was an effort hardly needed as the flowing melody and chants of “on my way, on my way to you” were again quickly lapped up by the captive audience with many more joining those who had been dancing from when he first began.
By the time he was done, the cameras showed the vast majority of the thousands present waving their hands and dancing, and as he left the stage, it was to chants of “Encore, Encore!”
Viewing online from T&T, Head of the National Cultural Promotions and National Chutney Foundation Dr Vijay Ramlal Rai described Montano’s performance as “a tremendous moment of pride for our country.”
However, he felt that Montano should have also sung a song in tribute to Ras Shorty I “…since his daughter was also on stage with him performing to over 120 million people.”
“The appropriate song ‘Om Shanti’ would have been appreciated and in keeping with the occasion. It is now history that MM sang to his biggest audience in the world. Let’s hope MM can pave the way to assist others along those lines,” Ramlal Rai said.
Montano has been participating in a yoga programme at the Isha Yoga Centre for the last seven months.
MahaShivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of the god Shiva. The name also refers to the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance called Tandava.
It is a major festival in Hinduism marking a remembrance of “overcoming darkness and ignorance” in life and the world.
T&T fans enjoy performance
Social media respondents were also pleased with Machel Montano’s performance. Here are some of the comments posted on Facebook:
Indra Persad: Oh my Machael your performance was so good we were so proud of you.
Addysha Johnson-Gift: This so beautiful. Music can bring us all together… love, respect and appreciation. Some of us out hearts need that cleansing.
Faria Hosein: Machel Montano is certainly making us PROUD in Trinidad sooooooo proud, let’s take a page out of Machel’s book and India’s book and live in harmony with every RACE
Shurlann Wilson: Trinidad and Tobago to the world..Soca music to the world..feel good music..our music brings people together in love and unity..love always..
Indira Maharaj: The Dance of Natraj! Love it ! Couldn’t do a better job Machel ! You represent our people well so proud of you
Ann Ramrattan: Omg..baba dancing too..I tell you Trinidad music is really great
Wang Choo: Machel is just pure royalty always makes us proud
Wendy Rani Ramoudit: “I’m so Proud of you Macheal, Seeing you on Stage Just bring Tears of Joy to my Heart an Soul, you are truly Bless Om NAMAH Shiva.”