Holman Honours Calypso Greats

Trinidad Guardian, Saturday, December 23,2000
By Natasha Ofosu

Composer and arranger Ray Holman was joined last Friend by his counterparts from the pan world to celebrate the launch of his Carnival 2001 song, “ Heroes of the nation” and the new steelband which will play its, humming birds Odyssey Pan Groove. Holman’s Former protégé Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Alvin Daniell, Austin “ SuperBlue” Lyons and Anthony Smart, leader of the National Alliance for Reconstruction. (NAR), were just some of the guests attending the informal event at the St James Amphitheatre, which bore all the makings of a family lime.

“Heroes of the Nation” was written by Holman and Winsford “Joker” Devine and is a tribute to three giants of calypso who died within the last 24 months- Dennis Franklyn Williams (Merchant), Aldwyn Roberts (Lord Kitchener) and Garfield Blackman (Ras Shorty I). It was arranged by Pelham Goddard and is sung by the 1999 Young king, Wayne Rodriguez.

When Rodriguez sang it during a short musical presentation, the song won the approval of the audience. Before singing the catchy mid- tempo melody, Rodriguez confessed he was not really a “pan person” but was happy to contribute his voice and spirit to the song. He also performed his other 2000 pan song, “Raindrops”.

A stage side from Humming Birds odyssey also performed, playing a mix of pop, calypso and seasonal music. The band was born out of a merger of two St James steelbands humming Birds Pan Groove and odyssey, a new band. Both, Holman said, were small bands and the merger was a means of combining resources. He said the players have definitely set their sights on entering Panorama and once they play well, he believes “ they should do very well”.

Holman, a former Spanish teacher at Fatima College, returned to Trinidad in September after spending two years as a visiting artist at the University of Washington, Seattle. An outstanding young player with Invaders in the 1950s he went on in 1972 to create history as the first person to compose a song specifically for a steelband and the Panorama competition. The then CIBC starlift played his tune “Pan on the move” that year, winning the zonal finals and placing third in the national competition. Holman won Panorama with the band in 1969 and 1971 and was generally accepted as a leading innovator of that time.

Holman also has arranged for the defunct Pandemonium and Carib Tokyo. Holman started writing “Heroes of the Nation” in 1999 as a tribute to his good friends Merchant who died in May that year. But he had difficulty completing it. “I wrote the chorus first and I wrote some music for the verses, but I didn’t really like what I wrote, so I said, ‘no, that ‘s not it’ Holman explained “I kept trying and trying and continued saying ‘no that’s not it’”. The second day after he arrived in Trinidad, however, things came together. “Composing is like that,” he added. The song will mark the acclaimed composer’s return to the Panorama scene after a two- year absence. But, it was not a planned comeback, he said, since he had no intention of taking part in the competition when he returned to Trinidad. However, it was after the input of Devine, a close associate of Merchant who finished the song, he made his decision. Holman confirmed he chose Rodriguez to perform the song. “I liked his voice and I remember when he sang ‘Footsteps’ and I heard him sing a tune last year,’ Pan is’ and I like it,” he said. “I figured this song would be better suited to a male voice”. He said he is “very, very happy” with the song, which is an “emotional” one for him. “He (Merchant) was just so nice to work with because his style was so nice, he understood… I didn’t have to tell him much and I really admired his talent,” Holman explained “What I admired about him, apart from his talent, was his sincerity… he was a very sincere artist. He didn’t fall prey to trying to do what he thought would be popular or chic, he always wrote something that was classy and beautiful.”

The song also. Recognizes the contributions of Kitchener, who Holman said he “admired and learned a lot from and Ras Shorty I, “who was the first to sing soca as we know it.” He added: “ To lose three of those people in such quick succession, I think they deserve a song. “So, I hope my song would be beautiful enough, and good enough, to match their talent.” Holman said he will be heading back to Seattle in April next year to begin work on his first solo Cd. The album will in part fulfill his desire that more people should know his music apart from what he has composed for Carnival. “I think most of my music is played in the United States simply because I go and I do workshops and I write music there and it’s recorded there, but there’s no real outlet here after Carnival,” he said. “I wish people here could know more of my music. I think they just know what I wrote for Panorama which is a shame because I have much.