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Oyez, Oyez, Ola! Olatunji grooves his way to first Soca Monarch title
Dressed in a golden suit and hat and seated on a throne of shimmering gold, soca artiste Olatunji Yearwood began his performance exuding confidence that he would win the Digicel Groovy Soca Monarch even before results were announced hours later giving confirmation. Before Yearwood even began his performance, lighting up a darkened stage, the crowd at the Hasely Crawford stadium began chanting his name, a compliment only one other artiste in the competition, Destra Garcia, received.
Yearwood, who many said faced stiff competition from artistes with hugely popular songs throughout the Carnival season, easily took command of the stage and delivered a performance that was high energy, entertaining and filled with dance routines which thrilled the crowd and left them shouting the shortened version of his name, which was incidentally the name of his song, Ola.
It was clear to even the most novice of soca fans that Yearwood, who performed last in the Groovy Monarch competition, had separated himself from the pack, leaving a wide gap which no one could close. When the results were announced, Yearwood, who had said thanks to both his mother and father on stage, was swiftly embraced by actress Penelope Spencer and actress and comedienne Nikki Crosby and they all cried backstage.
The two were close friends of Yearwood’s mother Mairoon Ali, who was also a comedienne and actress and who died in 2009. Spencer looked to the sky and shouted Mairoon’s name three times and Crosby said she was at a loss for words. As for Yearwood, he said the win was a blessing and victory for his mother and father and that he was grateful to both parents for grooming him as a person and artiste.
The Groovy competition was filled with creative performances, but strangely, most of the artistes failed to move the crowd, with Yearwood being the first to move the entire stadium. The show began with a performance from Kes the Band, followed by Ian Alvarez (Bunji Garlin), Fay-ann Lyons and the Asylum Vikings, and Carib Breakout Artiste Nesta Boxhill (Sekon Sta), who delighted fans when he brought out and serenaded four members of the country’s Women Warriors football team.
Digicel Wild Card competitor Akil Borneo (5 Star Akil) performed in position number one and chose to highlight the crime situation during his performance. He was followed by “Saga Boy” Chow Chow who received great crowd response, looking dapper in a white suit and fedora, until the fedora revealed hair curling rods underneath.
Erphaan Alves seemed to have some difficulties getting his midnight robber to the stage but had a solid performance once he began and soca artiste Skinny Fabulous engaged the crowd better than his predecessors. Patrons, however, showed their bias, chanting soca songstress Destra Garcia’s name before her performance began. But Garcia, who had a strong start, floundered somewhere in the middle of her performance, went over her allotted time by two minutes and placed fourth in the competition.
The only other woman in the competition, Nadia Batson, also went over her time, staying even longer than Garcia. Crowd favourite Darryl Henry (Farmer Nappy), who placed second, brought a house on stage and though his performance was well orchestrated the crowd remained subdued. This trend continued throughout brilliant performances from Ricardo Drue, who placed third, Lyrikal and Barbadian duo Leadpipe and Saddis.
The judges work seemed as though it would be difficult. Then, Yearwood, the last act, came on stage and began his performance, rousing patrons in the stadium who shared his conviction about who would be monarch as they chanted “Ola!” There was no surprise when he was crowned the 2015 Digicel Groovy Monarch.
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