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Ray Holman - Reflections on Steelband Panorama 2013 - UpClose!

A WST Exclusive with the Musician, Composer and Performing Artist - Ray Holman

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Global - Panorama 2013 is in the history books, but the music of this year’s season is still reverberating in Trinidad and Tobago, and with Pan lovers around the world. When Steel Talks (WST) speaks with veteran champion arranger Ray Holman as he reflects on this past season.

WST - “When Steel Talks is very pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Ray Holman once more in the follow-up interview following the 2013 panorama in Trinidad and Tobago -  recently concluded, with Skiffle. Ray, first of all congratulations to both you and Skiffle Steel Orchestra for a rousing performance and beautiful arrangement of Sapna (The Dream).  How are you since then?”

Ray - “Thank you very much, thank you so much.  Well you know we kinda rest up after the carnival - after all of these long hours and nights it occasionally gets to you. Some of the band, some of my friends, caught a little ‘sniffles.’  Rest will take care of that.”

Ray Holman
Ray Holman

WST - “Now that the season is over is there anything or any particular moment that really stands out for you?”

Ray - “You know what stands out for me, is many moments. Whenever I go to the panyard and I see the faces of those kids, you know?  I just feel a glow. I mean, I have never had an experience like that. It was an exhilarating feeling; seeing those kids performing, seeing them trying so hard. And the focus that they had - and eventually learning how to express the music. That for me was something that I will always treasure. It was a wonderful experience, and like nothing I ever had before. And each time I saw their faces it was a wonderful moment.

WST - “The energy that on gets from working with young people is simply phenomenal. Did you get done what you set out to accomplish musically, and also from your own artistic stand point?”

Ray - “Well, what I set out to accomplish was to create - like a different genre, and to make it danceable - and yet have musical substance. I worked so hard at that - and I’m proud to say, that I think I archived, all that I wanted to achieve. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I have no feelings like ‘if I had done that’ [another way]. I just spent time and thought about it and got it right. I am so happy, and satisfied.”

WST - “It sounds like from what you are saying, is that, Skiffle Steel Orchestra, the players, and of course management, that they were really supportive of where you wanted to go musically.  You felt that you were -  well, free to be ‘Ray Holman of 2013’ with the group, I take it?”

Ray - “Yes, the support was tremendous, from all sides - from my friends, family, band, management, fans, all around. A lot of my friends came from North, some came from East, and some from West to play with the band.  And some played in Pandemonium - all those years back. It was like a reunion. Some of them said, the band felt like how Pandemonium felt. I think that is a great tribute to pay, because that was a really nice band.  Skiffle had that feeling, that sort of family feeling.

“The parents were so supportive - bringing their kids every night  - and staying around until rehearsals were over. It really made me see another side of music in Trinidad. The tune was so different. Most people - I thought would have had a reservation, you know, it was so different  - but everyone was on board - you see it [the music] was so infectious, you know? It captured everybody, it captured my spirits even though I’m doing it - and it captured me. ‘Cause really nothing like that had been done before.”

WST - “It was beautiful, and that’s from a personal point of view.

“In our previous interview - remember we talked about your concerns about Panorama not being ready for prime time. Since that interview, the semi-finals took place, and the finals. And for the semi-finals there was no broadcast, not only on the internet, but there was also no broadcast on local TV. And in addition to that, the event itself, the semi finals, it didn’t end until about 3:00 a.m.  So after 50 years of Panorama - what about the administration,  the marketing - in your thought - and the production of  Panorama specifically - and of course some people could take it to Carnival, if they want to think about that. Do you think it’s something that those in charge seem equipped to really handle - if you take a look at, for instance, the semi-finals?”

Ray - “I think there is an unwillingness to really examine it with an open mind. If you examine it with an open mind, anyone can see that you can’t have 20 bands in a night. Let us calculate how long it take - let’s say three bands an hour, and it’s going to be more than that, the longer the show goes on. So, either they feel that they wouldn’t have the backing of the membership; it needs more enlightened thinking, more critical thinking.  It’s going to be one of these - if you want to have this show - going to have it over with.  They’re still stuck in this thing, where it goes on into the wee hours of the morning.

“It is not like Soca Monarch. When Soca Monarch goes the entire crowd is there. These people are leaving and the last band is playing. The last band is Fonclaire. I mean that was so disrespectful - nobody’s there. Because people can’t spend all of those hours. And like they can’t get it through their head: those days are gone. You’ve got to have the show compact. I don’t what to say again. I don’t know how to get it across to them. You can’t have that. It’s too much. Too much - it gets boring. People get bored and tired because you are hearing some of the same things over and over.

“How much of it people could really take? So they come, they take some and then they go; and the best bands in the country [are] playing and you don’t have much of an audience.  ‘Cause they have the medium bands first. So people hear all of the medium bands but they don’t hear all of the large bands. And they really paying to come to hear the best. I find it very absurd - you could try to give them the concept of prime time, but like that concept, they haven’t grasped it. Prime time is for the best. Look at television. Anything to do with the media - you want the best; you want the prime time. Prime time is not 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning.”

