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Listen to the music

Published: 
Monday, November 26, 2012
Robin Imamshah at work in his studio. Photos courtesy Robin Imamshah

 

I still have vivid and fond memories of my teenage years and being a groupie of sorts for music groups of the day like Cassanovas, Rockerfellas, Esquires, Needles on a Pin Cushion and Group Solo. I remember the parties of old when my musical mentors were larger-than-life guys like Monty Williams, Robert Bailey, Michael Boothman, Raymond “Bass” Reid, Murton “Dicko” Ellis, Arthur and Rolph Marcial, Junior Byron, Phoops, Dubeck, Stan Chaman, Gordon Nathaniel and a host of other outstanding musicians. A couple decades thereafter, in the wake of these pioneers, came a new generation of standout musicians and combos, like Kalyan, The Last Supper, Shandileer and TAXI.
 
In an effort to relive those heady days, come December 1, the surviving musicians are reuniting one more time to participate in the concert/party—“Listen to the Music —Tribute to TAXI, Shandileer, Imij & Co, The Last Supper and Touchdown”—scheduled for O2 Park, Western Main Road, Chaguaramas. Showtime is 5 pm. Also on the show are Carl “Beaver” Henderson, Nigel Ferreira and Imij & Co.
 
Chief cook and bottle washer of this nostalgic event Robin Imamshah reminded me: “Back in the day, garages were the birthplace of teenage bands, and you couldn’t wait for a weekend to come to slow dance with the special person in your life at a party or disco. The music of that era (the ‘60s-’70s) could move you to excitement or tears, depending on the lyrics, and music.”
 
Reminiscing, Imamshah said: “The love of music was born in school. The Last Supper for instance originated at school, St Mary’s College, around 1968. I was in Form 3, along with Carl “Beaver” Henderson, and music was our life. Back then, Trinidad was alive with music and very talented young musicians. From Woodbrook, you had bands like Cassanovas, Group Solo and Rockerfellas and, in the East-West corridor, there was Deltones and Bert Bailey & the Jets. You could even say that The Last Supper came out of the east as we lived there then. The East-West corridor was a real cauldron for good, emerging music and talent. Of course, you can’t forget bands like Kalyan, or The Flames, the forerunner to Charlie’s Roots, led by Pelham Goddard. This music of Trinidad has a real colourful history.” 
 
Continued Imamshah: “I was inspired musically by Monty Williams and Cassanovas. Beaver (Henderson) and I used to run away from home as little boys to go listen to Cassanovas. I would say Cassanovas revolutionised the music scene in a major way. Back then, most of the combos and bands focused mainly on Latin music, like Bolero, Cha Cha Cha and Samba etc.
 
“When we started, bands and musicians were into the music as a kind of hobby thing. Musicians didnt play music professionally. It was mostly a sideline activity. However, we eventually made a conscious effort to professionalise the music industry. 
 
“Most of the young musicians of that era came out of middle class Trinidad, coming from schools like Tranquil, QRC and St Mary’s. We began asking for wages for our services, rather than accepting a case of rum at the end of a gig from the promoter.
 
“Shandileer Limited and TAXI Limited was two of the first entities to salary its musicians. This provided stability for us, and we now were being looked at as professionals and not hustlers. At one time, the staff of TAXI unmbered over 60 employees. We were so professional, we did everything for the world renowned Miami Sound Machine when they performed here.
 
Imamshah said he is proud to have opened the door for artistes today to be able to attract salaries of $300,000 per gig. He said: “Now we have offshoot industries from what we started. Bands back in the day owned their own lighting, PA system, trucks, generators and stage. Now, you have companies handling all these aspects of the music, allowing the bands and musicians to concentrate on their craft, and things like costuming and performance.”
 
The band TAXI must be remembered for being one of the most dynamic and successful music entities to emerge out of Trinidad and Tobago. Under Imamshah’s leadership, the band gave us many original compositions, as well as music  that continues to appear in movies, videos, jingles and seasonally to this day. Some of TAXI’s memorable hit singles are, Dollar Wine; Frenchman; Indian Parang Chick (Ku Chee La La); and, Johnny. Not to be left out, The Last Supper gave us Trinidad Boogie and Casually.
 
Said Imamshah: “All I’ve ever wanted was for our people to be proud of whatever we did and recognise that it was on par with anything in the world.” In closing he added: “Listen to the Music came about after being urged by members of all the bands I’ve been associated with said we must have a mega reunion, if only to let all that excellent music live again. What spurred the idea on is that three members of these bands (Ancil “Perez” Forde, Vernon Hudson, Brian “Scampy” Crooks) died. So, us remaining members decided to get together to try to reunite all the members. “I guarantee that this production is going to be one helluva an experience; for not just us, but for any true music lover in Trinidad and Tobago.”