It was all a dream.
Winning the National Action Cultural Committee (NACC) Young Kings competition was both a literal and figurative dream of Banjela (Addelon Braveboy).
Banjela, 40, says he has dreamt of major calypso silverware since he first began singing at age seven at his childhood home in Edward Trace, Basse Terre, Moruga.
The Enterprise, Chaguanas-based singer has since won many school competitions, but was unable to make an impact at senior level. That is until a couple weeks ago when he was crowned the 2020 Carapichaima Calypso Monarch.
Sensing a turnaround in fortunes, he went into the Young Kings final with quiet confidence.
The Kaiso Showkase singer’s wildest dreams came true when he was crowned the NACC Young Kings Calypso Monarch 2020 on Tuesday night, at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. He now joins an illustrious list of winners, including David Rudder (1986), Machel Montano (1991), Kurt Allen (1993), Kerwin Du Bois (1996), Bunji Garlin (Ian Alvarez) (2001), Rikki Jai (Samraj Jaimungal) (1991), Benjai (Rodney Le Blanc) (2011) and Helon Francis (2016).
“I feel very emotional as always whenever I achieve success in my life, knowing the trust I put in the Almighty God, who never leaves me to walk my journey alone, so indeed my emotions are that of joy and happiness,” an elated Banjela told the Express on Wednesday.
It was the fourth attempt from the experienced bard to win the Young Kings title. He finished in the top four positions of the previous three editions, coming closest in 2018 when he placed second. He finished fourth in 2017 and third last year.
Banjela said his winning composition, “T’is We Season”, came to him in a dream. He saw himself on a big stage singing the entire song with calypso stalwart Singing Sanda (Sandra Des Vignes-Millington). Jumping out of his sleep, he reached for pen and paper.
“I saw me and Mother Sandra singing. When I got the dream, after waking up, I remembered most of the lyrics which I immediately put pen to paper and wrote,” he recalled.
A mother’s embrace
To his amazement, Singing Sandra was very open to recording the song after he contacted her and shared the melody and its nocturnal source.
“It was magical when I made contact with Mother (Sandra) and told her of this dream, and asked if she can do a collaboration with me. I let her hear it; without any doubt, she says to me, ‘The universe has spoken. I will do the song with you’,” he recalled fondly.
However, with Sandra initially unable to record due to travel commitments and ailing health, he was made to wait three years to get the recording completed. The rest, he says, is history.
The two first performed the powerful track together at the International Soca Monarch semi-final in the groovy soca category at the Arima Velodrome two weeks ago. Although they were not selected to advance to next Friday’s final, Banjela says he knew the song was meant to make a huge impact on Carnival 2020.
On Tuesday, however, he appeared solo and sang Sandra’s verse en route to winning his maiden major calypso music title.
“I put all my trust in the Almighty God and stand strong upon the shoulders and the works of many giants, my forefathers, in calypso. And with bold assurance believe that I must push on through, do meh do, ’cause what is for me is for me,” he said with a smile.
This win is special after being left out of the top 40 selected for tomorrow’s National Calypso Monarch semis at Guaracara Park, Pointe-a-Pierre, he said. Banjela was selected as a reserve and will only be allowed to compete if one of the 40 is physically unable to appear.
“I know I made many people proud ’cause many know how hard I worked—many sleepless nights. Many were anxious to hear my name listed in the top 40 to compete at the Calypso Monarch semi-finals this Saturday, but I am however a reserve,” he lamented.
Banjela says however he finds comfort in his own lyrics which tell him to “keep walking calypso’s long road”.
“As my Calypso this year says,
Walk de road Banjela walk de calypso road
Is ah hard long road to walk Banjela dis calypso
One day ah go wear the crown
With ah smile, have faith and walk de road.
“Ah walking de road,” he concluded with a huge smile.