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

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Carnival was banned in 1942 Staff Article
Interview Recorded: February 23, 2005
Posted: March 01, 2005

The carnival was banned in 1942 and it came back in 1946. But for 1945 when we had the V-Jay day on the 15th and 16th of August, steelband came out on the road. But you had within the period of that blockage of the steelband, because of the war, there was little private competition that take place with the steelband and it was in 1939 the same year, that the guy called Victor "Totee" Wilson who was from "Alexander Rag Time Band", who take one of the paint pans and tune it to the chiming of the Q.R.C. clock. The Q.R.C. clock goes 'Ping Pong', 'Ping Pong' every hour, so when he did that, he told them, 'look ah have meh Ping Pong'. Victor "Totee" Wilson was from 176 Western main road, is there he use to lime. After that, they could have played 'Mary had a little lamb' and Alan Ladd's 'This gun's for hire', but as soon as he got these four notes to sound like that, news went out and people start putting on one more note and another note enter again and so on. But as it is, sometimes when you put on a little six note on yah pan is because yah want to come out on de road to show what yah doing or what yah have done, and the police running you down about de place.

The steelband had a hard time, in that time with the police so sometimes you had the police locking up about a hundred people when the day come. With the steelpan you had beating and locking up. Brutality was the heights of everything when ya with the steelband. As the war over, the steelband was allowed to come out on the road an' you had at that time, "Commandos" and "Red Army" both of which came out of "Alexander Rag Time Band", so you had "Casablanca" which was now lead by Oscar "Bogart" Pile. He wasn't the first captain, but eventually he was one of the main captains with "Casablanca", an' then you had All Stars an' then you had "Tripoli" now coming, but their first name was "Grow More Food", then the band from Godfrey Street which is "Harlem Nightingales", they were on the road. For the carnival of 1946, "Harlem Nightingales" played ah mas called "St. James Sufferers", "Tripoli" played 'The Shores of Tripoli' and yah had "Tokyo" who play Ju Ju Warriors, they always liked the African mas, "Casablanca" play French Sailors.

But, what really happen is, the next competition for 1946 was somewhere around the 02nd March when "Casablanca" won it from "Commandos". "Commandos" came second, "Casablanca" came first. Then there was another competition at Roxy cinema, where "Crusaders" won that competition around the 02 August an' "Young Sun Valley" came second which had Tony Williams and them in it, but dis band "Harlem Nightingales", after the mas play "St. James Sufferers", they mashed up and Sonny Roach, who was the pan tuner, he went across Kandahar Hill with a fella called Winston Davies and open a band called "Nob Hill". He didn't last long with "Nob Hill" and he shift from there within a month or two and went to "Rossland" where you open Sun Valley. So they had the first islandwide competition which was on the 15th August, 1946. This competition was an islandwide competition which was held at the Boxing Stadium which was next to Fatima College and Sun Valley won the first islandwide competition in this country. "Sun Valley" came first, "Red Army" came second, "Casablanca" came third, "Swamee River" came fourth and "Tripoli" came fifth.

On the same night in question there was a ping pong solo competition and Sonny Roach won that ping pong solo competition and Ellie Mannette came second. Now, Sonny Roach for that competition present de second pan. This is where they see de second pan for the first time, well, yah have to say the man who got that second pan to come was a Bajan fella call 'Bajan Cecil' who was in "Sun Valley". Now, he came from Barbados with a little knowledge of music and he coached Sonny Roach into playing the tune 'Home Sweet Home' which they use on dat night in question for the Finals of the islandwide competition and he told Sonny Roach that he want to get to play the second melody and he asked Sonny Roach to design a pan in order for that, and dat is how the second pan come. If you look in the Guardian newspaper dated 17th September, you would see the writer talk about the second tenor. When they play dat, the crowd went wild and this was 'Bajan' Cecil playing the second pan on 15th September 1946, an' they won it.


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