Exodus Steel Orchestra
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Even among the most forensic of steelband music critics, the name Exodus is spoken in tones of reverence, that level of respect inspired not by the biblical reference, but earned through the band’s resolve to the untiring pursuit of excellence.
Since their first rehearsal in May 1981, those who have followed the music of the Exodus Steel Orchestra agree that there is something special about this band, an intangible quality that sets it apart from the others, even those of longer standing.
From their inaugural outing in Trinidad and Tobago’s annual national competition, Exodus was able to gain a place in the finals, fighting against overwhelming odds (including the fact that the band is not from the capital city of Port of Spain) and with instruments loaned by the internationally acclaimed WITCO Desperadoes Steel Orchestra.
In the nineties, Exodus made the leap to the top and remained within the top three consistently after copping the national Panorama title for the first time in 1992, then again in 2001, 2003 and 2004. The band from St. Augustine also won four titles in a row as East Zone Champs, chalking up nine top notches overall. On four other occasions, they came in second in the Eastern region.
Founded by Amin Mohammed, Exodus not only honed itself into a winning machine, but brought to the steelband movement one of its most prestigious competitions, the Pan Ramajay competition, a free-form jazz event which revolutionised the entertainment options available to steelbands. Not content to be just a band that operates at Carnival time, Exodus adopted a deliberate policy of maximum participation; attending every pan event for which the band is eligible.
....Exodus has organised itself into a winning machine and an orchestra that delivers a quality of sound that is distinctive and rich in entertainment value.
The band’s international engagements took them to Europe, U.S.A., Korea, Canada and several Caribbean islands.
Notes by Terry Joseph
Exodus Steel Orchestra was formed on 3rd May 1981. The band emerged from Gay Flamingoes, another of Trinidad & Tobago’s local steelband.
As Ainsworth Mohammed noted:
“The formation of this new band came about, after two unsuccessful attempts were made to hold a meeting with the then-executive and members of the Gay Flamingoes steelband, to help in reconstructing the said Gay Flamingoes, who were heading downhill.”
After one particular Carnival and Panorama season and the band had again failed to reach the finals. Amin Mohammed, a member of the band, realised that the band was not growing, so he told the members he was going across the street to form a new band; those who were interested could go and those who were not interested could stay.
Those who were interested left and formed a band and called it Exodus. The name Exodus, therefore, which means ‘The Movement,’ emerged from this shift in membership.
Exodus, under the management of Amin Mohammed, began rehearsals with 25 players, their arranger Henry “Bendix” Cumberbatch, and using pans loaned to them by Rudolph Charles from the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra. Amin Mohammed, in the early stages of the band, mortgaged his house to buy instruments for the band.
The intention of the band was to become a great steelband and also to be an exemplar to other steelbands. They decided to lay down proper infrastructure, such as discipline and respect for one another and their instrument, as their foundation.
The elements such as great instruments, tuners, players, arrangers, music and management were also important in trying to achieve the band’s objective. Their first entry into competition was the following year into the National Panorama.
Exodus made it to the finals in their first competition with Scrunter’s “The Will,” arranged by Kenrick and Harold Headley, and placed eighth. This laid the way for the band to get sponsorship in 1983 from American Stores.
Exodus Steel Orchestra continued on their journey following the foundation and infrastructure that they laid as a guide, with many successes along the way. When the band grew, other organisations supported them in helping to offset their expenditures. Republic Bank, Angostura, National Brewing Company and K.F.C are a few of the corporate institutions which came to their assistance.
From their inception, the band has been ranked among the best in the country. This has stemmed from results of various competitions.
They are now called Sagicor Exodus, being sponsored by Sagicor Financial Corporation, their second major sponsor.
With respect to arrangers, Henry “Bendix” Cumberbatch, being the first as stated above, set the tone for brothers Kenrick and Harold Headley, Ray Holman, Desmond Waithe, Anthony (Juggy) Rose and from 1989 to the present, Pelham Goddard.
One of the few tuners that the band had was Wallace Austin who had to leave the band for personal reasons, but eventually returned and is at present the band’s tuner.
Others included Clifford Alfred, Lincoln Noel, Leo Cooker (deceased), and most recently Andy Neils, the latest, who lasted the shortest. This arose from Andy’s not wanting to tune a pan from another specific tuner, a pattern specific to the older days. Andy and the band’s management were in disagreement on this matter and he eventually left.
The management of Exodus believe that there are not enough good tuners in the country, and they are currently involved in their own pan tuning. They have also been in discussion with numerous individuals with respect to the size of the drum, the proper acoustic, and they are also working with Derek Gay on the engineering aspect.
