Leah-Sophia, ACASA UK Groovy Soca Monarch 2023. Photo Credit: Peter Hogan

Review: ACASA UK Groovy Soca Monarch Final, Fri 18 Aug 2023

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The Groovy Soca Final followed the Junior Soca Monarch contest. There was no band, just a PA by DJ Hyper Spice and, thanks to the absence through illness of the Tabernacle’s usual engineer, decidedly ‘off’ sound, to the point that audience, judges and performers alike struggled to hear what was being sung – a rather basic drawback in a competition. Shouldn’t this have been picked up and corrected in pre-performance sound checks? After some adjustments, it did improve, but too late for the first three or four contestants. MC for the evening was the immaculately attired Super Trini Vibes and judging was in the hands of Smokey Joe, Ruth Amour and Heather Elliott (adjudicator).

First up was Soca Kidd, whose Carnival started with the sounds of cooking before he bounded on stage in a colourful wild Indian rig. Utterly let down by the sound problems, he nevertheless carried on and in better conditions would probably have gained more than the 145 points that took him to a modest ninth position. In total contrast to Soca Kidd’s flamboyance, Musicman was more casual and gave us a nice, easy going vibe with De Party Nice, managing seventh place, despite his backing singer being inaudible. Helena B has one of the loveliest voices in the tent, so it was real shame that we didn’t hear it to best advantage in Fill Me Up.

By the time Leah Sophia came on like a black and gold bombshell, the sound had been greatly improved so the audience – especially Talibah! – was able to enjoy Sumbaday to the full. The judges liked it too, awarding her 231 points, which was enough to bring her the crown and to shake up the established order in the GSM ranks.

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Ms Desire kept the partying, wining atmosphere going with her Wha Yuh Come For, which generated 225 points and third place (it was tight at the top!). Changing the pace completely, Muffinman, the bard of west London, had the air of a rather smart Paddington Bear – appropriately enough, as his number was entitled Westbourne Park. The hat worked, but the lyrics were lost – for soca success you do have to pump up the volume

There’s always a sense of anticipation when you hear the words “G-String again” and he had another great crowd-pleaser with a good chorus in Dal and Channa. Clearly, Gerry has food on his mind this year, as the calypso contender he served up the following week was The Recipe! Both songs were to bring him second place. The finals section of the evening brought us two more great wining songs, Nikie Baby’s Yuh Workin’ and DeeVine’s Jam for Life, garnering 195 and 198 points respectively and both proving that there’s no shortage of soca talent in Britain.

Finally, putting the groove into groovy soca, was De Admiral whose Hard Love is one of the best songs he’s ever put on stage and one that would make a perfect end-of-party tune. His surprisingly modest 179 points took him to sixth place overall.

This wasn’t the end of the party at The Tabernacle, though, as there were guest performances from the ever-popular SunDivas (Why?), Pae3ot (We Deh and Colours) and Aunty Merle on the raffle.

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It had been a good, if flawed, evening. Next time, we humbly suggest ACASA seeks sponsorship to pay for the band at all its events, sound checks being conducted rigorously and artistes turning up well before performance time for the same reason.

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