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Serenade for parang pioneer

By Rachael Espinet Monday, May 12 2014

The National Parang Association of Trinidad and Tobago (NPATT) is planning a tribute to Willie Lara, the parang legend who passed away at 84 during a surgical procedure.

Lara was the last surviving member of the Lara Brothers’ parang group, formed almost sixty years ago by Antonio, Tito, Willie and Victor with their father Ignacio Lara.

To honour Lara’s life, NPATT parranderos will go to Lara’s home in Pitiol Road, Santa Cruz the night before his funeral and perform for the mourners.

“I was honoured and privileged to see the four brothers performing. I witnessed the four brothers performing until the very last one. From the time they stepped on the stage they got the audience up on their feet. We hope to do something tangible, not only to celebrate Willie Lara, but all the Lara Brothers,” said Michael Lezama, Public Relations Officer of NPATT.

Lezama said NPATT’s goal is to make people remember the Lara Brothers whose mother was from Venezuela, but grew up in the Caura Valley where the family created their own parang style.

Lezama, who has been performing parang since 1967, said,“Their style of parang was so different because of their melodious style of music and lyrics.”

Lara, who would have been 85 on June 8, died while undergoing a surgical procedure for an undisclosed ailment at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mount Hope. Today the family would be briefed by the operating doctor to determine the cause of death.

“What we are going to miss is the unique brand of the traditional parang. The Lara Brothers had a parang of their own. The personalities of the Lara Brothers were special. They showed a love and appreciation of the art from that was so unique that they showed their love for parang in their songs,” said Lezama. He said the style of parang the Lara brothers performed was part of a “traditional” genre that is not commonly used by the younger parranderos. Now NPATT wants to introduce this form into their yearly performance to revive these traditional forms.

“With the passing of the last Lara brother we have to make an addition of the traditional art form that is dying so that the younger ones could appreciate the Lara Brothers form as much as we love and cherish it,” Lezama said.

Last year Lara was honoured by NPATT for his contribution to the parang community. Lezama said he was celebrated for his, “consistent effort in keeping the parang art form alive.”

That award ceremony was the last performance Lara ever did as he treated the audience to a few songs by the Lara Brothers.

Lara had ten children with his first wife who passed away before him.

The last 16 years of his life were spent with Sandra Dickson, his common-law wife. Lara received many accolades in his life as an iconic parrandero. He was honoured nationally by winning the Hummingbird Silver Medal. The funeral service for Lara is to be announced.

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