Torrance Mohammed’s legacy lives on in tribute show

Paris Coutain assumed the personna of the late Torrance Mohammed to pay tribute with a monologue at the Tribute to Torrance Mohammed concert at Naparima Bowl on November 21.      -
Paris Coutain assumed the personna of the late Torrance Mohammed to pay tribute with a monologue at the Tribute to Torrance Mohammed concert at Naparima Bowl on November 21. -

WHEN the Torrance Mohammed Culture and Arts Foundation was formed earlier this year, there was a clause which stipulated that in the event of his death, his legacy will go on.

No one knew, when the idea of the foundation to encapsulate his 90-year-life was being actualised, that his life would be snatched away by someone who is now awaiting trial for his murder.

The life and legacy of Mohammed, a dance icon, was celebrated on November 21, at a tribute concert at the Naparima Bowl, San Fernando.

Mohammed was working on the mega-concert, which had to be cancelled as entertainment spaces were shut down. In addition to preserving his life’s work, the concert was also slated to provide partial scholarships and aid for people involved in culture and the arts.

Disappointed and grieved that he was unable to honour Mohammed while he was alive, co-founder of the foundation Deron Attzs felt duty-bound to put together an evening of entertainment, played to a significantly smaller audience in accordance with the health protocols.

Joanne Foster -

Attzs, who had planned to surprise Mohammed, who kept insisting he continue his singing career, also paid special tribute to him. Against a backdrop of a larger-than-life photograph of Mohammed, Attzs received rousing applause for his performance of The Impossible Dream in the final segment of the show.

One of the performers, Paris Coutain, who took on Mohammed’s persona, paid tribute in a monologue and expressed pleasure that the street leading to the Naparima Bowl was now named after him.

Torrance Mohammed Street was posthumously unveiled on November 1 by San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello and former culture minister Joan Yuille-Williams. It was a decision taken by the San Fernando City Corporation (SFCC) long before Mohammed’s death, which he was deeply appreciative of and was looking forward to witnessing.

Moving video tributes from the seeds he sowed during his 65 years as head of the Arawaks Dance Company, seeds which have blossomed and taken root in different parts of the world, were played during the 90-minute concert.

Lady Gypsy -

Prof Terrance Brathwaite, Phillip Sargeant and Shellford Trotman were among those he mentored, and they thanked Mohammed for his tenacity, dedication, joy and exposure, which helped to shape their careers.

Some of his students and those whose lives he affected in many ways also graced the stage to pay homage to Mohammed who was a choreographer, insurance agent and financial consultant, founding member of San Fernando Arts Council, the National Dance Association, a former director of the Bowl, member of the San Fernando Carnival Committee, National Carnival Commission, Pleasantville Community Council and other regional and international organisations.

There could be no show honouring Mohammed without dance. So the EVP Dance Academy dancers, Radha Krishna Dance Group, Shiv Shakti Dance Group and Kathak Kala Sangam, along with the Torrance Mohammed Foundation Dancers, represented this aspect of his life.

Calypsonians Joanne Foster and Lady Gypsy did individual odes, but none chose a calypso. Foster had intended to dedicate You Needed Me to Mohammed, but the music was not queued up and she instead delivered a powerful version of Bless Me.

Singer Richard Jordan -

Lady Gypsy showed the range of her vocals and ability to adapt to different genres, executing with ease the 1964 Sam Cooke classic A Change is Gonna Come and Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart, from the same era.

Another calypsonian, Lady Adana, was virtually beamed in, as she jazzed up Baron’s This Soca is For You.

The audience was also able to get a glimpse of Mohammed as an actor from a 1987 clip that president of the San Fernando Theatre Workshop, David Sammy, found of him performing in Tainted Blood, by Willi Chen.

Sammy recalled the man who had “many strings to his bow.

“His full-time job was as an insurance agent, financial adviser, but his full-time passion was in the arts. He also gave 100 per cent as a councillor and deputy mayor.”

Dancer from the EVP Dance Academy performs during the show. -

Regrello said Mohammed had a profound understanding of politics, helping to shape the landscape in San Fernando as a decision- and law-maker.

But, he said, it was as the quintessential cultural activist that he made his mark, influencing many young dancers who have now established themselves as professionals internationally. Regrello said generations to come will benefit from the legacy Mohammed the pioneer has left.

Economist Dr Marlene Attz, in her vote of thanks, identified as a proud San Fernandian and said Mohammed played a significant role in her life, and was a constant figure in their family home. She said he was a part of her history and her past that was very dear to her. She said his passing is still surreal but was happy to share his memory and be a part of his legacy.

Alicia Jaggasar and the Los Alumnos De San Juan Parang Band brought the curtains down on the evening of culture.


"Torrance Mohammed’s legacy lives on in tribute show"

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