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

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Then we come to 1941 Staff Article
Interview Recorded: February 23, 2005
Posted: March 01, 2005

Then we come now to 1941 Guardian, where you have Sylvia Chan. She stated after 14 years away from this country she was going to see carnival for the first time. Seeing carnival now, she enjoyed the food, the parade was good in South, all the delicacies were good and it had a friendly atmosphere. But what she enjoyed most was the calypso and the Iron band which we call the steelband from Port of Spain. At no time at all in the lady's statement in the Guardian that she mentioned anything about the steelband. When you go into the 1941 newspaper, you would see for the carnival season that all appeared was the Tamboo Bamboo playing against each other trying to prove who have a better "ding ding" and that was in 1941 and 1942. So right there you would see from the Guardian newspaper or (the Gazette), that at no time did they mention anything about any steelband in South Trinidad.

Then you go to Gonzales. Gonzales is a place that claimed too, that the steelband started in Gonzales by one Mussel Rat. He said that the boys gather, (it was coming to carnival time), beating the Tamboo Bamboo and his Tamboo Bamboo burst and he run and start keeping time on a whole gas tank, and this is how the steelband started. But His brother, after being interviewed again by George Goddard, he gave a different story, his brother said, that it was Saucy Dean pick up a dus'bin an' Armin started to beat the gas tank, and this is how the steelband started. So one brother saying he went and beat the gas tank, an' de next brother calling ah different man who beat the gas tank. Now Coming from Gonzales, we had Pete Simon. Pete Simon is a sociologist, calypso writer, a teacher, calypso singer, you name it. He was very popular in Gonzales and in Trinidad. Pete Simon said dat de steelband started in Newtown in 1939. So we have three different versions from Gonzales, with Pete Simon claiming that the steelband started in Newtown in 1939, and then we have another version, "Spree" Simon, he said he was nine years old and playing in a Tamboo Bamboo band, when he lend someone the pan and it came back dent up and he started to pound out the pan where he got different sounds from a stone an' he started to play "I am a warrior" on it.

Everyone knows at that age no nine year old boy could have been seen in a Tamboo Bamboo band, they would never encourage you in a Tamboo Bamboo band no matter where you are from, an' then you have to put a question mark by "Spree" claiming at the age of nine it happen, because, "Spree" got shot in 1949 Christmas Eve day downtown, (he went in ah club dis badjohn ting). He was in hospital, and while in hospital, he was interviewed around March 03rd 1950 where he gave a whole description of the steelband and where he came from. He said I got my schooling in South and most people know that "Spree" came from South. But "Spree" came here at ah early age, all about fourteen years old, but around the age of sixteen, "Spree" bought a pan from Andrew "Pan" de la Bastide for 24 cents, learned these tunes, "I am a warrior" and "God save the king" an' on carnival Monday morning, he went down Marine Square beating with "Tokyo" where he saw His Excellency the Governor and went in front of the Governor and play de tune, "God save the king" and "I am a Warrior" and the governor clapped and everybody say dat he played a recognized tune and the people from John John started to campaign saying dat he is de man dat invented the steelpan.


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