An emotional Rukminee Holass-Beepath, singer and sister of deceased singer Budram Holass, speaks at his funeral at Southern Main Road, Chatham, on Sunday. – Jeff K. Mayers
A statue to forever immortalise the memory of the late “Chatam Lion” Budram Holass, who entertained local and international audiences for over six decades, is to be erected at the Manmohansingh Park, Cedros.
President of the Chutney Foundation Dr Vijay Ramlal Rai used the platform at Holass’s funeral at Chatam on Sunday morning, to make the announcement. Holass was later cremated at the Shore of Peace on the Mosquito Creek.
Even as Ramlal Rai spoke of new ways to honour the legend, Basdeo Manmohansingh made an appeal for donations and funding for the Budram Holass Culture Centre, which was constructed several years ago, to ensure the continuity of his legacy.
Ramlal Rai said the construction of the monument would be undertaken by his organisation in collaboration with the Siparia Borough Corporation.
He said had already engaged deputy mayor Shankeer Teelucksingh, who attended the funeral and is also the councillor for the area, to have the statue built.
While Holass was best known as an exponent of Chutney and Indian Classical music, Ramlal Rai said he was also part of his calypso touring tent.
“He sang calypso, he sang chutney, he did extempo, he did a lot of things and this statue or bust will be an everlasting thing for people to know who he was.”
Holass was celebrated in his hometown on Sunday morning after his death last Friday, at the San Fernando General Hospital after a prolonged illness.
One of his sisters, retired schoolteacher Rukminee Holass-Beepath, said Holass was looking forward to celebrating his 70th birthday on December 29 and had asked her to plan a big party.
Holass-Beepath, a 2023 recipient of the Hummingbird Medal (Gold), joined mourners in singing happy birthday to her brother.
The retired school teacher thanked Holass for being instrumental in every aspect of her life, including the formation of her musical band and author of six music books.
In a eulogy, Holass’s nephew Bheemal Ramlogan said it was not the first time his uncle “died.” Ramlogan recalled that on one previous occasion Holass’s heart had stopped beating.
He said, while people were gathering at the family’s home for a wake, his uncle woke up with “a kind of supernatural power” and became a card champion.
“You ever see a man play all fours against himself?” Ramlogan asked the congregation.
“He would share four sets of cards, beg, give himself one and hang his own Jack. But it got better than that. He would play three knock rummy and knock out himself knowing he had an ace in the next hand.”
Reflecting on Holass’s legendary tall tales, which he told with relish and had his audiences believe, Ramlogan said he did not fact check the stories, but took Holass’s word to be gospel.
He recalled him coming back from Texas with a cowboy hat which he said was given to him by actor Chuck Norris.
Holass, who performed across the world, including India, also told of an encounter with the late iconic Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkeer during which she praised him for his singing voice.
He also swore to having performed for the late Queen Elizabeth.
“Unfortunately, he got in a lot of accidents and he lost a lot of body parts, but that never stopped him nor diminished his performances.”
While he lauded the talent of local artistes, Ramlogan said no one could match the voice of his uncle.
“It makes no sense to try to duplicate his voice. What we should try to do is duplicate or learn from his resilience and attitude.
“In the face of adversity, he saw opportunity. He never sought pity or let anything keep him down.
“He lost his right arm but that did not stop him from playing the dholak. He flipped the dholak and beat it with his left hand.
“He lost his hearing, but never his melody. He had lung issues, but he continued singing for every doctor, nurse, patient at the hospital.
“He went out doing what he loved – singing.”