The Launch of “Monarchs” Reporters
January 10, 2019

Left: Karene Asche, Dr. Rudolph Ottley, Devon Seale, Duane Ta’zyah O’ Connor Junior and his dad Duane O’Connor
Left: Karene Asche, Dr. Rudolph Ottley, Devon Seale, Duane Ta’zyah O’ Connor Junior and his dad Duane O’Connor

On Wednesday 02nd January, 2019, Trinidad and Tobago’s very own Calypso Monarch Duane O’Connor, joined by friends, family and well-wishers, celebrated the official grand opening of his new establishment, Monarchs at #10 Ariapita Avenue, Woodbrook, Port of Spain.

Among those present for this auspicious event were Minister of Public Administration and Member of Parliament for the area, Marlene McDonald, president of the Trinbagonian Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), Lutalo ‘Brother Resistance’ Masimba and members of the calypso, steelpan and other cultural fraternities.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony performed by the Honourable Marlene McDonald
The ribbon-cutting ceremony performed by the Honourable Marlene McDonald

The evening, which began with a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony at the entrance of the venue, was performed by The Honourable Marlene McDonald before everyone was escorted inside to their seats for the formal proceedings.

The official host for the evening, author, carnival researcher and owner of the nation’s only all-female calypso tent, Divas Calypso Cabaret International, Dr. Rudolph Ottley, extended greetings and welcomed the audience before calling upon TUCO’s president to offer his remarks.

Left: Lutalo 'Brother Resistance' Masimba, Dr. Rudolph Ottley and All Rounder
Left: Lutalo ‘Brother Resistance’ Masimba, Dr. Rudolph Ottley and All Rounder

Masimba, in his address to the audience, urgently implored that the occasion be used as an example to instigate other entertainers. He stressed that although it is history in the making, entertainers cannot wait to be called up by promoters for a show:

“Every entertainer has to make sure that they take the opportunity to market themselves, create performance spaces and platforms for themselves and their fellow entertainers so that we can move forward, make sure the entertainment industry has so much to boast about [so] that we can make and continue to make a difference where we are concerned here in Trinidad and Tobago. Let us make sure the Monarchs succeed.”

Duane O'Connor and Roderick Ward
Duane O’Connor and Roderick Ward

Duane O’Connor took to the stage next and conveyed gratitude to all who supported him in this venture. He then commended the Wards brothers who kept the Mas Camp Pub alive with numerous cultural events during its era.

According to O’Connor, the idea was born when the Mas Camp Pub, which he described as a monumental space, was lost in a fire over two years ago. He expressed that it was a painful experience for him and has since then been looking for a particular spot.

He declared, “I always wanted to get into something like this,” and explained that it is not just for calypso, but for Trinidad and Tobago’s culture. He lamented that there are not many available spaces to showcase their talents and that they have to do their best and not look for handouts all the time.

Duane O'Connor stands in front his newly opened establishment, Monarchs
Duane O’Connor stands in front his newly opened establishment, Monarchs

After a long period of meticulous planning and negotiations, and countless hours of hard work along with numerous hiccups, Monarchs was finally ready to be opened to the public. For the benefit of those who have been misinformed, O’Connor stated, “To dispel all rumors, there are no partners in this business. It’s Duane O’Connor and Duane O’Connor.”

“I am going all out for the culture” O’Connor said. “I love my art form and I am going to continue doing this because this is what I am. I am calypso, I am culture, I am Trinidad and Tobago.”

He added, “I take pride in myself that I am not just a calypsonian. I am in community policing where I deal with over one hundred and sixty-five children in the depressed community of Diego Martin, Patna River Estate.”

Minister of Public Administration and Member of Parliament, Marlene McDonald
Minister of Public Administration and Member of Parliament, Marlene McDonald

Marlene McDonald, one of the many persons who was instrumental in supporting this venture followed next and offered her thoughts:

“Here is a good citizen trying to make something of himself and something of his craft. I think that one of the things that was needed on the avenue is just what you have done here. A little home here for calypso was what was actually missing. I will be bringing my friends here during the period to support you. I know your heart is in a good place.”

Mrs. Donessa Wickam-O'Connor and her son Duane Ta'zyah O'Connor Junior
Mrs. Donessa Wickam-O’Connor and her son Duane Ta’zyah O’Connor Junior

During the period of his career as a calypsonian, O’Connor won the TUCO North Zone Calypso Monarch title in 2007 with his songs “Sartorial Elegance” and “The Right Voice”. Five years later in 2012, he captured the Calypso Monarch title of Trinidad and Tobago with “The Hunt Is On” and “Long Live Calypso”. He also qualified for the Calypso Monarch Finals in 2013 with “Building A Wall” and “Seeking Sparrow’s Advice”; in 2015 with “Citizens Pride” and “Dance of Deliverance”; in 2016 with “Modern Day Nursery Rhymes” and in 2018 with “No Front Page”.

With the support of his wife Donessa Wickam, his son Duane Ta’zyah O’Connor Junior and his family, O’Connor declared that he is going to work very hard to ensure Monarchs becomes the success that he hopes it will always be.

Reigning Junior Calypso Monarch Duane Ta'zyar O'Connor and the band Steem
Reigning Junior Calypso Monarch Duane Ta’zyar O’Connor and the band Steem

Following the addresses, the audience, which included over a dozen students from the University of Minnesota, was treated to a night of top calypso performances by 2012 Calypso Monarch Duane O’Connor, reigning Calypso Monarch Helon Francis, 2016 Calypso Monarch Devon Seale, 2011 Calypso Monarch Karene Asche. Musical accompaniment for the evening was by Cummings and the Wailers. Duane Ta’zyar O’Connor, the reigning Junior Calypso Monarch and the young, talented and stylish 5-piece band that goes by the name of Steem, also wowed the audience with their outstanding performance.

Nine-time Calypso Monarch, Hollis ‘Chalkdust’ Liverpool who was scheduled to perform at the opening, was unable to perform due to illness. However, according to Dr. Ottley, he has promised a free Chalkdust in concert show at Monarchs following his recovery.

Cross section of the audience
Cross section of the audience

Dr. Ottley did a remarkable job throughout the night sharing pertinent information about Trinidad and Tobago’s calypso history with the audience. He also highlighted that the state’s involvement in the tent promotion business from 1967 with the CDC Calypso Tent should be recognized and remembered.

The opening of Monarchs was well-attended and well-organized. Monarchs will be opened Sunday to Sunday from 10 a.m. Wednesday nights will be Kaiso shows, Thursday nights Karaoke, Friday nights After Work Lime and Saturday nights Back in Times. Other events such as ball room dancing and chutney and ragga soca competitions will also be hosted. One of the highlights during the carnival season will be a carnival tent. For further information, persons can contact Mr. Duane O’Connor at 1-868-771-5617.

Launch of “Monarchs” in pictures:

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