New Young King Teja swims in ocean of love

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

WINNING PERFORMANCE: Mical Teja was crowned the 2024 Young King with his hit song DNA on Tuesday night at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain. PHOTO BY ANGELO MARCELLE – Angelo Marcelle

MICAL TEJA (Mical Williams) electrified the keen crowd to snatch the Young Kings crown on Tuesday night in a packed Grand Stand at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain. Amid several strong contenders in a field of 18, Teja won the loudest audience response for his song, DNA. People waved, cheered and sang along.

In Teja, it was as if Rudder, Kees and Shadow were rolled into one, with a dash of the Ultimate Rejects (Full Extreme, 2017). He proved there is no necessary split between the sacred and the profane, in a song blending a humble spirituality with a celebratory abandon.

It began with a pierrot grenade lamenting rampant banditry.

“Some things must be mashed and swept away/This can’t be everything in we DNA.

“Give we a word from above/Give we a word from above,” he implored.

Teja came onstage to respond, soft and soothing.

“When we outside is a ocean of love/All of we align to stars up above,” he cooed.

Teja then began to gently rouse the crowd, “And we go jam till morning…”

Then, in full party mode, he gushed, “I feel I could run in town again/Jump and shake the ground again/ Wave with all my friend and them/ No place like home, home, home!”

The crowd came alive. His backing dancers, in national colours and Indian and African headwear, swayed, spun and pumped to the energised beat in a polished delivery.

Within the heady brew of emotions, a nostalgic familiarity pulled at the heartstrings. Yet one also sensed something new and exciting being born, something anthemic, signifying 2024 as much as Rudder’s Trini 2D Bone symbolised 2018 and Nailah Blackman’s Come Home represented 2023.

Teja proved that nation-building songs need not be staid, but could be a jubilant explosion of joy celebrating who the people of Trinidad and Tobago truly are.

His cool vibe and modesty came across at the intermission, when he spoke to Newsday, long before results were announced on Wednesday.

Asked how he felt his performance had gone, he said, “It felt great to be back again in Young Kings. I think this time I was able to execute a bit better than last year, so I was grateful to be here.”

Newsday asked the secret to his musical magic.

Teja replied, “I would say just being love, just being love. And just loving what you do. And just putting all your energy, time and, again, love into what you do.”

On Wednesday, he reacted to news of his win with characteristic humility in an online message.

“Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU ‼️ I am truly humbled to be your 2024 Young King

“To the entire team involved this victory wouldn’t be possible without you ‼️ All of the rehearsals, preparations and hard work that went into last night was truly phenomenal. This win is as much yours as it is mines.

“Forever grateful for this moment.”

The event was the 38th annual Young Kings competition held by the National Action Cultural Committee (NACC), dedicated to former NACC head Aiyegoro Ome. In being honoured, he paid tribute to his late NACC colleague Anum Bankole, who died in 2015.

The event was hosted by Shirlane Hendrickson and Brian London, with a welcome address by former senator Embau Moheni and a guest performance by Heaven “Snakey” Charles.

Contestant Dillon “Dilly Suede” Thomas did not perform owing to illness.

Following Teja, Caston Cupid placed second, singing Straight From the Heart, Dawren “Pharaoh” Greenidge third with Ah Doh Want To Do It, Hammond “Slick” Bruce fourth with Trinidad is Not a Real Place, Andre Nelson fifth with Trinidad is Home, and Romel “Papa Mel” Lezama sixth with Real Talk.

Cupid stepped out from a heart-shaped prop on-stage to urge a heart transplant to save calypso, which was dying. Urging a return to the old days of calypso, he sang, “The message they used to impart/Was straight from the heart.”

His performance survived the accompanying skit, during which a collapsible table used as a bed for a “heart patient” abruptly collapsed, but with the young actors bravely persevering, albeit later earning friendly jibes from London.

Greenidge was very popular for portraying a Tobagonian public figure having issues with his “big toe.”

Bruce, at one stage dressed as a taxi, won rapturous applause for his rambunctious skit portraying a chaotic lifestyle in Trinidad, compete with an improvised “KFC stand,” roaming bandits and water shortages. He even got the crowd to belt out a backing chorus of: “Nah leaving!”

Nelson used a sweet harmony, slick stagecraft and a wailing gospel-like introduction to urge others to be grateful for the good things of TT, such as free education.

Lezama sang from behind improvised prison bars, hoping to dissuade youngsters from a life of crime while their gang leader was home watching television.

“This thing is so deadly,/There is no loyalty,” he warned of the gang life.

Outstanding in the ordinariness of his jersey and jeans, Rivaldo London gave an impressive heartfelt lament at TT’s social decline, singing, “Why do I feel like an alien from outer space?/ I can’t recognise this place.”

Nyol Manswell, who is blind, sought to inspire in his song, I Can Make It Through. He began showing a video of individuals who had persevered against adversity, including a women who had been blinded by a stray bullet. His melodious voice sang, “Hold onto hope my brother,/Keep your head up, my sister!”