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Ray Holman - Composer, Arranger, Panist, Educator

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

September 26,  2004

New York, USA - When Steel Talks (WST) continues its exclusive series of interviews with the legendary Ray Holman who visited WST studios on a cool 2004 Autumn afternoon. There was much to hear from this well-respected luminary in the pan world. From his beginnings in his Ana Street, Woodbrook, Trinidad home, where he would hear the bands passing by, he talks about how he joined his first band, Invaders at age thirteen (13). Interestingly while his father and uncle were not exactly pleased with his steelband membership, Holman says his mother was not too concerned. Within Invaders he worked with Ellie Mannette and Birdie Mannette, and Emmanuel “Jack” Riley who Holman describes as not only his icon, but that of many other players. As he put it, “everybody wanted to play like Jack.”

Ray Holman Interview Tidbits

Ray Holman joined Invaders (1957–1962) and learned from the great players in the band. Ellie Mannette was the leader.... Emmanuel “Jack” Riley was the best player and influenced him greatly - “he was our hero”.... Ray was the first person to introduce his own original composition as the panorama tune for his band... Robert Greenidge and Len “Boogsie” Sharpe would follow in later years... He caught heat initially but felt the idea was correct. Loves jazz, classical and calypso music.... Listened to the top American composers as a youth...

On Pan’s future - Ray believes “people must prove themselves in the field”... “The most important thing now is the training of the arrangers and tuners.” “Why must everything [pan music] be a competition? Why not have a festival of music?”

Master arranger Ray Holman in 2004

On Panorama - Anthony Williams was the first to take legitimate steps showing what could be done with a calypso. He was always more interested in “creating something that will last” than something that would win Panorama... Panorama was initially a blessing because of the rudimentary music. Panorama has become formula music... Judges are incompetent and still are... Ray wonders “how is the music going to improve if it is being guided/adjudicated by people who don’t know? You can’t have the blind leading the sighted! Music has to be better directed”.

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