Famalay for the Road! Machel nears record; here’s how he compares with Kitchener and Super Blue

Soca star Machel Montano is now just one hit away from the all-time record for Road March titles, as he was awarded his tenth crown today by TUCO for Famalay—a collaboration which includes Ian “Bunji Garlin” Alvarez and Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle.

Famalay was played 346 times at the respective judging points, which meant a fairly comfortable lead over second place Savannah Grass by Kees Dieffenthaller.

Photo: Soca star Machel Montano performs at the 2019 Tribe Hydrate Wet Fete at the Five Islands Amusement Park on 13 January 2019.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Machel’s 10 titles bring him level with Austin “Super Blue” Lyons and is one short of the 11 wins managed by the late Aldwyn “Lord Kitchener” Roberts.

For Bunji, it was his first Road March success. In 2013, he had arguably his best chance to conquer the road with Differentology, only to be brushed aside by the unlikely return of Super Blue with Fantastic Friday. Machel, incidentally, also had a strong contender that year with The Fog.

Bunji’s wife and Super Blue’s daughter, Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez, has three Road March crowns with Display (2003), Get On (2008) and Meet Super Blue (2009).

Skinny Fabulous, who is from St Vincent and the Grenadines, enjoys the distinction of being the first foreigner to win the Trinidad and Tobago Road March title. His triumph comes in the same year that Grenadian Hollis “Mr Killa” Mapp grabbed the Soca Monarch crown with Run Wid It.

Run Wid It was ineligible for the Road March. TUCO rules state the competition is only open to nationals or naturalised citizens. However a clause, apparently inserted in 2007, allows for a song by a foreign artiste to be considered once “the majority of the lead vocal performance of the Calypso [is] undertaken and carried out by nationals of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Bunji and Machel sang a verse each to one by Skinny Fabulous, which is good enough for TUCO.

Photo: Road March winner Famalay was sung by Bunji Garlin, Machel Montano and Skinny Fabulous.

Slinger “Sparrow” Francisco was born in Grenada but moved to Trinidad at just 18 months and is a naturalised citizen. He is still regarded as the greatest calypsonian of all time.

Sparrow has eight Road March titles with his first in 1956 with Jean and Dinah—at just 20 years old—while his last was in 1984, 28 years later, when the then 48 year old bard sang Don’t Back Back.

There was a 30 year gap between Kitchener’s first and last Road March crown, as he first copped the prize as a 23 year old in 1946 with Jump In The Line before his final triumph, aged 53, with Flag Woman in 1976.

Super Blue, then Blue Boy, was also 23 when he first triumphed on the road with his unforgettable debut tune, Soca Baptist, in 1980. Thirty eight years later, Blue collaborated with Machel for his tenth title with Soca Kingdom in 2018—bettering Dexter “Blaxx” Stewart’s Hulk. Blue was 61.

In contrast, Machel’s current concentrated success is unprecedented in the modern era.

Machel was just nine years old when he became the youngest ever finalist at the Calypso Monarch competition with Too Young To Soca and he was already a veteran in the industry when, at 22, he took his first Road March title with Big Truck in 1997.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago soca star Machel Montano performs after the CPL final at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba on 10 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

It was nine years before Machel’s second title when he collaborated with Patrice Roberts for Band Of De Year in 2006—Edghill “Maximus Dan” Thomas was a contender that year with Soca Warriors—and kept the throne for himself with Jumbie in 2007.

Fay-Ann Lyons took the title in 2008 and 2009 while JW and Blaze stormed to the big prize with Palance in 2010 before Machel seemed to perfect the formula. In 2011, he returned to the pinnacle of the soca scene with Advantage en route to seven titles in just nine years.

Only Super Blue’s reemergence and MX Prime, formerly Maximus Dan, and the Ultimate Reject’s iconic Full Extreme—which set a record with 556 plays, while Machel’s Your Time Now and Beat It finished second and third with 72 and 18 respectively by TUCO’s count in 2017—interrupted Machel’s success.

