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Award-winning Trinidadian musician tells young commonwealth composers: ‘be yourself’

3 years ago


An award-winning young Trinidadian composer has urged musicians to create music ‘that is an extension of themselves’ as they bid to repeat her success in the Commonwealth International Composition Award.

Aliyah Ramatally, from Trinidad and Tobago, won global plaudits after winning the audience vote in the inaugural Commonwealth International Composition Award (CICA), held in London last year and sponsored by ABRSM.

The Durham University music student’s final piece, Mundo Nuevo (New World), told the story of her native islands and fused her country’s national instrument- the steelpan- with traditional classical instruments like the Violin, Cello and Flute.

Aliyah said: “My life has changed significantly in many ways. When I was selected as a finalist for the Commonwealth International Composition Award, I took the opportunity to properly showcase the amazing diversity of the steelpan. I was elated to know that my first work to be debuted in London would exhibit my culture.”

Entries for this year’s contest must be submitted by 1st September and Aliyah has a clear message for young composers hoping to follow her footsteps and the success of fellow inaugural CICA winners, Xiaole Zhan from New Zealand, who won the 2019 Commonwealth International Composition Award, and young Singaporean, Isaiah Hui Zhou Rong, who received The Dorico Award for Innovation.

She said: “I have realised that being a composer is a journey of self-discovery of your own purpose in life. By taking the time to be open-minded to the world and new experiences, you discover a whole new collection of ideas which act as inspiration for your music. Be passionate and love what you do. Create music that is an extension of you and your audience will be in awe of you and your music.”

ABRSM Chief Executive Michael Elliott said: “Aliyah, Xiaole and Isaiah are amazing young talents and I hope their examples will inspire even more young composers from around the world to submit compositions before the deadline on 1st September.

“We’re proud of their achievements. We’re also proud of our part in encouraging their careers and the small but important role that sponsorship of the award plays in our wider and growing commitment to diversifying the pool of published music that we can draw on for inclusion in our syllabuses in the future.”

The awards were set up to promote composition around the world and to give young composers the skills they need to further their careers. They target different commonwealth regions each time and this year focus on The Soloman Islands, Belize, Kenya, and Sri Lanka, however composers outside these regions are still eligible to apply.

Young composers interested in taking part in this year’s CICA can get more details at


Note to editors

  1. Links to last year’s winning compositions are here:
  2. Established in 1889, ABRSM is one of the UK’s leading music education organisations, one of its largest music publishers and the world’s leading provider of music exams, offering assessments to more than 600,000 candidates in over 90 countries every year. ABRSM’s mission is to inspire achievement in music. It does this globally by supporting music teaching and learning worldwide in partnership with four Royal Schools of Music: the Royal Academy of Music; Royal College of Music; Royal Northern College of Music and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
  3. The Commonwealth International Composition Award (CICA) was founded by Alison Cox, Chair of Trustees of The Commonwealth Resounds, and Head of Composition and Outreach at The Purcell School for Young Musician.

Further information from Jon Flinn on 07811 397122

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