Tuesday 11 August, 2020

International Soca Monarch finals to feature Zesser segment

Leader of the dancehall pack, Prince Swanny, will be among the stars in the Zesser segment at the International Soca Monarch on Friday.

Leader of the dancehall pack, Prince Swanny, will be among the stars in the Zesser segment at the International Soca Monarch on Friday.

Trini dancehall stars will be featured in a Zesser Segment at the International Soca Monarch (ISM) competition on Fantastic Friday.

Simon Baptiste, Creative Director for ISM, told Loop the segment will be one of four developed to enhance the show and package it for television.

The segment will feature the stars of the local dancehall wave: Prince Swanny, Jahllano, Trinidad Killa, Plumpy Boss, Medz Boss, Rebel Sixx and K-Lion.

Baptiste said the segment will feature a medley of their songs.

Asked why he chose to feature dancehall in a season where there has been an outcry against the popular genre being played at Carnival events, Baptiste said it is about showcasing the youth.

“I have always been about the youth, I have always been about embracing our youth and the fact is that there is no denying that there has been somewhat of a disconnect over the years about what our youth are listening to in terms of soca and gravitating toward their own dancehall,” he said.

“The fact is we know there have to be some repairs done in that area by working with communities throughout the country over the next year but it doesn’t change the fact that we shouldn’t turn our backs on them either. They are doing something that is helping them, they are making a living from it and those same young men who are involved in the Zesser movement have always looked up to Soca Monarch, they see it as a grand stage, an opportunity, they are seeing stars they have idolised as well.”

Baptiste said they are simply giving local dancehall and spotlight and argued that in the past Jamaican dancehall stars have graced the ISM stage.

“And why was that done? It was done because one, it is called the International Soca Monarch and the idea is that we embrace all our islands and then the other thing is that this is a youth-driven platform so that’s why you would have a Beenie Man and a Bounty Killa on the show because you recognise that these artistes were draws to the event. The only thing we have done different this year is that we didn’t say let’s invest in a Jamaican dancehall artiste as a draw, we have those artistes who can draw our youth right here on our soil.”

He said the decision to have a Zesser segment was not influenced by Trinidad Killa who was upset that he didn’t qualify to enter the competition with his song ‘Dyzess’.

“The Sunday when I was offered the post and they asked me what my ideas were =, the conversations I had with multiple people was that I wanted to do a segment that basically shone a spotlight on our youth and this emerging movement known as Zesser,” he explained.

Trinidad Killa will star in the closing segment of the show.

The Zesser segment will be choreographed by Christopher Scott, a three-time Emmy nominated choreographer from the United States who has worked on shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Best Dance Crew and the Step Up movies. He has also worked with a number of stars such as Taylor Swift. Most Trinbagonians may recognise him as the foreigner who starred in Kes the Band’s ‘Hello’ video.

Baptiste defended the use of a foreigner, stating that he was looking for people he was connected to, who understood the vision he had and had the ability to create a show that they could pitch to international networks.

“Internally it’s not that we don’t have those people here, but I had three weeks to go and a lot of people were already committed to various projects. I was lucky when I reached out to Chris he had a blank slate on his window and when you look at his resume, So You Think You Could Dance, the Grammys, the Academy Awards, working with producers and shows on Netflix, I felt he was someone that could get it plus he loves soca music,” he said.

Scott told Loop that together with his colleague Leo Moctezuma, he is doing the art direction for the Zesser segment and will be employing the skills of Jamaican dancer/choreographer Blacka Di Dancer to assist.

Scott said he thinks the inclusion of the dancehall in the show is a beautiful thing.

“Any display of culture should be done with a lot of care that is why we have Blacka helping us to showcase dancehall in an authentic way. It’s like the Super Bowl, you had the Latin dancing showcase, I think it is important to put the culture out there so we could get more familiar and educated together,” he said.

ISM will also feature a segment paying tribute to the founder of soca Ras Shorty I which will be created by the Blackman family and a Women’s segment with two emerging artistes: Nailah Blackman and Jadel and two veterans, Allison Hinds and Patrice Roberts. Scott will also be responsible for putting together that segment.

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