On behalf of my own family, I offer condolences to Hazel Rambaransingh’s relatives. Hazel was the niece of my late wife Abenkina Ome (nee Ingrid Taylor).
To think that just on Saturday last, I mentioned Hazel as a representative of artistes to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. I was not aware that she had died the day before. At the time I was congratulating J Errol Lewis for his two interviews with Alfred Aguiton on the programme Forever Young.
I was reminding Errol that what was needed in this country was my often-repeated desire for a national audio-visual archive that would be a permanent memorial to people like media personalities like Aguiton and artistes like Hazel.
I gather that most people of my era would like to know that Hazel is fittingly remembered as a performer and recording artiste. I hope we do.
Hazel has left an inestimable legacy of songs. She had a voice a voice that should never be forgotten. There are her Christmas songs: “Merry Christmas All”, “Christmas Magic”, “The Day That Love Began”, “The Cherry Tree Carol”, and her “Parang Medley”. Add to that her romantic ballads: “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”, “Just Give Me Love”, “I Wanna Give You Everything”.
For those who do not know her songs Just go to YouTube and you will find many recordings captured there. Mr Junia Regrello, the Mayor of San Fernando was right. He described her as “a southern songbird, who crossed all the different genres of music,” he said.
“She did not only do Christmas songs, she did bits of folk, a little bit of gospel, traditional songs and she also covered a wide range of pop music which made her a singer”.
Hazel belonged to that pioneering group of talents in what was called Caribbean Pop, songsters like Lennox Grey, groups like Venus + X and Sources of Love (about whom both I intend to write) among many others. She was from the time of the combos, too innumerable to mention. People like her existed alongside scores of calypsonians, “big bands’ and steelbands. Collectively they were a formidable set of artistes each drawing off of the other but not sufficiently appreciated by TT. They had to endure solitary fights to get airplay. There was no social media, YouTube, Instagram or whatever.
It really was hard for performers like Hazel to live off their talent here. TT has suffered from the lack of a viable show business environment. I know that Hazel had expertise in finance and management. She was involved in banking and the credit unionism. There is possibly where she seems to have found a niche, beside stage performance and recording.
That lack of national support appears to be changing but it is not happening fast enough. Even now if a person is unable to join the TT diaspora overseas, they are hard-pressed to support themselves in TT. The banks are wary of giving them loans, sponsors only come on board when the artistes are undoubtedly popular and about the negligent media the less said, the better. A lot of leading performers still have had to split their time with day jobs working in the private or state sector, many times sacrificing the time they could have spent developing themselves for their God given calling.
Let us hope that Hazel will be remembered beyond the limited fare of packaged specials which tend to come only after our artistes (and other heroes and heroines) have passed beyond this life. And may we, the citizens, sincerely appreciate and invest in the talent that has emerged among us. May the Almighty grant Hazel Rambaransingh her well-deserved eternal rest.