Former Exodus manager and leader, the late Amin Mohammed, always tried to ensure that historians and researches got the origins of the Pan Ramajay Competition concept right.
During an interview on Calypso Showcase with host Alvin Daniell back in 1994 which aired on state-owned Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT), the ice-breaker question posed to Mohammed was “who really started Pan Ramajay? Who is the person we should give credit to?”
He replied, “I think in this case, very much like the steelband (movement) I would prefer the historians to say that it (Pan Ramajay) is a group of people!”
With his calm disposition, Mohammed drew a parallel to the shared vision and mission among would-be steelpan visionaries so many years ago, and their ambition to nurture the evolution of the most popular acoustic musical instrument of the 20th century – the steelpan.
“Just as the pan was formed by a group of people, Ramajay really came out of the Exodus membership, in that, we started exploring ideas for something…some pan activity outside of the traditional Festival (Pan Is Beautiful) time, which as you know is every two years. And, in the exploration of that what started off as one of the first ideas we had was to start a mini festival in between the two years of the Festival. It sought of developed and evolved into what eventually came out as Pan Ramajay.
Pan Ramajay premiered in 1989. Samaroo Jets tied with VAT 19 Fonclaire Steel Orchestra for first place.
Tico Tico and Two To Go, were the tunes of choice played by Lopinot-based Samaroo Jets, while San Fernando-based Fonclaire Steel Orchestra chose Symphony In G and Sifting Through the Notes.
Mohammed explained the decision to host the event at the Exodus’ home base in St Augustine.
He recalled the novel setting the panyard presented, and as it turned out the band had been using the property for the staging of other shows.
Mohammed said it was also felt the Exodus could create its own history by staging a national steelband competition in a panyard, which broke with tradition.
“You know the tradition of steelbands, where one steelband never went into the other one’s panyard type of thing. We also had a budgetary constraint where we said if we could have it in the panyard, obviously we could keep the cost down, in terms of getting it off the ground and ensuring that the sponsors – who have been extremely supportive – end up satisfied that project went off as they would have liked to see it go off. And as it turned out…it turned out to be a very pleasant experience, as well.”
“Well, the 1989 finals would probably remain one of the ones I will always remember, because it was the first one… it was one we never were quite sure how it was going to work out. The panyard was full, the tension was there the atmosphere was there. Everybody was on a high,” he recalled.
Mohammed added, “The public had come to the panyard and come to the finals not really knowing what to expect. And, am…the novelty, and just the whole atmosphere was just special on that particular night. I know that we were all on a really big high and the show went off very smoothly. So, at the end of the night, we really felt as though we had achieved what we set out to do.”