It needs to be said and bears repeating: me (and my camera) survived Soca Monarch.
Soca Monarch is one of the so-called “fetes of the people,” since prices are on the low side of the fete ticket range ($200 TT=about $30 US, in comparison to more chichi, non-all inclusive fetes that start in the 350 TT range or even all-inclusive–food and drink, that is–fetes that go from 400 TT to 800 TT). Add to that the fact that this one is held at the HUGE Queen’s Park Oval stadium in Port of Spain, and multiply that by the fact that all the main soca performers will be there doing there big hit songs, and you can see how this translates into a less affluent, younger kind of crowd. Plus, when the performers big up the crowd by calling out for some noise “if you’re from San Juan/Arima/etc” and the biggest crowd response comes from Laventille, Morvant and Belmont (the most dangerous, favela-like neighborhoods), you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.
In other words, I was warned not to go by coworkers and was requested to email them that I got back safely–exagerated precautions, maybe, but only just barely exagerated.
So I headed out witha tiny purse carrying contact lens solution, hand sanitizer and lipgloss, and nothing else. When we arrived in Port of Spain we caught up with some friends, took in the sight of ladies in spandex and tiny shorts (shortpants, as they call them here) and young guys in polos, jeans, and all kinds of bandanna, and went through security:
After getting VERY well frisked, we were handed rags to wave and glowsticks :
And found a spot front and center in the standing-room-only, silver (aka cheapest) area. I had every intention of taking a few pictures at this point, but sadly, the only one I got to take was of the massive police presence in our section–bullet-proof gear on, helmets propped, fingers on automatics at the ready:
That was the last time it felt safe to take pictures, so away went the camera. Sorry, peeps–I’d love to have given you a better view, but I just didn’t want to lose the camera or worse.
The show was great–intense, loud music and some very good stage acts. Shurwayne Winchester, a soca artist who looks shockingly like Marlo on The Wire, did a great act for his entry song “Murder” that started with him getting carried off screen in a gurney, then going “rewind” and showing how exactly he got, well, dead. It was a wining murder, apparently–a lady of large proportions came out and wined so violently on him that she killed him with her moves and big behind, oh my. It was a shocking display of un-PCness but hey, at least the crowd cheered at the wining murderess in her tiny lingerie set as she wined Shurwayne to death.
There was also a very witty video intro for Shal Marshall and Screw’s “Police,” in which they did a Law and Order: Soca Victims Unit sketch as part of the musical act. And, of course, there were all sorts of acrobatic wining feats by big-bootied ladies featured throughout, busting the kind of moves that made me think long and hard on what would be the necessary proportion of fat to muscle to be able to swing your asscheeks in opposite directions, while turning in circles, in unison to the song (stil haven’t figured it out).
Faye-Ann Lyons, reigning Soca Monarch, came out and did two great numbers that would have put Miss Beyonce, much as I love her, to shame, showing off her incredible singing skills (and physique–I didn’t think ladies could have such six-packs and toned curves, much less after having a baby less than a year ago). Towards the end of the night, as the crowd was getting more riled up and rougher, the song “Palance” (whose title is taken from Jamaican slang for hanging out and having a good time with friends) came on, and the dance craze it’s created (going left to right with your arms to each side while wining crazily) kicked off. I have been in some mean moshpits in my day, but NOTHING like this–I got caught in the middle of two groups who were palancing in different directions and kept getting crushed. Eventually (because the song was dragged out to fifteen minutes for maximum crowd frenzy) they got their directions in synch, so I was ok as long as I went along with it (which I happily did) and didn’t mind getting lifted off my feet in the crush of people (which I didn’t mind).
After that, the crowd started to thin out and the more dodgy elements were left, with plenty of drunk aggressive serial winers (they come up to you and wine close and don’t take a hint unless you actually walk off fast) and those looking to eyeball some stealables or a fight. That was it for us, and once the live acts ended and the DJ came on to await Soca Monarch results, we were out. Time of departure: 3:45ish. Despite the dodgery at the end, though, we did have a great time, and it was a great wining warm-up for me–it takes a fete or two for me to get used to wining again (kinda like base-building with running
Needless to say, today has involved a lot of sleeping. I slept till 10:30, woke up, drank some water, read for a bit, and fell back to sleep till 12:30. Then we got up, had breakfast (I didn’t take pictures of the eggs in a hole because they were TOO ugly, but see here for my last, prettier, rendition), and slept some more until around 5, when we made a go of having part of a day and got woken up by a very loud puja (Hindu prayer ceremony) going on in our neighborhood.
Being half-asleep all day made me pretty listless and undecided about what to make, and I changed my mind about a million times before settling on Indian sweet potato hash:
I really wanted to make the Most Fabulous S’s Sri Lankan sweet potatoes, but when I realized I wouldn’t even come close I veered off into more familiar Indian ground, with cumin, coriander, chili, fenugreek, and other spices in a sweet potato and spinach mix. Served with tomatoes and onions and some rice (white because there’s no getting brown rice around here for love or money lately), it definitely hit the spot.
I will try my hardest to stay awake until my usual bedtime because I need a good night of sleep tonight! I’m going to a daytime fete tomorrow and can’t wait to cut loose in my self-made fete dress–tune in for the big reveal….