They have two of the runaway hits for carnival 2011 and are seen as the ones to bring about some sanity to a fragmented Soca fraternity here, which is now teetering on a platform void of creativity, but filtered with mob like tactics and unethical maneuverings. But for Soca performers Mongstar and Ambi, who have come out of the 2010 Piton Soca Starz camp, they want nothing of the negative vibes. “All we want to do is sing our songs, make people happy and enjoy ourselves. You see dem politics deh, we eh really on dat,” they say almost in unison.
Born Marley James, “Mongstar” says he grew up around music, surrounded by family members who themselves were noted musical performers including his father, acclaimed Reggae artiste and musician Ras Bonti, uncles Propser, a popular Calypso, Zouk and Soca artiste here and the inimitable Reggae performer Ras Africa. His first taste of “the stage” however came at a school show.
“I attended the Babboneau Secondary School and one year there was a school show and I just made up my mind to take part. From there it felt good and I really felt then, that was where I wanted to be, on a stage performing,” an enthusiastic Mongstar says.
Then in 2010 at the persistence of his girlfriend, Mongstar auditioned for the first ever Piton Soca Starz competition in Saint Lucia and was an instant hit with his raw energy and ambiguous “Corn Song.” He went on to win the competition and a recording with Dutch Productions, a partnership which would lead to the success he is now having. Ambi, who is now his musical riding partner, placed second at the event, but there has been no bitterness, just a brotherly love which has grown into the new dynamic duo of Soca here.
Ambi too grew up within a family of entertainers, his father and uncle well known dancers within the hotel circuit here and his brother, leading Saint Lucian Soca artiste Ricky T.
Born Ambroise Joseph and christened by a female friend Ambi while liming on “Block X” in Castries when he decided he wanted to get involved in Soca, in 2010 Ambi decided the time was right for his entrance into the Soca arena. His song “Push Dem” earned him a space in the Soca spotlight and gave him the confidence that this is where he wanted to be.
“I was writing songs for a while, singing and free-styling, but last year I really made up my mind to do Soca and through Take Over Tent and Piton Soca Starz, I learnt a lot, just meeting people, taking some of their advice. I decided this year would be the year for me to come even harder, even more serious,” Ambi told the STAR.
One of the things they both agree on is that music has taken them off the block and given them hope as two young people coming out of the ghetto and struggling to make a living for themselves. For Mongstar the hotels at first (working in the kitchens) was where he earned his daily bread, while Ambi works with his uncle doing refrigeration. However both say that it is music they are passionate about and want to do full time, performing not just in Saint Lucia but overseas as well.
Both artistes were embraced by Courtney Louis and Dutch Productions following last year’s Piton Soca Starz and were also scouted by Manager Alva Francis who brought the pair together as a unit. From January 2011 Mongstar and Ambi have been in studio recording music, writing songs and staying off the block—at least not as often as they used to.
“We have not forgotten where we come from. We have our original fans still there with us, but we really want to focus on our music and show other ghetto youths that they can reach for their dreams too,” Mongstar says.
Things started falling into place in May, 2011 when Mongstar released “Glo Coco” which took the entire country by storm. The song undeniably one of the most popular carnival songs here this year, is a favourite of young and old and has since earned Mongstar a place in the Groovy Soca Monarch finals. Ambi then released “Mas Mêlée” featuring Mongstar. The Zouk influenced song has also taken off as a favourite and has also landed Ambi into the Groovy Finals.
Both Mongstar and Ambi are also taking part in the Power Soca Monarch preliminaries, which take place this Sunday and are hoping to make it into the finals, Ambi with his popular “Mate’ Yo” and Mongstar with his new song “Mongstar Energy.” Whatever the outcome of the competitions this year, the pair say they are happy with the success they have had so far, and thrilled to be performing all over the island. For Carnival 2011 Mongstar and Ambi have been a part of the Piton Soca Starz event performing all over the island and have performed at the Opening of Carnival, Wet Fete, Cooler Fete and the Opening of Vieux Fort Carnival among other events.
“We want to thank the Dutch family, our manager, the DJ’s, our fans and family and just all the supporters for the love they have given us and we promise to keep making them proud through our music,” Mongstar says with Ambi agreeing fully.
“Yeah man, I just want to make music that people enjoy, and so far I am grateful for the public support and feedback,” he adds in closing.