If you’ve ever taken a Zumba® class, you’ve rocked out to Trinidadian Soca superstar Machel Montano’s high-energy beats. You recognize him for his rhythmic jams that instantly transport you to the Caribbean and for his overall feel-good music. He’s collaborated with artists like Nicki Minaj, Major Lazer, and Ariana Grande just to name a few. He’s responsible for bringing Soca to the mainstream in a big way. We recently sat down with Machel to chat about jumpstarting his career, selling out Madison Square Garden, and eating the perfect dinner. Read on for more.
ZLife: How did you first get into the music business?
Machel Montano: When my older brother was 9 or 10, he started taking guitar lessons and to practice he was required to strum and sing at the same time. But he wasn’t coordinated enough to do that so he would pull me into the room to sing for him while he played the guitar. My mom heard us and thought I had a nice voice so she put me in vocal training. From there, I was put in church choir and started singing solos. I entered a national school competition and won and kind of became known across the country. I got invited to sing at Madison Square Garden and that was the beginning of my professional career.
ZLife: Do you remember a moment when you thought to yourself, “I am a successful artist!”?
MM: I’ll never forget a moment about 3 or 4 years ago in Guyana. I was on the balcony of my hotel room, right next to the stadium where I was about to perform, and I could see a line of hundreds of cars waiting to get into the stadium. I was just amazed and thinking, “Wow, these people are really coming to see me.” I couldn’t image that when I started singing.
ZLife: What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
MM: Probably receiving a Soul Train Award and representing the Soca music category. Sitting amongst so many great artists in that room was a highlight for me. I have also sold out Madison Square Garden, which was an important one for me. We were really trying to transcend Caribbean music and bring it all over the world, and it was so cool to see so many West Indians in the crowd at that show.
ZLife: Who is your dream person to collaborate with?
MM: Bob Marley and Michael Jackson would have been a dream. I really look up to innovative artists like Jay Z, Beyonce, Drake, and Rihanna. I respect greatness, period. Whoever I work with, it just has to be good vibes.
ZLife: What is your favorite song to dance to?
MM: Anything with a good beat and rhythm. Anything with good soul. I just really like music.
ZLife: What’s your favorite meal of the day?
MM: Dinner. And my number one favorite food is Trini or Creole food or West Indian food. Things like curry chicken. Mm, so good! Recently I’ve been eating very healthy. Anything organic and fresh would be welcome.
ZLife: Where is your favorite place to go on vacation?
MM: That brings up an interesting point because I’ve hardly ever been on vacation! But Africa and India are very interesting for me because I love to see where my roots come from and to see my history.
ZLife: Why are you a fan of the Zumba program?
MM: Its purpose is to share music for the wellness of individuals: making them fit, making them happy, making the move. It’s a community of people who come together who just want to be part of this movement. The music that is curated for class is a critical part. What more could you want? You could never be happier than dancing to that music. What Zumba has tapped into is amazing.
ZLife: What’s something we would be surprised to learn about you?
MM: I’m a very spiritual, very shy, and very quiet person which you probably wouldn’t judge from my music
ZLife: What’s next for Machel Montano?
MM: Transcending as an individual. This is a time when there is so much happening in the world socially, politically, and technologically, so it’s a good time to be inspired and to inspire. I’m developing my acting skills and always furthering my music, trying to spread my tentacles a little further. So I’m spending time in the studio and behind the camera and thinking “How can I use my talent and my works to inspire others to do work for the betterment of humanity?”
See his latest music video, ‘Waiting On The Stage’ below and to stay up to date on all of Machel’s next moves, make sure to follow him on Instagram @machelmontano!