With some help from one-time rival Bunji Garlin and Skinny Fabulous, the era of Machel continues.

Kitchener, incidentally, knows a thing or two about hot streaks. He won 10 of his Road March titles in a 13 year stretch between 1963 and 1976.

Still, Machel could catch his overall tally by this time next year with another smash hit in 2020.

Photo: Late iconic calypsonian Aldwyn “Lord Kitchener” Roberts.

Road March Big Hitters

Lord Kitchener (11 titles): Jump In the Line (1946), The Road (1963), Mama This Mas (1964), My Pussin (1965), Sixty Seven (1967), Miss Tourist (1968), Margie (1970), Mas at Madison (1971), Rain-O-Rama (1973), Tribute to Spree (1975), Flag Woman (1976).

Super Blue (10 titles): Soca Baptist (1980), Ethel (1981), Rebecca (1983), Get Something And Wave (1991), Jab Jab (1992), Bacchanal Time (1993), Signal For Lara (1995), Pump Up (2000), Fantastic Friday (2013), Soca Kingdom with Machel Montano (2018).

Machel Montano (10 titles): Big Truck (1997), Band of De Year with Patrice Roberts (2006), Jumbie (2007), Advantage (2011), Pump Yuh Flag (2012), Ministry of Road (2014), Like Ah Boss (2015), Waiting On the Stage featuring Badjohn Republic (2016), Soca Kingdom with Super Blue (2018), Famalay with Skinny Fabulous and Bunji Garlin (2019).

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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  1. Adrian Clarke you should put your comment on the road March tally in this thread. 😉

    • It is being proposed that Machel Montano now has 10 road march wins and stands equal with super blue but still one less than Kitchener who has 11 wins. As much as I love the music of all the artists involved I must challenge the rationale for the assertion that my boy Machel ‘Hey Ha’ Montano can claim 10 road march wins especially if international accounting standards are applied

      Now let’s analyse the road march statistics from an international accounting standard approach. This approach would be in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) 11- Joint Arrangements. IFRS 11 classifies joint arrangements into two types—joint operations and joint ventures: in a joint operation, the parties that have joint control of the arrangement (joint operators) have rights to particular assets, and obligations for particular liabilities, relating to the arrangement; and in a joint venture, the parties that have joint control of the arrangement (joint venturers) have rights to the net assets of the arrangement.

      IFRS 11 requires a joint operator to recognise and measure its share of the assets and liabilities (and recognise the related revenues and expenses) in accordance with IFRS Standards applicable to the particular assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses. A joint venturer accounts for its interest in the joint venture using the equity method (see IAS 28).

      In the case of the road march songs we are assuming it’s a joint venture and would be apportioning ownership using the equity method. We are assuming that each artist would have an equal share of the songs. So since some of Montano’s sounds have been shared with other artists they technically should not be allocated the status of a full win. If he sang a duet then he should be allocated 50% of 1/2 and if it’s a Treo 33.3 % or 1/3 .

      The following three sounds sang by Machel were done with other artists.
      2006 Machel Montano & Patrice Roberts “Band Of De Year” (BODY)
      2018 Machel Montano & Superblue “Soca Kingdom”
      2019 Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin & Skinny Fabulous “Famalay”

      So for 2006 Machel Montano & Patrice Roberts should be allocated ½ road march each for band of the year. In 2018 Machel Montano & Superblue similarly a ½ road march each. For 2019 Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin & Skinny Fabulous would each be allocated 1/3 of the road march.
      So the IFRS 11 adjusted total for Machel Montano would be seven full road march wins plus two 1/2 wins plus one 1/3 win. Or 7+(2×1/2) + (1×1/3). This totals 8 1/3 or 8.33 road march wins. Similar adjustments would have to be made for Superblue who would have an IFRS 11 adjusted total of 9 ½

      Accounting is such fun! Hey Ha!

