Developing Barbados’ next generation of griots is at the core of the Scotiabank Junior Monarch Competition. Andrea Wells, Chief Cultural Officer at the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), reaffirmed that commitment to attendees of the recent launch, at Scotiabank’s office in Warrens, St. Michael.
“It is extremely important to us at the NCF that expressions of our culture through the arts, in this instance through calypso [and soca] are refined, facilitated and showcased,” She said to the contestants, parents, guardians and various representatives.
Wells also expressed the NCF’s gratitude for title sponsor Scotiabank’s involvement in incubating the talents of young practitioners, that goes beyond the financial donation: “You believe what we believe: that the best way to preserve our cultural heritage is to invest in our youth.”
The chief cultural officer used the 2022 Courtesy Garage Pic-o-de-Crop Finals, where five former Junior Monarch contestants made the finals which was eventually won by two-time champion Quon, as a small example of the result borne from the over 25-year symbiotic relationship.
Before they face the judges, the 25 semi-finalists will benefit from workshops facilitated by NCF and Scotiabank to hone their creative (songwriting, performing, artistry etc.) and professional (music business, financial literacy etc.) skills from some of the island’s legendary entertainers, and former calypso and soca monarchs, including Stedson ‘Red Plastic Bag’ Wiltshire, Ian ‘iWeb’ Webster, and Terencia ‘TC’ Coward.
Kevin Moore, Cultural Officer, Music Education at the NCF and producer of the event, promises that the competition will be “yet again an amazing display of the vocal and performance skills and talents of our young people.”
The 2023 competition staged in two categories, has seen contestants ranging from ages 7 to 18 hailing from various participating primary, secondary and tertiary schools across the island, including Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School, Deighton Griffith Secondary School, and Samuel Jackman Prescod – Institute of Technology.
The Irving Wilson School for the Blind Deaf and Autistic had its first participant in the competition through Rashad ‘King Shad’ Applewhaite, participating in the soca category with his song ‘Jam Down.’
Reigning 2022 Scotiabank Junior Monarchs’ Yahandje Daniel and Shontae Alleyne-Clarke were on hand at the launch to perform (“Tek de wine” and “Party Nice Again” respectively) and encourage their counterparts.
“Don’t be discouraged by the low points in this journey. Use them as motivation and teaching tools to better yourself,” said Daniel.
Alleyne-Clarke told her peers to grab hold of the opportunity.
“Learn as much as you can from the mentorship process, work on your stagecraft, mould yourself into being the best artistic version of you and always, always give of your best. You’re going to get a lot of comments, you’re going to get a lot of things people will say that will try to trigger you, but stay focused, and stay in your zone… have confidence in your song and yourself,” she said.
The Scotiabank Junior Monarch Finals comes off on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Garfield Sobers Complex.