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

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We cannot forget Ellie Mannette Staff Article
Interview Recorded: February 23, 2005
Posted: March 01, 2005

But, we cannot forget 1947, Ellie Mannette sink the fifty-five oil drum, because, 1947 again, carnival, Ellie Mannette had a pan called "Barracuda" in "Invaders". The pan was sounding different to the rest of the band. Tokyo men who were bigger than dem at de time, because they were young fellas, come looking for "Invaders" with a chant 'we looking for Invaders we want to cut off Ellie Mannette hand', they invade the band and got the 'Barracuda pan' that Ellie Mannette cherished most at that time and took it to the hills. For about two weeks they hang the pan on a tree with a message to Ellie to come and get it. But Ellie did not go for it and this is how he went into the fifty-five oil drum and he sink the pan. There were people who brought in the forty-five drum, but he went into the fifty-five oil drum and he sink it for a competition that he wanted to play in an' in that competition in 1947, he came second again, to a guy from Elza Popin. Chick McGrew Springer defeated him. Chick McGrew came beating with two hands.

In 1943/44, Ellie Mannette put rubber on the sticks. So, he sink the pan and he put rubber on the sticks. There was a competition at Point Cumana for St. Peters Day, and there is where the first time most of the band see rubber on the sticks, when Invaders came there, and this is how the rubber start appearing on the sticks. Ellie Mannette was very creative and he was a gifted turner and could have done ah lot ah things on dat machine, it was unbelievable an' dis help him a lot, because when you look at de iron they dos beat in de band, Ellie was the first person who people see tuning the iron to the pitch of the pan. He would put it down there and burn dat iron and burn it until he get dat sound. That is why "Invaders" had dat unique sound. But the man, who was rivaling him, is Sonny Roach from "Sun Valley". Sonny Roach was also a gifted tuner and this is where in 1949 "Invaders" played in a competition at the Savannah 'It's magic' and won the competition. Sonny Roach band "Sun Valley" came second and "Cross Fire", who split from "Tripoli", came third. Then there was another competition where "Invaders" won and "Sun Valley" came second down town and Sonny Roach went home with "Bajan" Cecil and penned a tune called "Sun Valley Coming Down":

"Invaders bound to run
and when they see de Sun
it's The Valley coming down
Invaders only farse
with they dutty sailor mas"

Even "Casablanca" and all had little tunes like, "Why ya run, why ya run Invaders" and all ah these things, ("Invaders" had a king made by Birdie, "The Birdie Mambo") and "Keep ya daughters inside because Invaders boys outside". These were tunes that started to be composed from by the steelband.


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