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Norman Darway Speaks on the History of Steelpan in Trinidad and Tobago

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Highlanders and Desperados Staff Article
Interview Recorded: February 23, 2005
Posted: March 01, 2005

Then you had the coming of the double tenor, which the captain of "Highlanders" brought in. But, before he brought in that, Ellie brought in the double seconds. Then he brought in the double guitar pan in 1958, the double second pan in 1957, and in 1960 he come in with de cellos on the road, when Zefrin arranged 'Whose sorry now', these are the tunes that Zefrin arranged and they create a big impact in town with the cellos. Then Rudolph Charles, who was the captain of "Desperados", came to the band in 1964. He wanted Ellie to tune pans for him because he had no tuner, because Jack use to tune for them and after Jack came out de trouble, Jack take a low profile and when I went into de yard, they introduce him to me and they tell him if Darway tell him to go he will go, because Darway, could get Ellie to go any where, so he came to me and tell me the band suffering and the band have no tune and he doh know no way to turn and he would like Ellie to tune. So I ask Ellie what yah doing and he said right now ah working on this pan an ting, an' ah say, leh we go up and help him, but me eh no tuner, but I know when I go up there I getting thing to eat. So, he say, yah going with me, and I say yeh, leh we go right now and Rudolph hug me up. We went up and we spent three days there. He tune the pans, Rudolph went looking for wood an ting, because yah know yah looking for wood to burn pan an ting while I was licking up most of de time snowball with milk and ting. I sit down there an' I enjoying myself with de snowball, when we finish we come down. So, it bind de band.

1964 Jouvert morning, "Desperados" came from East to West on Park street while we were coming by Batoo out there, an' the police thought that it would'na been nice to see Desperados and Invaders coming so close, but they push they way through and they had on their plaque card 'We paying a tribute to Invaders' and whatever "Invaders" was playing, they were playing the same tune, because some of the men came down in de yard like Casabore and them and learn some of the tunes that "Invaders" was playing, because Rudolph was down and out, they were playing the same tune and mark on a plaque card, 'We paying tribute to Invaders' and town went wild to see that. Barring to that, in 1950, back where "Casablanca" is a next band, you can't right them of. They won a competition playing "The Bells of St. Mary's" and it was beautiful how they played that. "Casablanca" had a tuner call Groupee and he use to tune a good pan, and they won that competition. In that competition, "Invaders" appeared on it as ah guest artiste. You see the change of the whole ting is, Oscar Pile did as ah say, his best for "Casablanca". With dat incident in '64, it bring Rudolph and I close. One night around the savannah, I, Singing Francine and my wife met and introduced Rudolph to Singing Francine.

We look at Desperados first name was "Dead end Kids". They took that name from a picture showed at Royal cinema and dat was around 1942. When the pans came into heights, you find dat 'Bech', Wilbert Ford who was the captain of the gang and he use to work shed three as a cook, an' there was an argument about where the steelband start, at the time I was a stewart, an' he said, 'Darway leh meh tell yah something, no steelband eh start in Lavintelle eh, watch across deh, steelband start right across dey in Newtown an' de people dat help us is Woodbrook people', so ah say, 'eh heh' an' he say, 'yes'. King Johnson was doing a story on the steelband and I took King Johnson some years after to where Wilbert Ford, better known as 'Bech' was living at de big yard, and in that story he tell him dat when they heard about pan playing, they wanted to get involved in the steelpan. So, he heard de name Ellie Mannette, but he didn't know which part de Oval was, and yah could ever bet, some of de Laventille people didn't even know Port of Spain de town itself,.Frederick street. When de did find it, he ask Ellie to come up and help him, and Ellie decide with his brother, to come up an' help dem, show them how to sink pan, Birdie use to tune pan for them when he was down de hill my brother use to live there and my brother would write and tell me they should never be ungrateful to "Invaders" for bringing them to what they are. So, dis is de whole ting with dem.

Laventille was not easy. Laventille had about twenty to thirty men leave and went across to Morvant and beat-up and cut-up people. Even though ah talk about Laventille, that area, it happen with "Casablanca" and "Rising Sun". In 1948, "Casablanca" men went into Belmont looking for Rising "Sun" men, and when they could'-a find them they cut up thirty honest people. The man who was the persecutor in that case at the time was the past president Ellis Clarke and some of de fellas get eight years an ting, yah know it was a big thing when they sentenced them, dey had to put police round de the jail to keep away de crowd. According to Ellis Clarke, say, 'these mighty warriors', how Casablanca went an' cut-up innocent people. When Chalkdust talk about Baron from "Casablanca", not de calypsonian, as dis bad man and ting, dat is just ah set ah dotishness. They use to fight, if dey had to beat he, is about six men with Baron would beat he, no one man eh challenging no good fighters from "Invaders", from "Casablanca". In 1947, they coming across Park Street, dey see ah Red Army man, (Casablanca men) and they beat de man. About ah hour after, they see another man an' about nine men from Casablanca beat up de man. Then they come up again about ah next hour after, they meet up ah fella coming from a ship going for he pay, they beat he up taking he for ah Red Army man, so Red Army comes annoy about it, and Red Army armed dey self and went up in de yard and dey run and hide and call police, and is police whey had to get Red Army.


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