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

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Steelband out of de belly of Tamboo Bamboo Staff Article
Interview Recorded: February 23, 2005
Posted: March 01, 2005

For the 1946 carnival, Sonny Roach, who was the captain of "Sun Valley", he was in the band called "Harlem Nightingales". They played a mas called "St. James sufferers" and they went to town with an Orisha tune called "Ogun la la olaylay" an' Sonny Roach was playing dat on his pan. Grandville Sealey was playing part of the theme from "The Shores of Tripoli", Rocky McColins, who was in "Commandos", was also playing tune on his pan, because Leo Warner state that he know that Rocky McColins was playing tune long before "Spree". There is ah lot of evidence that comes up with people who were close to "Spree" and say dat "Spree" never never was the first person to play any tune on de pan. It's just that he played this tune in front of the governor and this trigger of everything. So we look at the exposure of "Spree" Simon. This was done somewhere around 1987 where George Goddard buss the whole mark of it with Zigilly, "Big Mac" and dem. They were doing a program for the government of the country and the exposure of "Spree Simon did not invent the pan and it's a hoax". You would see the statement of that in the 1987 Mirror Newpaper. So all in all, after growing up with these steelband men, being among them an' ting, I seem to get more interested into getting the facts right, so I went and spend a lot of times at the national archives with who I grew around with, like "Ellie" Mannette, Winston Wolf King, and Hugo Besson, Besson was the captain of the band called "Five Graves to Cairo" which was an early band in the forties.

I also at the age of five, used to go and spend time on a Sunday evening by my aunt-in-law whose name was Esther. She was living on Woodford Street next to de big yard where you could ah see the pans and dem in the yard, and she would say this is de first steelband ever in Trinidad, "Alexander's Rag Time Band".

What I will say, is that de steelband comes out of de belly of the Tamboo Bamboo and out of de Tamboo Bamboo, produce the steelpan. It all happen, it was in 1938 when the "Calvary Tamboo Bamboo Band" was parading in Port of Spain and Victor "Totee" Wilson bamboo burst and in the heat of de ting, he saw a pan at the side of de road where he pick up the pan and start beating this paint pan. It was not like the paint pan we have today. It was a pan that they use to put the mixture to mix and then to produce the paint in it, an' he started to beat this pan and from there the other guys wanted a little beat on it and they started to beat the pan instead of the Bamboo. When the band returned to the yard, which was at the corner of Woodford Street and Tragarete road, the next day which was Ash Wednesday, they started to talk about the carnival and they talk about de mas and the beating of the pan. The pan was one of the main subjects on Ash Wednesday and continue as the days go by.


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