    • Adrian Clarke I agree you do have a valid accounting, and was thinking the same thing…but it’s not that much fun for Machel 😀

    • By the same accounting does Fay Ann only have 2.5 with Syri sharing half of Meet SuperBlue 😀

    • Adrian Clarke This is awesome, thank you for this perspective. Now if only artistes can use the Basel 2 standard to cover their risks 🙂 . But seriously, your IFRS point is valid.

    • Antoinette Sankar maybe superblue did it for free . Who knows ?

  2. He is not at 10. More like 5⅓.

  3. Machel has 6 solo and 4 shared wins. Collaboration mattered to get his foot back into the road March race… and collaboration keeps him in it when his solo efforts are less than stellar. Super only shared one Road March and he still holds the most Soca Monarchs… just remember that. Kitchener would have given both a run for their money…if time machines and reincarnation worked…that said Machel has done the most to make the business of soca really work for him. In that he’s truly royalty and deserves full kudos.

  4. y because allyuh Machel haters wanted Kes.

  5. btw, your article made it into my Google news alert Lasana Liburd

  6. “the edge ‘Famalay’ had on ‘Savannah Grass'[:] This is a Dominican produced riddim, with Vincentian writing and Trinis writing and producing. We have to understand that we have to open our arms and welcome the world to our space, our casa is their casa.” http://www.looptt.com/content/famalay-singers-producer-full-emotion-over-road-march-win

  7. I believe there should be a better way to determine Roadmarch maybe a voting on the both days… Who tells the Dj to play what song?Then it should be ‘stage march’ because its whatever sounding better to cross the stage.

  8. Congrats to Skinny because its his song, however, I’m fed-up of MM winning the road march every year. Would be so nice for a different person to win it. Fed up of MM

    • Chica Emery totally agree…its skinny song

    • I would have to disagree – no one was fed up when Super Blue was chalking up his wins, why “hate” on MM? It’s all three of them on the song…is it because Skinny wrote it that you feel it is his?

    • I don’t hate MM sir, fed-up is not hate.

    • Antoinette Sankar MM have won road march in the past with real crap…like pump yuh flag, ministry of road and advantage….

    • I love Famalay. But it’s true that some of those former winning songs I’d never want to hear again and nobody asks for them.
      And the irony is songs like Huk, Let Go and Breathless gets more requests than some tunes that Machel won with.
      All the same, Famalay is a deserving song in my book.

    • Trini Don I’m with you on Pump Yuh Flag, maybe that was de mafia, but what were the other contenders that year? Does anyone remember? I didn’t like Advantage that much but in the end I think it was well crafted and Ministry of Road was pure perfection for a road song…

    • Chica Emery MM has NOT won the Road March “every year”. This is #10 in a career of over 30 years! Kitchener and SuperBlue won the bulk of theirs over much shorter careers.

    • Jacqueline Morris, Machel has seven titles in the last 13 years. Also there were 30 years between Kitchener’s first and last Road March title and 38 years between Super Blue’s first and last title.
      But I put all that info in the story including what years they won and with which songs.

    • Jacqueline Morris My friend come on, when I say every year I don’t actually mean every year. Come “nah man’… you know what I mean. I luv Machel and his contribution, ALL I’m saying is that I’m fed-up. For example, let’s say you love Mac & Cheese, it’s your fav meal but you are eating it 3 times a day for a month, what do you think will happen? You’ll get fed-up of mac & cheese and want to try another meal… right now MM is Mac & Cheese…

    • Lasana Liburd Thanks for the information.

    • Chica Emery winning d road march does not mean it is d only song played on d road.it is d song dat d bands prefer to jump across d stages all across d country too.Can somebody explain how dis mafia works?