WST - Apparently the population in Trinidad and Tobago could not see the semi-finals even on TV -”

Ray - “That was a terrible omission - from the broadcast. I mean that is traditional - people who can’t go to the Savannah, people you know - this is the national instrument, this is a national festival - so if you can’t go -  so they have to look at it on television or internet. That is not preventing anyone from going to the Savannah.

“These [broadcast] arrangements should be made way ahead of time - not at the last minute. Just like what they did with the Dimanche Gras - [a] last minute thing. I was very disappointed that people couldn’t get the chance to see all of the bands, because not all would make it to the finals. If you see the semi-finals then all of the bands from the different areas - people in the areas get a chance to see them on television. When you deprive of them of that you just turning more people off. You need to invite people -  just to want to hear it.  Part of it is marketing.”

WST - “You  just touched on marketing; so in your opinion after fifty years of Panorama - you were there in the first one in 1963 - do you think, really, that the marketing, and the administration in general, and the production of Panorama - is it beyond the grasp of those who are currently managing the event?”

Ray - “I would have to seriously question, whether they know what they’re doing. Because - that show was not marketed, you know. People went there, despite the poor marketing.  I mean, I look at television - I see television every day, and I’m seeing Soca Monarch - that was marketed, everyday, many times, all during the news - Soca Monarch.  So I’m asking myself: “Are they having Panorama, or they decided not to have it?”  There was nothing. One day, I think the day before - you saw - Panorama; but there was no marketing. So people go there - despite - that was poor.

“Now - then, the tunes that are being played [by the bands], people not hearing them, on the radio, because Pan Trinbago is not promoting it. What the fete promoters do - they buy time, they buy radio time, and during the time that they buy, the artistes who are performing at their fetes, their songs are played, so they’re marketing.  They’re marketing the music, they’re marketing the artistes, they’re marketing the fetes.

“Pan Trinbago - have spent no money, they have bought no slots on the radio.  Then people going to the shows don’t know the songs - because they’re making no effort.  They’re a promoter just like the fete promoters. But whereas those fete promoters of Soca Monarch, and Chutney Soca, and Lady’s Nite Out - they promote the shows, and they promote the acts that are on the shows.  Pan Trinbago does nothing on that. None of that.  So how [do] you expect people -- I’ve been saying it over and over: you’re not attracting any new people. The people who are there - when they die, or when they are unable to go out any longer (and that time is not too far off - who’s going to be there? Young people not going to that.  Everything you’re hearing is Soca Monarch; everyday, Soca Monarch. So it builds up [a] kind of interest and enthusiasm.

“This was the 50th Anniversary, and nobody knew, because nothing was done, nothing was said. It was just like another year.  Nothing.”

WST - “Talking about another year, Ray, are there any plans - will you be back with Skiffle Steel Orchestra in 2014?”

Ray - “Yes, yes I think so.  This one took a lot, trying to do this ‘new’ thing -”

WST - “-and also going down to South, the travel -”

Ray - “Yeah. Well, the last couple weeks, I really had to go more often than I did before. But it was enjoyable. It was extremely enjoyable; and the challenge of this new piece - it really kept me going, just to see if I could bring it off. I tried to make it unforgettable.”

WST - “Uh - I think you accomplished that, definitely!”

Ray - “I tried, so if they hear it, twenty-five years from now, thirty years - and the more you year it, is the nicer it sounds, it would grow. And as I told you, I’m not making a song - I’m not writing a piece for one night, you know? I’m not writing a piece so that it would sound good on the Saturday [Panorama] night. I’m writing a piece to last, that people could enjoy for years, and that takes a lot of work, it takes a lot out of you to do that.”

WST - “Beautifully said, Ray, and of course, well done. Skiffle Steel Orchestra of course must be proud, along with management, and certainly you, Ray; congratulations once more on a great 2013.

“Of course there’s going to be a lot of work that you want to get done during the rest of the year, so what’s in store for Ray Holman the musician, you know - ”

Ray - “The rest of the year - well, I think I’m going to try and produce a CD for the band, with this song, and some of the other songs that appeal to them. Try and do a nice CD; that everybody could have something to look back on and say, “Well, look, this is what we did.” The music has to be on record to last.”

WST - “Okay, so we’re looking at a CD that you’re going to be working on with Skiffle Steel Orchestra, for the rest of the year.”

Ray - “I’m going to do a concert on April 7 at Akron University in Ohio,  and then I go to Australia for a month. I’ve never been to Australia before.”

WST - “Yes, they have a steelband festival coming up.”

Ray - “Yes, so I’m going to do something with that, and play some little gigs, do some concerts there, and then it’s back home.”

WST - “And then you’ll be working with Skiffle Steel Orchestra on that CD.”

Ray - “Yeah, yeah.”

WST - “Well Ray, thank you so very much once again for chatting with When Steel Talks - congratulations on a fabulous performance and a great season, and we look forward to hearing more from you and Skiffle in 2014, and in the more immediate future, we’re looking forward to that CD that you’ll be working on with the band.”

Ray - “Thank you so much, my dear, always a pleasure.”


click for more on Ray Holman

Listen to Skiffle Steel Orchestra’s Panorama finals night performance purple-speaker

Click for WST’s Trinidad and Tobago Panorama 2013 coverage


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