At just 17, Aaron Duncan’s name is already synonymous with excellence in local entertainment.
His earlier performances have even been likened to those of the young Machel Montano performing Too Young to Soca.
He holds five Junior Chutney Soca Monarch titles (2013-2016, 2018), four Junior Calypso Monarch titles (2010-2012, 2018) and two Junior Soca Monarch titles (2012, 2016).
But while Duncan could easily rest on the laurels of his accomplishments, he’s now eager to redefine and reintroduce himself to local audiences. And in doing so, he isn’t afraid of taking creative risks.
Duncan recently spoke to Newsday at his Petit Valley recording studio.
“I couldn’t do the songs that I am doing now three or four years ago...People would have said I was still in secondary school, didn’t get my passes yet but I’m singing songs about girls already,” Duncan said as he described a recently-released song called Stay.
Stay, written over three years ago, was originally written to express his love for music, which he hoped would never go away. But, with the potential for people to interpret the song as a younger Duncan singing about love, at that time, it wasn't released. But as he is now older and doesn’t feel defined by his age, he decided to release the song, with updated lyrics to reflect the chronicles of young love.
In the video, Duncan is seen managing a falling-out with his girlfriend after she becomes jealous of his female best friend. By the end, he prevents a confrontation between the two women and shuns his friend for his girlfriend.
Though the lyrics and the video may not be what some people expect from him, he said he’s focused on finding himself in his music without reservations.
“I don’t feel pressured now (to present a certain image) and I never want to feel pressured, because then I would not love what I’m doing. I don’t ever want to feel the pressure that I have to do my music a certain way to get people to listen to me. because then I would feel as though this is a job.
"It is a job, but I don’t ever want it to feel like that.”
In his most recent song, Double Trouble, Duncan isn’t afraid of taking risks and getting in a little trouble. In the video, he is seen staging a forbidden covid19 “zesser party.”
On the song's mix of dancehall and soca, Duncan said, “It is a song that represents us as Trinbagonians, lovers of soca and how we feel that there is no Carnival 2021. It’s talking about how we must find a way to express ourselves as the (Carnival) tabanca is coming down on us.”
He said listeners have reacted positively to his new music, with Stay even inspiring a dance challenge on the video-sharing social-media app Tik Tok. On YouTube, Stay has over 200,000 views and Double Trouble, which was released last month, has gained over 50,000.
But himself is not the only thing Duncan is exploring in his new music: he is also exploring different facets of his musical capabilities. He co-produced Stay with Kit Israel of AdvoKit Productions and produced Double Trouble by himself.
Last year, after setting up his own recording studio, Duncan began learning music production online.
“Everything in life is evolution, and since I’ve started producing, I’m trying my best to find my space and myself in the production world. Since this is my studio, I make my own music and do my own productions, as music can come at any time.”
Duncan said Israel has been a mentor to him.
“I look up to him in the production world and he gives me the energy to keep pushing in producing music. He told me that I’m a few light years ahead of my peers and that young people, like myself, may not be able to do this so easily. I am happy that I can actually express myself through music and build my own beats.”
So far, Duncan said the scariest part of producing music is releasing the finished songs. After everything is mixed and mastered, he said it feels like raising a child and watching it go out into the world on its own.
“Sometimes you can be listening to a song (you’re producing) over and over, thinking it’s the next big tune, and then you carry it out in the world where you get a positive or negative response. That to me is the 'hardiest' thing, because sometimes you can love a song so hard and from the time you let it out, you don’t get that same response.”
But it’s a feeling Duncan will have to get used to, especially as he hints that more self-produced music is on the way.
With his evolving sound, his upcoming releases will explore different genres and not be limited to soca. In the coming months, he is most excited about releasing a song called Perfect, which he describes as having a unique sound which does not fit into any one genre.
“I believe that song will be the first time people will hear me sing a song like that. When the world hears that song named Perfect, I’ll love to see how the females accept it and if they feel perfect.”
Though Duncan is now testing the waters of producing and experimenting with his own songs, he hopes to start producing for other artistes soon, especially young, upcoming artistes.
As expected, covid19 has affected him as an entertainer but he is maintaining a positive outlook.
“When covid19 hit (last March) I got more time to stay home and do my work. I had more time to focus on my education. I would say that helped me get my passes.
"It also helped me as an entertainer, because I got the time to get into the production side of the music industry, where I could do music any time and non-stop.”
On leaving St George’s College, Barataria, Duncan had six grade ones and a grade two in last year’s CSEC exams. He is now doing a degree in music technology at the University of TT.
While he doesn’t exactly take part in Carnival revelry, and understands why this year’s celebrations had to be cancelled, his heart is still reeling.
“I feel really disappointed that there’s no Carnival, and not only that there’s no Carnival, but there’s no way that we as Trinidadians are trying to make a way for us to feel that spirit. Nothing is going to be virtual and there’s not going to be a Carnival 2021 virtual edition.”
Duncan has no plans to host a virtual concert, but hopes to stage a musical production for his 18th birthday in June, once covid19 regulations permit.
Though a lot remains uncertain in this era, Duncan is certain about his music.
“The future holds a lot of new music, as well as just trying to find myself and space in the entertainment industry. I know that I already have my space with the youths who I represent. But I am just trying to find myself in a way where I can represent the youths and the adults so they can all listen to my music. I want everyone to love my music like they love the greats' music.”
He hopes someday to collaborate with Machel Montano and Jesse “College Boy Jesse” Stewart.
As Duncan looks forward, he isn’t doing it alone. With his mother as his manager, he said he has a strong support system with his parents as the foundation.
“I rather have my mother as part of my management team than anybody else, because the one person I would say wouldn’t forsake me is my mother and my father. Everywhere you go, and you see Aaron Duncan, you either see his mother or his father or you see us all. It’s always a unity."
Keep up with Duncan’s new music by following him on Instagram @aarondeboss123 and Facebook at Aaron Duncan.