    • Collin Cudjoe Let me try to explain because I played mas for 12 years (I’m retired now). While chipping along the parade route the popular songs are played then as sooooon as the trucks reach a stage they put on what THEY think should be road march. Collin my friend, is DJs play the songs and they can be ea$ily influenced to play certain song$. Those sameee DJs work in certain radio station$ that are owned by certain ppl who manage artistes. Those sameee DJs are the personal DJs for some of these artistes and in order to be part of the “IN” crowd or for whatever reason they sometimes don’t play what the people want. Out of 10 years of so called “Road March” songs that won I estimate that probably 3 was real road march, the other 7 is what DJs pushed down our throats either because they were paid or for some other reason.

    • Collin Cudjoe There’s “bobol” everywhere in T&T…. ppl paying for their driving permit, buying inspection stickers without their car being inspected, ppl selling Venezuelan TT birth papers and many more bobol so you mean to tell me Road March is free of Bobol? Hmmm ok

    • Chica Emery and y Machel is d only bobolist and Kes squeaky clean?

    • Collin Cudjoe Forget Kes, I’m talking in general over the years. This Road March system must be revisited. Come on focus

    • Trini Don if I remember correctly, those were years when “power” soca was in the doldrums and these were the best of a bad lot.

    • if our country is supremely corrupted and i agree ,y do u think a new system of judging integrity will not be compromised also?

    • I am fed up of someone winning without merit.

    • This thing could and should be automated. Man went to the moon and soon Mars so we can automate this. Place software on music trucks to automatically register songs then just remove the songs that were not registered. Let the software track songs along the entire route not just the stage.

    • That way the bands would not play the same 6 MM⅔ songs from this year and others because people shall complain to the DJ and babd committee v members on the road and even not play with them again cause of the MM bulljero that has contributed greatly to KILLING Carnival.

  9. Cheups – I still vex so ah not saying ah word

    • Mel Lissa the soca mafia at play (literally, in this case!).
      So many ppl wanted Savannah Grass. What was surprising to me is the big difference in number of times played.

    • Nerisha Mohammed If the song was played as often at the judging points as it was in Soca Drome or in the Kings and Queens show, then it certainly won on it’s own strength, though I have always been curious about this mafia…what exactly is it…or is that a secret?

    • Antoinette Sankar the problem is playing it in front of the judges, because it certainly got enough play overall.

    • Nerisha Mohammed and…is that where the mafia comes in?

    • Antoinette, I’ve heard masqueraders tell me that they would dance to certain songs for much of the day. But as soon as they hit a judging point, up comes a tune that nobody asked for or was really moving to.
      And that’s where the “mafia” seems to come in.
      The song played before the judge isn’t the song that moves the crowd for most of the time on the road.

    • Lasana Liburd That may have been true of other times,idk, but I was at Soca Drome, didn’t look like you had to convince the masqueraders or the crowd to dance to Famalay – and exactly who decides what gets played anyway? Famalay has been popular from the get go, so I doubt anything can be ascribed to it in terms of a fix…but I have always wanted to know exactly what people think happens in regard to this mafia and who is benefitting from it

    • The “mafia” is in terms of airplay on the radio stations and before the judging points. But the odd thing is often Machel’s best song to me isn’t the winner anyway.
      Because songs like Pop a Bottle, for instance, are great. Life Of The Party too. But there is this “formulaic” thing where the Road March is concerned. It isn’t about the song that the crowd love in my books.
      But again, I’m a big fan of Famalay.

    • I agree there is a certain winning formula for the road – check all the road marches (well except pump yuh flag – I don’t know what happened there) – they have a certain energy and movement that makes them work for masqueraders – all bar none…and for the people talking about mafia…did the mafia help Fay Ann win over Destra? Who gets to decide when the mafia will support one artiste over another? I just can’t believe in something that we don’t have actual evidence for. No one can say that the masqueraders didn’t love and actually prefer Famalay to Savannah Grass and this is me saying that even though I would have been happy either way because I also luv Savannah, though I knew that the original didn’t have enough energy for the road race…although the road mix I heard was actually very good.

