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

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De things dat changed de stigma Staff Article
Interview Recorded: February 23, 2005
Posted: March 01, 2005

Besson was also "Spree" Simon friend. Besson was one of de fellas from de West down here, he use to lime all over town. He was very quiet, but violent, so dey wasn't making hand ah he at all. 'So he tell you, that "Spree" never invent no pan, so doh let dem come with no stupidness to tell you. Yah had ah lot ah fellas even de fella Prince Batson say, nah, nah, nah. There were a lot of people who know it was ah lie, an' John John people try to insist, but it really came out when Goddard revealed it. They were trying to get a house for "Spree" when "Spree" got sick, an' dey make dis ah march an' say 'bout he invent pan, to fool de government, but he wasn't de man who invented de pan, de man who start it all was "Totee" Wilson, an' his cousin too was part an' parcel of dat. Then, you look at the improvement of pan start moving all about de place, an' people trying to come up with all sort ah different things. But, you could not take away de fourth an' fifth, an' de wheels dat was placed onto de pan, an' de sinking of de fifty-five oil drum, an' de rubber on de stick, you had to use dat. When you going to play de pan yah had to use de rubber, when yah going to tune de pan yah had to sink it, even though now they showing yah dat where Ellie Mannette and dem outside using ah machine to sink it an' if you have to move about, yah have pans on wheels moving all about de place and de standard dat dey use is de fourth an' fifth. Then de double tenor is almost de same as de Invaders second pan, so dat you will find then dat Boogsie will use "Invaders" styling of pan when he playing. You will find ah fella come an' talk about these pans with de holes around de note, the "Bore pan". Dat is ah lot ah gimmick. So all this is how it is with de steelpan.

There is more to it, an' as we know, the stigma that people had on it. But, one of de things dat changed de stigma quick too, was Silver Stars. Silver Stars was practicing ah night an' dey call police for dem, an' de police came an' lock up five ah dem. I think Cinnanon was de lawyer dat dey took, an' dey went to court an' de next day de magistrate deem dat de steelband is not ah nuisance or annoying before ten, an' dey had was to pay some'ting like two hundred and forty dollars to each of de Silver Stars men, so de police had was to back of. Next ting "Dixie Land" hit town for 1950. ("Dixie Land" started in Corbeau Town in Scott Bush Street before dey move to Belmont). When Curtis Pierre and dem move down town an' these people see these white an' half white boys playing pan, dey start to look at it now, differently. Ah next ting is, Starlift started in 1956 with some college boys. In 1957, there was a split with Invaders an' some of de men went over to Starlift an' strengthened Starlift, but Invaders men did not start with Starlift. There were a lot ah college bands in Woodbrook. You had like "Nightingales", "Hit Paraders", these were de fellas from de colleges an' dem dat started to form these bands. So all in all, as these boys from de college come in, de stigma start moving away.

You look at de first Steelband Festival That was won by a band by de name of "Boys Town". They came out of ah band called "Stardust", an' these young fellas an' dem move away an' dey form "Boys Town" an' won de first Steelband Festival in 1952. Then in 1954 you had "Southern All Stars", they came an' win de festival, de guy played 'Anna' and solo right through it. Then you look at 1956 when we see something new come in, we had Percy Thomas better know as Lizard, as de tuner. He was a good tuner an' they played Star of Hope, an' they got a standing ovation in Roxy as they finish de tune. They won dat festival. There wasn't any in 1958. "Dixieland" won in 1960 beating "Invaders" who was playing 'In the Monastery Garden', North Stars in 1962 and again in 1966 and in 1963 North stars won panorama playing, "Dan is the man in the Van". The judging was questionable since two judges were present to judge Invaders, while three were present to judge the other bands."

In 1955 you had "Crossroad Band". They played a tune call 'Crying in the Chapel'. They appeared in the American Times Magazine in 1956. They had a mas called Ukhambie Warriors. For this mas, they went in a cementry and got five human skulls. Van Heflin (Hollywood star) came 'an take a jump-up in de band.


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