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Exodus Concludes Historic Japan Tour

By Terry Joseph
August 15, 2003

It has been a rigorous run for the 16 members of the Exodus Steel Orchestra, manager Ainsworth Mohammed and "band-mother" Nelleen Edmond but, on Monday night, the final curtain came down at Narashino Bunka Hall; leaving the troupe tired from travel and performance but invigorated by the overall experience.

After playing the 16-city tour, which involved 17 concerts and 12 hotel transfers, chalking up total travel of some 6,475 kilometres by bus, train, car and air; the group began the treak back home, flying to New York Tuesday, with most members due at Piarco Wednesday night, while Mohammed returns Sunday.

Speaking to The Express from their last stop in Rising Sun country, Mohammed said: "It has been an amazing experience all round, with extraordinary courtesy at every turn, flawless organisation and management of logistics, with scintillating performances by the band and tremendous reception at sold out concerts.

"Min-On Concerts, the promoters, have been singularly efficient but the stars are my 15 players, who have been truly excellent. After having such a taxing run, apart from missing their families, they are ready to go again, eager to demonstrate a new level of professionalism and rededicated in their commitment to this great instrument, which has become a way of life.

"I would have much preferred if this tribute to my players came from another source, because this may sound a bit inappropriate, but since we left Trinidad and Tobago on July 15, the Exodus players have exhibited the dedication necessary to meet the psychological and physical challenges of this unprecedented tour schedule. From our overnight stay at a JFK airport hotel, it was easy to see that they had risen to the occasion and that sense of organisation and punctuality remained with us for the entire stretch.

"We enjoyed a level of hospitality from arrival at Narita Airport in Japan, which included full cooperation in securing our baggage ( which included a significant number of instruments taken with us to minimise freight costs). This trend continued throughout the entire tour, which lasted 26 days.

"The professional Japanese Tour Manager, Kenkichi Endou, in his effort to ensure punctuality, began by giving us ‘lobby call' 15 minutes ahead of departure, but soon recognised that Exodus was always ready on time so, after just the second call, we dealt in real-time for the rest of the tour.

"Sticking to the schedule was sometimes tough, particularly at those shows where we were brought back again and again for curtain calls (17 at one concert), but it was all handled with remarkable spirit and cooperation.

"Being out here, it looked like a transformation but I suppose it was what we had been ‘rehearsing' for over the years. From first note at each concert to the last curtain call, the professionalism of the players was a credit to not just Exodus but Trinidad and Tobago. They were swamped with compliments and calls for encores at every show," Mohammed said.

But for three concerts, Exodus played to sold-out halls, some seating up to 3,500. Of the three which fell slightly below capacity, the drop in audience at their August 9 engagement at Kawasaki was affected by inclement weather in the wake of a typhoon that struck on the night previous; an experience the band narrowly missed on leaving Kobe. The same was true on the day after the Sendai concert, when an earthquake struck.

"We consider ourselves truly blessed by escaping those two natural disasters and even more so, by being able to work with Min-ON," Mohammed said. "They deserve and got our highest praise. All hotels were fantastic, the theatres beautiful and support crews were people with whom we all wish to maintain contact.

"Japan is a splendid country, with infrastructure that blows the mind. Everything is orderly and efficient and the service exemplary. The politeness of the people rubs off very easily, making for an aura of calm all around. In our travels over the years, all members of the band agree that this tour will stay in our minds forever.

"Our gratitude must be expressed to Mr.Yoichi Watanabe who, together with Akira made this tour a reality. Yoh in fact was also the sound engineer and that was indeed of a very high standard. Miss Aiko Sugano, our MC, was extremely good and is now part of the Exodus family.

"We wish to sincerely thank the Honourable Minister of Culture and Tourism, Ms Pennelope Beckles and the National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman, Kenny de Silva, who were instrumental in giving us much assistance and support, culminating with a fitting send off, and supplied us with gifts to offer our hosts and other Japanese officials.

"Of equal importance, we wish to thank the families of our players for their understanding and patience, both in the pre-tour period, when rehearsals for the junket clashed with Panyard Sensations and a number of other events, and during the actual tour, when it was sometimes difficult to keep in touch with relatives with the frequency that some may have expected," Mohammed said.

And now that the reigning national panorama champs and holders of the Caribbean Panorama and World Steelband Music Festival titles is en route to home, it really is a whistle stop, as the band reunites with another 14 members who attended Antigua Carnival.

Exodus now turns its attention to parallel projects, the annual production of Pan Ramajay and rehearsals for Pan Trinbago's Panorama in celebration of Republic Day, both of which come off next month.

The band will then focus on October and the QRC Foundation production of Pan Royale, at which it shares the Saturday night stage with bpTT Renegades, before preparing for its Christmas Concert.

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