Black Immigrant Daily News
WINNING PERFORMANCE: Duane Ta’zyah O’Connor sings his way to the TUCO National Calypso Monarch crown at Dimanche Gras at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain on Sunday night. PHOTO BY JEFF MAYERS –
THE apple certainly did not fall far from the tree.
Duane Ta’zyah O’Connor, 20-year-old son of former calypso monarch Duane O’Connor, was crowned the TUCO National Calypso Monarch during the early-morning hours of Monday as Dimanche Gras ended at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain.
Young O’Connor – a former junior calypso monarch – topped a field of 12 finalists to fulfil his father’s prophesy last week that “history will be made,” in Dimanche Gras. O’Connor also placed second in this year’s Young Kings.
When Ta’zyah was nine, back in 2012, he would have looked on as his father was crowned calypso monarch, now came the turn of the elder O’Connor to watch and cheer from the sideline as his son carried on the family legacy.
O’Connor’s victory was no fluke as he offered sharp stagecraft, integrating well with his back-up dancers who wore national colours, to offer his presentation, Sing Hallelujah.
The second place and people’s choice award went to Kerine “Tiny” Williams-Figaro who sang, To You With Love. Karene Asche placed third with Oasis.
The final results were O’Connor in first place; Williams-Figaro in second, Asche in third; Roderick “Chucky” Gordon placing fourth; Tameika Nandi Darius taking fifth; Terri Lyons, sixth; Ezekiel Yorke, seventh; Maria Bhola-Paul, placing eighth; Helon Francis, ninth; Young King Heaven “Snakey” Charles, placing tenth; Mark Eastman in 11th and Carlos “Skatie” James placing 12th.
While O’Connor may not have been on everyone’s radar as a favourite before the event, he emerged from an open field to command the stage with a polished delivery, aided by deft footwork across the Big Stage, with commanding hand gestures.
The song gave thanks for the good things in TT and urged people to appreciate TT’s natural resources and work hard together to build the country. He urged nationals to action by way of claiming the great things that comprise TT’s artistic culture, such as pan and mas, before others staked a claim to them.
Exuding a calm confidence, O’Connor received an appreciative cheer from the audience.
Williams-Figaro lamented the passing of TT’s great calypsonians and urged they be shown appreciation while still alive, as Timothy “Baron” Watkins, Errol “Bally” Ballantyne and Johnson “Johnny King” King, came on-stage to receive bouquets.
Asche’s song Oasis displayed an amazing musicality, a beautiful ocean of sound, over which rose her lyrics, without being drowned out. Gordon lamented the high cost of living in a well-delivered offering, Maths eh Mathsing.
Lyons, the defending monarch, had a very powerful call to vigilante action against abusers of women and girls in her song, House Cleaning, but took a big gamble by dressing down in a dowdy housewife’s nightgown, complemented with bullet-proof vest.
Bhola-Paul offered People Man, a wife’s savvy call to outside women to come home to help with the cooking, laundry and childcare that enables a family to function. She included a skit involving a Watson Duke lookalike and actresses portraying the wife and a friend of the PDP leader.
MY SON: Former calypso monarch Duane O’Connor kisses his son Duane Ta’zyah O’Connor who sits in his new Suzuki S-Cross sedan after being crowned the TUCO National Calypso Monarch on Monday morning at the Queen’s Park Savannah. PHOTO BY JEFF MAYERS
O’Connor, as a first-time contestant in the finals, beat four past monarchs, namely Lyons (2020), Francis (2018), Gordon (2014 and 2015), and Asche (2011.)
Afterwards, both he and his father told reporters how happy it was to win.
Proud papa Duane, 43, related, “Before he went on stage we had a special prayer. We knew what we were about to do, we were ready for an eventuality. And tonight it happened!
“We are so elated as a family, as a unit. Eleven years after I won the calypso monarch, my son is the Calypso Monarch for 2023! The first father and son ever. Thank God!”
Asked if he had groomed his son into the calypso artform, Duane said Ta’zyah was his own man, developing his own talents, with his own band. “No training,” said Duane, dubbing his son, “a natural.”
“Anywhere there’s a mishap or a little falter, he comes to me and says ‘Daddy, we’ll fix it. But he’s natural.”
“His win is due to his understanding of the artform and what it takes to be excellent.”
Ta’zyah told reporters he was feeling very excited after winning.
“I am grateful for the opportunity. I am so, so happy, I don’t know how to explain it. I’m grateful, grateful, really grateful.” As to why he thought he had won, he simply said the judges’ decision was final, win or lose.
Asked if he was daunted coming up against seasoned calypsonians including four past monarchs, Ta’zyah said, “I didn’t really look at the competitors, because I was really focused on remembering my song and everything.
“I have a lot of nerves when I have to perform, so I really did not look at the competition to say, ‘This person was good’. I didn’t. The judges made a decision and I’m fine with it.”
“I won junior monarch in 2018 and came second in Young Kings this year, and this is the icing on the cake.” Ta’zyah paid tribute to his father, quipping, “That’s where I got it from.”
Offering advice for other youngsters, he said, “When you are entering a competition there is a possibility you are not going to win, and nothing wrong with that. Enter and have fun. Do it because you love it. Don’t do it for the money. I think when you do it because you love it, is when you enjoy it more.”
How did he see the future of calypso?
“Calypso is in safe hands. Once it is in my hands, it will be forever safe because I will carry it. I will. I will never stop.” He thanked his family, friends, and God.
Duane reflected further on his son’s win.
Saying beforehand they had not been expecting to win, Duane said after his mental review of all the night’s performances, before results came, he told Ta’Zyah: “Son, you win.”
He said that based on his own 30 years of experience, he told his wife that Ta’zyah had won, but both wife and son were sceptical.
“I said, ‘you are in the top three,’ because your performance was fantastic and dynamic. His voice, his vocals are on point. He is (a) natural. He glides across the stage. Come on!”
Father and son performed at Calypso Fiesta in positions 32 and 34 respectively.
“Before I went on-stage (at calypso fiesta) he came to me and said, ‘kiss your son.’ I kissed him then I went on and performed, and when I was finished, I went to him and said, ‘Hold your father.’”
He said with his wife and son, their family was a very strong unit.
“There are some people in the calypso fraternity who are trying to push this kind of thing, ‘You are better than your father’ or, ‘You are better than your son’ or, ‘Your son is better than you.’
“We are not about that. We are about making the culture reach where it is supposed to reach and our culture is about to go global. My son is global in terms of his performing as an artist.
“We are about pushing the artform and the music of calypso and TT elsewhere.”