    • Antoinette Sankar I was at a couple judging points, Famalay hardly played, judging point came up, it on rotation.
      Which is why over the years, there have been allegations of djs being paid off to play certain sings.
      Tbh, from.what I observed, Savannah Grass had a good response even when energy was lagging.

    • Nerisha Mohammed Well, according to you it was the mafia, and (going by the info in this thread) according to Chica it’s Skinny’s song, so Gamal has a hold of the mafia – sorry Nerisha, I value you input always but will have to agree to disagree regarding this…to say that you were at the judging points and Famalay “hardly played” is hardly statistical proof though it makes for a very passionate opinion…

    • Antoinette Sankar what I meant/said it was hardly played along the route, but def at the couple judging points. Seems strange. If it was playing all the time, I could understand.
      Mind you, it is a good song.
      What I don’t get is the huge difference in # of times played.
      Wonder how the bands felt was their choice.

    • Nerisha Mohammed There again is hardly statistical proof of a fix – maybe the DJ is aware of what the band wants to hear at the judging point so plays it accordingly – what they choose to play on the route does not infer a preference – or are you saying the masqueraders tell the dj what to play all along the route?

    • Antoinette why would the DJ not play what moves the crowd on the route at the judging point too?

    • Lasana Liburd Have you been to carnival lately? As much as I luv both 1st and 2nd place winners this year, it is very refreshing when the DJ does not play just one song and plays some other great songs (last year was very tiresome when they played Soca Kingdom over and over and I luv de song bad)…and that’s how I see this issue of what plays on the road vs judging points- maybe the DJs recognise there is some fatigue in playing the same song over and over – but we should ask the masqueraders on here – (anyone?) – what song gets played when you cross and who decides – is it the DJ or the band? I noticed that for most of the sections of Tribe, Machel sang with Skinny but for one section, Kees took to the truck…(and yes Machel was singing along to Savannah grass at one point, kudos to him…) so I was actually wondering, how come that section got Kees and others got Machel, was that pre-arranged?

    • Antoinette Sankar is the DJs are intentionally holding a song back for the judging point then that proves the point everyone is making.
      I’d think you play your musical repertoire and observe what gets your section excited. And that excitable song would be the one you play at the judging point.

    • Lasana Liburd I agree it could be a good strategy (if they needed one to help them decide) but I don’t see the DJs as investing any amount of brain power to figure out which song to play…they usually can figure that out fairly well from the lead up to Carnival (…except when Pump Yuh Flag won…right?)

    • and forgive me I don’t get why that proves anyone else’s point about the judging locations…

    • Antoinette Sankar that’s also a strategy someone told me they could be using.
      Holding back the song so it is fresh for players.
      But same ourcome, someone has to be benefitting.

    • Nerisha Mohammed I am not a DJ but I would not play the roadmarch favorite all along the route simply because that would be boring…it’s bad enough when you have to sit on a bleacher and hear the same song over and over – who would want that?

    • And no one can deny Famalay was a favourite so we’re actually arguing about the wrong song – mostly I just want to know who would possibly benefit and how

    • Antoinette there isn’t any party I go to that you would hear one song on one loop. But there also isn’t any party I’ve ever been to where the hottest song of the day was not the one you would hear most on that night.
      And nobody gets tired of it. I don’t understand.

    • Lasana Liburd I guess I can only go from my experience sitting in the bleachers hearing one song over and over – and I can see why the DJ would hold back a song for the stage if that’s the one the masqueraders want, because I get tired of hearing the same song over and over – maybe it’s just me…and as much as I would agree the DJ could play Famalay all the way up to the stage, what sense would that make for our tourists? Not that I’m suggesting the DJs care either way – but what are we really disagreeing on? That the DJs will somehow get a cut in the winnings of the road march tune? Let’s break it down…what is it presumed they will get from the winners and did they get it from the singer formerly known as Maximus Dan?

