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CHUTNEY crossover band Dil e Nadan’s front line singer Raymond Ramnarine was crowned the 2013 Lotto Plus Chutney Soca Monarch during the early morning hours yesterday, before a crowd of thousands at Skinner Park in San Fernando.
In so doing, Ramnarine dethroned 2012 monarch Veshal Kris ‘KI’ Persad who placed third while perennial crowd favourite and former monarch Rikki Jai, placed second.
Ramnarine took the stage just after midnight and had the massive crowd swaying and wining to his winning song ‘I Wanna be Free’. He beat a field of 16 others, representing the best of this country’s chutney soca artistes en route to the title.
For his effort, Raymond took home a cool $1 million cheque sponsored by the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism as well as bragging rights for the next 12 months. Former six-time monarch Samraj ‘Rikki Jai’ Jaimungal took home the $300,000 second place cheque while ‘Ki’ Persad had to settle for $200,000 — not a bad pay day for placing third.
Versatile veteran artiste Drupatie Ramgoonai, who was a crowd favourite and who has this year enjoyed a resurgence with her popular song ‘Wuk up the Larki’, placed fifth, a decision which did not go down well with her fans.
Drupatee who collaborated with reigning Soca Monarch Machel Mantano for this song appeared on stage at 2.10 am yesterday dressed in a royal blue garara and accompanied by the bmobile Shiv Shakti dancers. She rolled back the years with an energetic performance replete with her now famous catch phrase, “weeeeeee!!!” and spicy dance moves. Contestants who placed from 4th to 17th, each received $60,000 for their effort.
Described by many as the “show stopper”, Ramnarine had the crowd jumping to his tune in which he called for unity among chutney soca artistes. That he has been performing for years and represented this country in such diverse places as India, Holland, the UK and USA, without ever winning this competition, speaks volumes for his consistency and his music.
Even a sharp shower did not move the massive crowd at Skinner Park which is the traditional home of the Chutney Soca monarch but which was quiet last year as the show organisers took the finals to Port-of-Spain when ‘KI’ won with his “Single Forever” monster hit.
After being declared the winner, Ramnarine yesterday told the massive audience: “I am proud of my people and my culture and we must now think about the future of chutney.” He was later congratulated by show promoter George Singh, the CEO of Southex, and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.
The first contestant, Hemlata Dindial appeared on stage at 11 pm on Saturday with her powerful chutney rendition of ‘Kar Ka Rai Par Paa Rai’ (the tricks of a man to get a woman). She did not place in the top ten but still got the crowd’s applause. For three hours, Chutney Soca ruled Skinner Park with the final contestant Drupatee appearing on stage at 2.30 am yesterday.
Officials from the organising body Southex presented appreciation awards to several icons of the chutney artform including Ramrajie Prabhu, Rakesh Yankaran, Boodram Holass and Rasika Dindial.
Speaking at his Gasparillo home yesterday, a tired-sounding but still bubbly Ramnarine said that his victory was the culmination of more than 20 years of performing. “Although I have been performing for 20 plus years, I felt nervous going into the competition last night,” Ramnarine told Newsday.
“I lit a deya and I prayed. I asked God for courage to go before the people and make them happy. I heard a loud roar when the host Serala Ramlogan called my name as one of the contestants for the night and that roar from the crowd gave me added energy,” Ramnarine said.
“When I went on stage the only thing in my mind was to give the people their money’s worth. I had to prove to them that I deserved their support and love.”
What does the mantle of Chutney Soca Monarch mean to him? “Now more than ever, I have to set an example to the younger generation in this artform. I feel I have to find ways in which I could reach the youths and assist those who have the talent and determination to reach the next level,” Ramnarine said. He added that in the coming months, he plans to visit schools to reach out to students and encourage them through the holding of workshops.
Ramnarine has been involved in music since his childhood days thanks his father Ramnarine Moonilal who made music very much a family affair. The family band Dil-E-Nadan was formed in 1957 through a collaboration of Moonilal and the late Usaf Khan.
The band won the Prime Minister’s Trophy for Best Indian ochestration in 1962 and has enjoyed immense success down the years.
It was in the mid 80s Moonilal introduced his sons Rennie and Raymond to the band to replace musicians who migrated. “I played the percussions and Rennie did trumpets. Then we moved on to learning the guitars and keyboards,” Ramnarine said.
With the push from then manager Haseeb Majid, Ramnarine started his career as a lead singer. “I wanted to learn the Bollywood songs properly before presenting them to the public and I sought the help of my father and other older folks in understanding the Hindi songs,” Ramnarine said. He entered the national duet singing competition with Swarsati Maraj in 1989 and won first place.
The following year Ramnarine entered Mastana Bahar and placed second in the grand finals. It was his last participation in a competition until Saturday. “It’s been a long time coming. I am thankful to those who over the years shaped me into the performer I am now...the reigning Chutney Soca Monarch,” Ramnarine said.
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