I am a Young King!, a book about the Young Kings calypso competition, 1985-2016, which was produced by the Sinuhe Centre, is now on the market.
Publisher and founder of Sinuhe Aiyegoro Ome said the popular show got its name by accident. Calypsonian Contender (Mark John) was heard shouting, “I am a young king,” in reference to a completely different topic. But, looking for a name for the competition, and wanting something to represent the international year of youth in 1985, Ome immediately jumped on that as the title.
The Young Kings competition started in 1985 with Luta (Morel Peters) taking the crown. This year’s winner is Fireball while Helon Francis won in 2016. Other winners over the years include Duane O’Conner, Benjai, Brian London, Kerwin Du Bois and Denyse Plummer – the only woman to win the competition.
Young Kings was the brainchild of the Nation Action Cultural Committee (NACC) and the National Youth Action Committee (NYAC). The organisations were looking for a way to commemorate the then United Nation’s International Year of Youth. The organisations felt there was no better way to do so than with calypso and pan competitions for the young artistes. The goal was to give the lesser known and unrecognised artistes their space on the calypso stage. While the pan competition did not materialise, the Young Kings competition was born and became a highly-anticipated event on the Carnival calendar.
I Am a Young King includes messages from Robert Bermudez, the very first sponsor; Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts; and the late chief servant of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), Makandal Daaga. Daaga’s inspiration led first to the Point Fortin Honours its Heroes show, and later, the Young Kings competition.
There are also testimonies from Lutalo Massimba, president of the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO); Kwasi Mutema, political leader of NJAC; Embau Moheni, chairman of the NACC and Luta.
The book contains biographies of Ome; the late Anum Bankole who was at the forefront of the running of the competition for years; and the competition’s resident bandleader, Earl Knight.
The trials and tribulations that the organisers went through to see the competition grow over the years make for an interesting read. One of the first setbacks was that they only had the first prize from Bermudez in hand for the very first winner. A couple of years later, via a contra deal with the then Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) programme manager Bernard Pantin, Young Kings got $1,800 in advertising and the competition was aired live on TTT.
The second half of the book gives a listing of all the years of the competition, the winners by year, other participants, and what they sang.
Unfortunately, not all songs are listed. Ome explained that it was too tedious an effort to call all the singers, and having called a few of them, he said, the artistes couldn’t remember the songs they sang.
He also said Sinuhe could have got the information at TTT’s storage centre at Fernandes Compound, Laventille, but a fee was attached and the company didn’t have the money at the time. But, he said it also sourced material from Government Information Services Ltd, since NJAC’s records were not properly catalogued.
“I had a deadline I was working with, and we had to launch it at the veterans honours list,” Ome said.
It should also be noted that both men and women were allowed to participate in the competition at its inception but there have been no women challengers in Young Kings since 2007.