    • And if Super Blue has been supporting the mafia ten times over with his winnings, why would he stop?

    • And what about Fay Ann, how did she get into this mafia ring and not Destra?

    • If it’s real, show me the evidence otherwise, let’s just agree to disagree like a rel famalay-lay-lay-lay-lay-lay-lay-lay 😀

    • On a more logical note, I would be hard pressed to believe that a collab like such featured in Famalay would be beaten by one man – they both had good music and lyrics – for once it was not just wine, wine, wine or wave, wave, wave but I would always say Famalay had the edge because of its energy and because it was three vs one…Kees is good, but maybe if he had combined (no pun intended) he would have had a better chance and of course with a higher energy song…he himself says it in the lyrics his song is for chipping – j’ouvert morning…

    • Nerisha Mohammed I am surprised Savannah Grass got so much play at judging points in front of all those other Power Soca song. It is a song to chip to which would appeal to masqueraders of a certain age group crossing the stage. It is not a Power Soca song. If the mafia was at work, they did not get their pick. Nice song but not hyped enough for the stage.

    • Antoinette Sankar the “mafia” talk isn’t an age old thing. Nothing to do with Super Blue.
      The reality is Machel is an industry by himself. He charges six times what the second hottest soca act charges.
      There is soca. And then there is Machel. That makes it difficult for other artistes to get a fair shot. Surely that is undeniable.

    • Lasana Liburd I will not deny that Machel is capable of getting what other artistes may not – but is that mafia?

    • Mafia is just a throwaway phrase like one percent. Not meant to be taken literally.

    • Lester Logie So you think the mafia was supporting Kees?

    • So, it’s just Machel getting what he gets because he has put out the material…I would say then, we need to stop bandying about such ideas and just be happy for the man – and for Bunji and Skinny and for the collaboration of the decade (- or was that Soca Kingdom?) – but may this is a whole other topic…

    • Antoinette Sankar there are other Power Soca songs. In my view you have to look at the age demographics of the masqueraders in the band when selecting songs to cross the stage. You can play more than one song which can also account for the 207. Famalay had no competition in my opinion. I didn’t see Savannah Grass as second. Nice groovy song but the rhythm is too slow for crossing the stage unless your masqueraders are of a certain age.

    • Lester Logie the Road March is tabulated on only the first song played as the band reaches the stage. So if you switch after it doesn’t count.

    • Lasana Liburd how I wish it were so! Unfortunately I know way too many otherwise sensible people that seriously believe there is a criminal conspiracy to influence the Road March each year. That the title, $100,000 and a car is SO important that artistes are willing to resort to bribery and threats of violence to win. And DJs and bandleaders are willing to risk their reputations and the displeasure of the crowd and their masqueraders for a few thousand dollars. And it’s not recent either. Talk was that back in the day a certain Calypsonian would drive around from steelband to steelband with a carload of “badjohns” in case any panman dare think about playing a rival song! Welcome to the land of TT Urban Myth!

    • Antoinette no I didn’t like the song. I don’t believe in the so called Soca Mafia – I just didn’t like the song. In fact, I was highly disappointed with MM this year

    • Mel Lissa he does not seem to be having a good year. No comment about his concert. Expected so much better but not sure how much rain played a part, but the line up wasn’t the caliber you normally expect.

    • Lester Logie, I don’t think.slower songs are at a disadvantage, slower songs have won in the recent past.
      I posted the link


    • Martin Raymond never knew that!

    • “The Road March Shall be judged” No 5 states all songs played whilst the band is crossing the stage shall be adjudicated on and not the first tune played.

    • Lester Logie ok – maybe they changed it

    • Mar NH,tin RaymondW, 1

      Jj jxr n NJ jj my ,j

  10. Glad Machel found a few other ways to say jump and wave 😀

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