Daisy Voisin - Queen of Parang
Alexandra Daisy Voisin was a deeply religious and devoted person to La Divina Pastora (The Virgin Mary of Siparia). When she ended her mortal reign as Parang Queen of Trinidad and Tobago, her body was returned to the church where, eighteen years ago, she had received a message to spread parang throughout the world. And since that time she continued to do just that. She was born at Carapal, Erin on September 23, 1924, in a family consisting of six girls, of which she was the youngest. She was of Spanish and French parentage. Her mother, Juliana Hospedales, came from Tocopita, Venezuela. Daisy's father, Mathias Voisin, was of French origin and came from Arima. She received her early education at Lorensotte Government School and became a monitor (apprentice teacher). Being a monitor in those days signified brilliance, dedication and conscientiousness. She later taught at the Canadian Mission School in Siparia.
As a young girl growing up in Lorensotte, Daisy was involved in school concerts where she performed as a singer. To pursue a career in singing was the least of her ambitions; to her, singing was a hobby. While awaiting the birth of her only child, Cecily, she became interested in nursing. At first she assisted the qualified nurses at the Health Centre in Siparia, then she began visiting homes with district nurses. It was, perhaps, on those visits that she developed a love for midwifery, an occupation that she pursued for several years. To her credit are more than three hundred successful deliveries in the Siparia district. She later gained employment as manageress at the Consumer's Cooperative in Palo Seco. In 1960, she was appointed to a clerical position at the Family Planning Association and it was during that period of her life that she became involved in parang.
Arrival Of The Queen
In 1968, she joined the Siparia Village Council, Fyzabad Choir and Morne Diablo Group. Her first opportunity to lead the Morne Diablo Choir in parang was in 1974, when the lead singer, Francis Molloy, became ill and had to be hospitalized. Her stepfather, Lucien Bravo, whom she called "da da", had given her all the help he could. Her first solo "Aquinaldo" was partly composed by him. Lucien had predicted that she would be a queen one-day. His prediction came true on the night she replaced the lead singer at the Best Village Competition. After that performance there was no turning back for Daisy, who provided in the years that followed, that she was the undisputed queen of Parang in Trinidad and Tobago.
As a lead singer, Daisy assumed new responsibilities, which she carried out with diligence and professionalism. Even though she spoke the Spanish language with a fair degree of accuracy and fluency, she could not write it. With the help of Mrs. Hoyte, a Venezuelan national resident in Siparia, Daisy overcame her initial problems. During her successful reign she composed "Sereno Sereno", "Daisy Voisin", "Daisy Daisy Daisy", "El Nacimiento de la Verdad" and many others. "Alegria Alegria", was however, her favorite composition. Leroy Birch, a qualified musician, had helped her to put the finishing touches to this song, which was a big success.
Before her death, she recalled that her most memorable occasion was when she sang for Jose Echevaria, former Venezuelan Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago. On that occasion, she sang "La Historia Trinitaria" which was composed by William Joseph, a Spanish teacher at Presentation College, San Fernando. To see Daisy on stage was an exciting cultural experience. She was explosive, vivacious and tempestuous. She enjoyed every moment on stage.
The fame of Daisy and the La Divina Pastora group took them as cultural ambassadors on missions throughout the Caribbean, Margarita, Venezuela and North America. She had created such an impact with her performances that she became the most sought-after parang voice in the nation. As a leading cultural personality, she became a household name, not only in Trinidad and Tobago, but also throughout the West Indies. In 1982 she received the Parang Association's highest award, a gold medal. This was followed in 1988 with a National Humming Bird Silver Medal from the government. But Daisy was not only a parandero, she was a gift from the Creator.
Eighteen years ago, she had received the inspiration from La Divina Pastora. Shortly after this, she sought and obtained permission from the then Parish Priest, Father Eugene Delahunte to organise a parang group and use the name La Divina Pastora. Bishop John Mendes was born in Siparia and knew Daisy for many years. On the occasion of her demise, he performed the burial rites at the La Divina Pastora R.C. Church and he had to say this: "Daisy was an angel who had received a gift from God. She is not dead. She has gone to sing in a higher place."
Although a talented musician and singer, she never allowed her popularity to go to her head. She was simple, yet sophisticated. Her voice had a rich tone which provided auditory excitement. Her tunes were always up-tempo, emotive and dramatic. The peak of excitement was reached with her favorite expression "Aiyee."
Daisy will be missed not only by her relatives but also by the entire community of Siparia, and indeed Trinidad and Tobago. At the funeral service on August 10, 1991, Hazel Voisin, granddaughter of Daisy, read the eulogy, which said in part: "Granny has gone to sing in a higher place, as she so often said she would."
In her declining years, she survived on humble means and was regarded as a forgotten heroine after giving cultural wealth to the national community. But she persisted in her endeavour to spread the Gospel of Prang. Her final effort to ubiquitise parang was mad when she visited New York in 1990. On her return, she suffered a stroke from which she never recovered. She died on August 7, 1991. Her funeral was attended by a wide cross-section of the Nation. As a true exponent of the art of singing parang, she was truly the Queen of Parang and will always be remembered for her contribution to this art form.
The Queen is dead, Long Live the Queen
Source: National Heritage Library
website: Trinidad & Tobago National Library & Information System Authority
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Always the Queen – Daisy Voisin.
The storyteller often has difficulty recounting the tale of a Princess born to a Royal heritage, coming of age and easily inheriting the legacy that is hers. He is often better poised to recall a timeless story of someone who remains in waiting until the right moment and who rises from anonymity to greatness in a wonderful show of style and grace. This is the story of the Parang Queen – Daisy Alexandra Voisin.
Her exceptional story begins with her dedication to service firstly as an assistant teacher and then with more passion as an assistant to the nurses in the district hospital. More than three hundred children were born to her midwifery, an occupation she enjoyed for many years. Singing was a mere hobby to her.
But in the Best Village Finals of 1971, when the Siparia Village Parang Group desperately needed a voice due to the illness of their lead singer, she hesitantly accepted. What took place that night is legend; she exploded unto the stage with riveting and astounding vocal presence. The Queen had arrived.
The band she led to eminence for so many years, La Divina Pastora, was formed two years after that memorable night. They were firstly a 'House to House Parang outfit. But with the permission of the parish priest upon Daisy's urging, the band assumed its name.
Daisy understood that a Queen must always be devout, humble and gracious. She continued to remain close to the Church. Even when the band won the only ever International Parang Competition in 1985, or the National Parang Championship seven times, it never went to her head. She was awarded NPATT’s highest award in 1982 and a National Award in 1988, the Hummingbird Silver Medal. Daisy continued to carry the art form to incredible levels of creativity and presence. She and the band travelled extensively throughout the Caribbean, Latin and North America.
In 1991 her creator called her to sing her alluringly beautiful Parang melodies in the heavens. Yet her music is still as vibrant as it ever was. Daisy's enchanting voice continues to captivate the soul of every Trini; just the opening bars of Alegria Alegria makes us all say "Yes, dat is Parang! Aiyee Aiyee" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5n7-11qib8
Courtesy of Richard Mendez & Ricardo Rambally
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