Seepersad Motilal of Lower Barrackpore has been to India twice where he spent several months in a company that manufactures harmonium. This experience enhanced his knowledge and skills in repairing harmonium and today musicians from near and far bring their harmoniums to him for repair.
I have known Seepersad (aka Fred) as a lad in the Hindu Seva Sangh’s Youth Training Camp along with his elder brother Ramcharran, Rajnarine, Sunil and others. While Ramcharran has always displayed leadership qualities and won the respect and admiration of many, I have always admired Seepersad’s passion for music and repairing and building drums.
In addition to the vacation camps and the weekly shakha or outdoor activities, Seepersad attends the Satya Drishti Mandir in Rookmineah Trace, assists with the annual Ramleela and also serves in the Hindu Parivaar Credit Union, a project initiated by Satya Drishti.
Currently teaching music at Shiva Boys Secondary, Seepersad, a graduate of COSTAATT specializing in pan, recounted the sacrifices he made to acquire his education. “I worked the lathe all morning making drums, and, in the afternoon, I travelled all the way to Cane Farm, Tacarigua for evening classes, “said Seepersad who also shared his horror of being robbed at gun point. “Thankfully, only the cash was taken, and the wallet was returned with my documents.”
Returning to Trinidad after his stay in India, Seepersad lost no time in putting his newly gained skills into operation. “Fred has taken the tradition of drum making of our ancestors and elevated it to the global stage. His academic qualification in music and his status as a music teacher has only helped to enhance the outlook of Indian music,” said Gowtam Maharaj, coordinator of the Bal – Vihaar Program at Rochard Road, Barrackpore, It was only after Seepersad repaired a harmonium for Pandit Kumar Boodram of Endeavour and the latter was pleased that I began to appreciate fully his worth.
The interview with him was revolutionary. His knowledge of repairing the harmonium did not come from thin air but entailed learning and sacrifice. No stranger to hard work, Seepersad is active in the Satya Drishti Cultural and Sports Organization. Led by Ramcharran Motilal, an elder brother of Seepersad, Satya Drishti is not a one man show but a team of committed youths and elders working for Hindu dharma. I recalled the Satya Drishti purchasing a parcel of land and building the temple at Rookminiah Trace.
A flagship program of Satya Drishti is its annual Ramleela Festival. Spanning a period of ten nights, the Satya Drishti was judged the best Ramleela in the Small Ramleela Category a few years ago by the National Ramleela Council. Supported by the community, the Satya Drishti Ramleela is well-planned and efficiently executed.
In more recent time, the Satya Drishti leadership has inspired the Hindu Parivaar Credit Union. This was a big undertaking and much training of personnel had to be done to execute the administration of the Credit Union. Seepersad never shied away from responsibility and currently serves on the Supervisory Committee.
Currently, Seepersad is enrolled with the St Augustine Campus of The UWI pursuing undergraduate studies in Music Arts, specializing in the harmonium. “It is difficult studying and working at the same time, but it has to be done,” said Seepersad.
Deoroop Teemal, President of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and an Independent Senator in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, said that “Fred has always displayed a passion for music and has successfully made his skills in drum making into a small business.” Teemal continued: “Fred also makes tassa and he is also a sound engineer.”
Ramcharran, happy with the progress Seepersad has made in repairing harmonium and building dholak and tassa, said that that was only possible because “Fred is focused and always ready to work with others.”
Seepersad, like Ramcharran and the Satya Drishti, is less thunder and lightning but more rainfall. Seepersad is not dramatic in what he does, coming across more laid back but delivering at the end of the day. It is refreshing that such prototype exists amidst the thunderous postering and the one-day pomp and pageantry.