When Don-Ross Oliver hit the stage of the Junior Soca Monarch, patrons witnessed a side of him they hadn’t seen much of before.
Ross is known as a finalist in the Junior Monarch competition where he sings strongly penned social commentary. He makes his way across the stage, singing kaiso.
However, at Ball Park Entertainment two Saturdays ago, he was full of energy and gave an electrifying performance of In This Together to cop fourth place in the inaugural competition.
The 18-year-old told Bajan Vibes: “This competition was a big difference for me because of the atmosphere created [with persons standing rather than sitting] which created a party vibe with waving flags, compared to Junior Monarch where people are mostly seated and clapping hands. My preference is indeed the Junior Soca Monarch, as I feel more comfortable with this genre.”
The song was written, composed and arranged by his dad, Richard Antonio, but he had some input as well.
“We knew we wanted a positive song that would have an impact on the people. We wanted a party song with positive lyrics. Singing a song like this means a lot to me because I finally get to express myself in a way other than through calypso, and it helped me to realize that I prefer soca over kaiso.”
In This Together also won the Best Nation Building Song. “I am very happy that I won Nation Building Song but to be honest, I was not expecting it as there were other songs in the competition with uplifting lyrics as well.
“About placing fourth, I can say that I am grateful because this is my very first time performing a tempo song which requires a lot more energy than when I was singing kaiso. I love it.”
Although Ross admits that the soca stage is more gruelling than that of kaiso, he said his hard work paid off.
“Leading up to the competition was a lot of fun. There were workshops, long days with rehearsals and mental preparation, which paid off on the actual night of the competition. I was comfortable with myself and my dancers, and we executed.”
Ross, who scored 334 points, had an impressive presentation which connected well to the song and the audience. It was clear he was enjoying himself on stage. He let loose and allowed the beautiful musical arrangement of the song and his vocals do the rest.
When asked to describe his entire experience during the competition Ross said: “I’ve learnt that if you really want something you have to work hard towards it and also make sacrifices. Also we were taught that once you look good on stage, that half of your job is complete; the performance then is up to you.”
The young artiste said that he would “most definitely” be back next year singing soca. He thanked all who played a part in his recent success.
“I first want to say thanks to God for His continued blessings. A big thank you to my dad, Richard Antonio, for always having my back. My team which consists of Billboard Murrell, my godfather Khiomal Nurse, Dwayne Antrobus, my dancers from Pearls Dance Academy and my flag crew.
“I have to especially thank fashion designer Luci Lui and my mum Donella for the outfit which complemented my presentation. Much love also for my brothers Demiko and Dynamo; we are now called 3 De Hard Way.”
Ross said while his dad Richard Antionio is his biggest influence, he is also influenced by Khiomal and Jamar Walkes locally, while he watches Boysie, Machel Montano and Bunji, internationally.
The performer wants those out there who want to be a part of the art form to simply go for it.
“Once you have a love for the art form and you know you are ready for the journey that it will take you on… I say go for it,” he said.
Ross’ dream is to have multiple soca songs on the Billboard charts and to tour the world, singing and performing his songs. When he isn’t singing on stage, he is an active field event athlete.
“I also participate in track and field, specializing in Javelin with the help of my coaches Mr Babb (Rising Stars) and Mr Skeete (RTA).”
When all is said and done, for Ross, family is what matters the most to me as he declared: “We support each other.”