Within the space of 24 hours the nation lost two national treasures who have sired generations in dance and the pan, and will surely inspire generations to come.
Dancer Torrance Mohammed and pan man Lennox “Bobby” Mohammed, although not blood brothers, were towering brothers in the arts. In places where our dance and steelband music are celebrated, and especially in San Fernando and South Trinidad, their names are spoken with awe, reverence and pride. That one of them, Torrance, should have come to a brutal end at the hands of a bandit is a stain on the national psyche and a source of sadness and shame that burdens the grief of loss. An equal tragedy is the very real possibility that the young man who dealt him the fatal injury while stealing his gold chain and phone might have had no clue who Torrance Mohammed was, so disconnected are we from the real VIPs of this country.
Thankfully, not even death or the manner of it can dim the sparkle of their gifts which over decades have lifted our spirits and enriched our lives.
To this day, people still talk about Bobby Mohammed’s musical leadership of the legendary Guinness Cavaliers, the unknown “South band” that went to Port of Spain with Bobby’s daring arrangement of Lord Melody’s “Mas” and dethroned steelband powerhouse Pan Am North Stars, cheating it of a hat-trick in the process. That moment marked the arrival of “the South band” and launched a steelband rivalry that endures to this day. It also defined a unique style and sound that came to distinguish South bands.
Cavaliers’ victory proved to be no fluke. In 1966, it ran second to Despers in a controversial decision with Bobby’s arrangement of Lord Kitchener’s “My Brother”. However, there was no room for dispute in 1967 when Cavaliers reclaimed the Panorama throne with Bobby’s arrangement of Kitchener’s “Sixty Seven”.
The musical genius of Lennox “Bobby” Mohammed gave South steelbands a self-confidence and standard that keep them among the world’s best. His was a life devoted to the steelband as pannist, composer, arranger and innovator. His place is secure in Pan’s pantheon of greats.
Torrance Mohammed was more than a man; he was an institution from whom a community rooted in San Fernando expanded out into the world of dance. Many of today’s top dancers, their proteges and dance groups can trace their lineage back to him and the Arawak Group which he agreed to shoulder on the urgings of the great lady of dance, Beryl McBurnie.
Last January, Arawak celebrated its 65th anniversary which was universally toasted as a tribute to Torrance Mohammed’s endurance, vision and generosity of spirit. He was a foundation block upon which much of South Trinidad’s art was built through the Creative Arts Centre, the San Fernando Arts Council and several national bodies. His contribution came in every sphere—as performer, administrator, teacher, mentor, archivist, business and politics.
Lennox “Bobby” Mohammed and Torrance Mohammed are golden threads woven into the fabric of this country. We are thankful for having had them among us. Our condolences to their loved ones.