Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 30th 2015 Contents 16
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, May 30, 2015
By Bavina Sookdeo
Every Saturday evening my mother would
bake bread and chicken while I sat with my
grandfather in our old, wooden house awaiting
the start of Mastana Bahar. My grandfather was
blind and couldn't see what was happening on
the television but he would shake his feet and
his head while the contestants performed. Flu-
ent in Hindi, he knew the answer to every pick-a-
pan question. The smell of bread baking, my
grandfather closing his eyes and enjoying the
music and the Saturday evenings of Mastana
Bahar -- those are things I will never forget. Mas-
tana Bahar holds a lot of memories for me and
for many Trinbagonians.
Mastana Bahar which means 'A Joyful Season'
was started on July 4th 1970 by the late Sham
Mohammed. Its aim was, and still is, 'To feature
the talent of Trinidad and Tobago'. This unique pro-
gramme and the entire Mohammed family have
contributed tremendously to the development of
the nation. The Mohammed family has been able
to help keep Indian culture alive and recognised in
Before its conception, founder Sham Mo-
hammed completed his Bachelors in Law (LLB) in
England and while he was doing a two-year certifi-
cate at Gray's Inn, England he did a radio pro-
gramme. It was named 'Calling the Caribbean'.
Meanwhile, back in Trinidad in 1947, Sham's
brother, Kamaluddin Mohammed, started the first
Indian talent programme on Radio Trinidad. Then
came another brother, Moean Mohammed, who
joined Kamaluddin on radio. Moean did several
radio programmes which were very popular and in
1962 he started Indian Variety -- a popular televi-
"When my father returned to Trinidad, he as-
sisted uncle Moean with Indian Variety" related
Khayal Mohammed about his father Sham. "In
1966, my father thought of Mastana Bahar." At the
first audition in April, 1970, there were 32 people
and by the second audition more than 130 persons
showed up -- many had to be turned away.
The very first edition is something Khayal says
he will never forget. "We went to the TTT studio at
11A Maraval Road. I remember walking into the
studio with my father. He was so happy. That is a
lasting image. I remember the entire show. In
those days there were few television sets so being
seen on TV was a great deal. I remember going
home after the show to El Socorro where we were
having a prayer session and being greeted by
everyone. They were so elated." The judges in
those early days included people like Pandit Deoki-
nanan Sharma and Bisram Gopie.
With its jolly, energetic and endearing host,
Sham Mohammed, Mastana Bahar took root and
became extremely popular. "Mastana Bahar en-
abled people to hear and see Trinidad and Tobago
citizens singing and dancing and my father was
the perfect presenter being able to mix Trini dialect
with the Queen's English" Khayal said as he spoke
lovingly about his father.
The favourite segment for many viewers was
and still is the 'Pick-a-pan' segment. "This was pop-
ular from day one and it was my father's idea,"
Khayal related, "Cro-Cro even sang about it."
Sham Mohammed, then became a Member of
Parliament and due to political intervention the
programme was stopped for one year. In 1990, due
to the attempted coup, the studio was destroyed
and so the programme was stopped again. When
the studio moved from Maraval Road too, the
show was stopped for six months. Mastana Bahar
has survived all those challenges and is still as vi-
brant as ever.
Sham Mohammed's entire family is committed
to the programme and they do it all in his memory.
In 1995, the Children of Mastana programme was
started. Conceptualised by Jamal Mohammed in
memory of his father, Sham, this show became
necessary since it was a problem when children
had to compete against adults. The first winner of
the Children of Mastana show was Chutney Soca
artiste KI (Kris Veeshal Persad).
"The programme has been able to survive
mainly because of our corporate sponsors," stated
Khayal who is now the producer of Mastana Bahar.
"The cost of production is very high and every edi-
tion is costly to produce but thanks to corporate
sponsors and several viewers who volunteer their
time (in assisting with the production), we have
been able to keep the show going." In the past they
were able to do 38 shows annually but this year
only 26 editions will be done.
Asked if his father received any form or discrimi-
nation or criticism, Khayal stated, "Yes, there were
those who tried to bring him down but he used to
say "People doh pelt stones at trees that are not
laden with fruit.""
Sham's positive attitude, his fans and his fam-
ily's commitment is what kept Mastana Bahar
alive. It is a name that is well known and the show
can be heard and seen every Saturday in many
homes in the country. "The programme has been in
existence for 45 years because my family has al-
ways been interested," said Khayal. "This pro-
gramme has given opportunities to hundreds of
people. There are limited opportunities here to
showcase talent and Mastana Bahar has provided
a national stage for our local people. So many pop-
ular artistes started on Mastana Bahar including
Raymond Ramnarine, Indar Kanhai, Ravi B, Neval
Chatelal and Michael Salickram."
So what is Khayal's hope for the popular pro-
gramme? "As Producer of the show, I am hoping
that we can continue to provide this opportunity. I
am hoping we can get some help for production
costs too. The hope and dream is for the pro-
gramme to continue so that we can continue to
provide opportunities for people. There are always
young people coming up who want an opportunity;
who want to sing, dance, play an instrument and
they want to be seen, heard and recognised. This
programme is important to the development of
But even if help does not come, Khayal is com-
mitted to his father's dream. "I do this to honour
my father," he said. "When he was alive I saw how
much interest and enthusiasm this programme
generated. I know how much it meant to him."
Khayal's father died on May 21st, 1994 and the
very next day Khayal held the auditions. "When
your parents go the only thing you can do is pray
for them and honour them. If I can do anything in
my life, it is because of my father. My father is my
inspiration and motivation. Every time I finish a
show I say in my mind "Pa, we still have the show
Khayal stated that he would like to honour his
father and uncles Moean and Kamaluddin. "I am
extremely grateful to our corporate sponsors too --
Solo, Kaleidoscope, NFM, Chief Brand Products and
others" he said "and I wish to thank my mother
who is now 78 and still very supportive of us."
There is no doubt that Mastana Bahar has con-
tributed significantly to the growth and recogni-
tion of Indian culture in Trinidad and Tobago. It
was, and still is, a viable platform to showcase cul-
ture. Congratulations to Mastana Bahar and those
who have worked so hard to keep it alive.
Children of Mastana
Sardar Mohammed, Co-producer and
Host of Mastana Bahar
Members of the tassa group DRISHTI (which means 'Vision') perform on Mastana Bahar.
The group's members are visually impaired.
Pick-a-pan is a favourite for many.
The late Sham Mohammed who
started Mastana Bahar in 1970.
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