The first time Machel Montano’s name was ever in a newspaper, his mother Elizabeth Montano kept the article, as most mothers would. Thirty years later, she has collected everything Machel Montano. “I have everything,” she says with pride. “I kept it all because I knew from the beginning that he was going somewhere. The mere idea that he was so bright, and that he always knew what he wanted.” Archiving 30 years of photos, newspaper articles, video footage and costume is more than being a proud mother or even a manager for Montano. “I look at it as important for our culture. You cannot have all this information and not pass it on and not share with the younger generation. “My husband and I were not trained in artiste management, but we were well-read. We would read about people like Michael Jackson as well as entertainment museums. We learned about archiving and documentation and how important this stuff is. We did our first scrap book in 1982 and now we have over 300 volumes. Then we got a server, where we keep all our live footage and video and all the scrap books, we send them to be scanned and then they are uploaded.” It is Montano’s dream to put all that she collected to good use. “I look at the importance of documenting history and leaving something behind so that people can learn from. From very early people have studied Machel and they always come here for stuff, and I know exactly where to find it. I’ve learned the importance from my reading and seeing the Smithsonian and the Bob Marley museum and I said to myself, but we have all these things from very early. “From Machel’s first bed, his books, his report cards. Every little item is important.”
Montano knows the contribution her son has made to the culture of Trinidad and Tobago but she also recognises the contribution of others. “I don’t want it focused only on Machel but also those who inspired him and those he has worked with along his journey—Kitchener, Sparrow, Rose as well as the younger ones.” When asked to imagine if she were given a building to house all that she has collected, Montano says with excitement: “I would fill it up. We have all his costumes from the Too Young to Soca diaper, the Torro Torro costume all the way up to Mr Fete. It would not be a museum but a research centre that is state-of-the-art, very interactive and educational, so that young people and tourists could come and see the journey of soca as an industry. I’ve always dreamed of having it and Machel could come and speak to visitors. People could do research, access articles, photos, videos and more and hopefully and this will inspire other artistes to start collecting and contribute to the centre.” Over the years, many have approached Montano for information. “There are a lot of people who are doing their thesis and are writing on Machel or soca and they come to me. They analyse how Machel exports his talent and the culture of T&T. People come from abroad to research him and this is why I believe we need this research centre.” She is firm about this not only being about Machel but the industry as a whole.
“We could use Machel as a spring board to set it up, as I already have so much information but it should embody the entire calypso and soca industry. I do not how many other artistes have done this and whether the older ones can catch up but for the younger ones, we can start to teach them the importance or archiving and documenting their history and travels. “The public can be invited and everybody can identify with something. We’ve been a part of three decades of music. In the 80s, he started in calypso. Soca started around the time of his birth. When it developed he was part of the whole evolution of soca and you can see it in the things we have collected.”
Montano adds: “If you have history you must share history. My only disappointment, and this is coming from the heart, is we do not recognise the contribution from some of our great people. I don’t want to boast and say my son is a great person but he has contributed and devoted 30 of his 37 years to the development of our culture and he has done so well. And he has done many, many positive things and many firsts. He has influenced many young people who didn’t want to hear anything about calypso or soca. He has shown them that you can make a sustainable living out of this.” She adds: “We have been known as a country not to document ourselves and our achievements and our culture and I think it is paramount. We now have a department that is dedicated to archiving everything. I would just like it to come to life.” Anthony Edwards is the resident videographer and archivist for Team HD. “We’ve got over eight terabytes of information. Music, pictures, film, media clippings. We have a physical server with all the data, providing anyone in the team with access to what has been collected over the years, from anywhere in the world. And we are now exploring a cloud-based solution to act as one of our redundancies. We have physical copies, the digital copies and a system in place with further digital copies in a remote location in case of fire, flood and theft.” Edwards have been working with Team HD for almost a decade but consistently in this post for two years. “This is not just Team HD’s archives, it’s the country’s archives and it’s amazing to be a part of building the story that will be left behind.” In her heart, she has always seen herself as a teacher and is passionate about sharing ideas. “This is a pet project of mine. It’s my dream to do something like this. The things are there. I have it all. There are stories to be told and I have ideas to bring it alive. So everyone can see the journey of soca.”