Captains in this band over the years comprised of Andy Husband, Steve (Dark Horse) Pierre and Anthony (Juggy) Rose not necessarily in that order.
The band’s management has over the years been challenged to find persons to fill the various management functions in the band. Inevitably all the work fell on the shoulders of the few, especially the Manager. Thus, they decided that they will have a manager and a few other individuals forming the committee of the band.
There were only two managers in Exodus’ history: their first, Amin Mohammed (now deceased), and his brother, Ainsworth Mohammed, the present manager.
An aspect of the band’s philosophy is to encourage and contribute towards community development and for this reason, it loaned its instruments to the St. Augustine Senior Comprehensive Secondary School which did very well at the national school junior Panorama for two years.
Exodus also has its own junior band, Exocubs, which also has been successful thus far, having won competitions in minor categories in the 2004 World Steelband Music Festival and 2005 Steelband Music Festival, senior and junior respectively.
It has also won the Ensemble category for the seniors in 2004. Exocubs and Exodus are also involved in learning music theory at all different levels. This development in the younger players is beneficial to Exocubs and also to Exodus, because most of the players in Exocubs will eventually play with Exodus at a later stage. This will only help in making this band better equipped and efficient.
In the history of Music Festivals, Exodus has moved from the last spot in the “Pan is Beautiful” series to winning the first spot in the World Steelband Music Festival. In 1988, the band could not complete its rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italienne. It was noted that one of the melodic embellishments was played loudly when it was not to be played. That confused the entire band. The then-conductor, Desmond Waithe, stopped the band and proceeded to the calypso.
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Address: Eastern Main Road, Saint Augustine,
Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, W.I.
- Terrance “BJ” Marcelle - 2017
- Pelham Goddard - 2017–1989
- Desmond Waithe - 1988
- Ray Holman - 1987
- Kenrick Headley & Harold Headley - 1986–1982
|Year and Competition||Place||Selections||Arranger/Conductor|
|1994 - Pan is Beautiful||3rd||(1) Test Piece (2) Jump & Wave (3) Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony
||Pelham Goddard; Desmond Waithe|
|1996 - Pan is Beautiful||2nd||(1) Test Piece (2) Bahia Girl (3) Marche Slave
||Pelham Goddard; Desmond Waithe|
|1998 - Pan is Beautiful||1st||(1) Steelband Times (2) Symphony No.8
||Pelham Goddard; Dr. Pat Bishop; Desmond Waithe|
|2000 - World Steelband Festival||3rd||(1) Steelband Times
(2) Capriccio Italienne
||Pelham Goddard; Dr. Pat Bishop; Desmond Waithe; Jesus Acosta|
|2002 - World Steelband Festival||1st||(1) Romeo and Juliet (2) Pan Talent
||Pelham Goddard; Dr. Pat Bishop; Jesus Acosta|
|2004 - Pan is Beautiful||1st||(1) Overture to Semiramide
(2) Pan in “A” Minor
||Pelham Goddard; Dr. Pat Bishop; Jesus Acosta|
|2005 - World Steelband Festival||1st||(1) Overture to Semiramide (2) Pan in “A” Minor||Pelham Goddard; Dr. Pat Bishop; Jesus Acosta|
Audio & Video Festival Performances
Internationally Exodus has toured extensively. Its first tour was in 1983 to Edmonton, Canada to perform in the World University Games. Since then, there has been consistency. Exodus has gone to New York City, at the Madison Square Garden (2005), for the World Steelband Festival, which the band won. The band returned to New York, this time at the Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Centre and Brooklyn Academy of Music.
There were also performance commitments in Morocco for the Crown Prince, Germany for an international exposition, England, Grenada to perform in the first Caribbean Panorama which the band won, Barbados and Jamaica, both on numerous occasions, Antigua, Dominican Republic, Korea and to Japan in 2003 and 2005.
Exodus was formed in St. John's Village, St. Augustine, on May 3, 1981, when several members of the Flamingoes Steelband, including Amin Mohammed, walked away thereby creating an "exodus." Mohammed went on to manage the band during its first 15 years of operation. The band made an immediate impact by reaching the final of the Panorama competition in its first year. Exodus continued to make progress in the 1980s with the help of the renown musical arranger Ray Holman and Kenrick and Harold Headley. Later, arrangers Pelham Goddard and Desmond Waithe were recruited and combined to lead the band to four Panorama and three Steelband Music Festival titles. In 1996, manager Amin Mohammed migrated to the Cayman Islands and his job was taken by his brother, Ainsworth Mohammed. Exodus finished among the top three steelbands in the following significant competition:
|Compiled by Ronald C. Emrit|
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