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

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Neville Jules and Sonny Roach Staff Article
Interview Recorded: February 23, 2005
Posted: March 01, 2005

Then you had coming into 1947, Neville Jules put four notes on a costic soda drum where they get the bass coming from, because they used to use de 'du dup' that you keep the timing, so he keep that one. But coming into the fifties things started to change. But one of the thing is, sinking that oil drum and putting musical notes onto it, Ellie was given a scholarship in 1948 at the Birmingham's college in London but he never accepted it, even though they had a little charity ting for him he didn't go an' when I ask him why he didn't accept it, he said, 'if I did go, steelpan would'-a reach where it is today' and that he decide to continue to go into the pan. Then Sonny Roach came up with the tune Boom, putting another five notes on ah biscuit drum and he gave Addawell it to beat and tell him don't ever give nobody it and Addawell will beat that into town and he would come back an' very rear he would give anybody it. Then Ellie improve on the tune "Boom", doh mind ya hearing Neville Jules coming and saying he do dis and he do dat, but it was Sonny Roach who put the tune 'Boom' into the band, because in 1947 Lloyd Buthcher would always talk about it. "Sun Valley" was coming down Bournes road, when they reach by the corner at the Royal bank, "Tripoli" was coming up Ethel street, an' dat strange sound that the band had, the majority ah "Tripoli" supporters went an' follow "Sun Valley", "Tripoli" had was to go down by de Infirmary to get people to come back up to go in town because everybody start to follow "Sun Valley". "Sun Valley" was a troublesome band when it come to playing because of de song and ting, and then Ellie started to improve more on the pan.

Now we come to where they had "Taspo", a national band, to go to England and while we were having this negative thing against the steelband here, Lord Baldwin of Antigua was doing his best to get the Antiguan people to be on top with the steelpan and they were invited to the BBC to play in England instead of a Trinidad band, and you had Goddard and the first president, decided that they would send a band from here to England. But our association was only formed around 1949 because they were trying their best to find out what was the cause of the big set of riot that was going on with the steelband and the government set up a committee to look into it and they call it the Farquhar committee [the committee was named after Max E. Farquhar] an' you had people like George Mose Chief Probation Officer, he was part of the committee, you had Beryl McBurnie, she was on it and you had Bertie Thompson. They were part and part of the committee.

But the riot was continuing. One of the riots that take place was on January 02nd 1950 and "Invaders" came from the court house and two of the "Invaders" men went up Park street, but "Tokyo" men lay wait, get dis tip of, come down in bathing trunks half naked an' attack these men and these men started to fight their way out, while some of the "Invaders" men who was in de area heard about it and rush to their assistance and start running "Tokyo" men down Charlotte street, across Duke street and back behind the bridge. Some of the bands complain about what would take place because carnival was jus two weeks away. Then "Casablanca" and "Tokyo" had deh plans for "Invaders". "Invaders" came through Park street for the carnival Tuesday and they turn into Charlotte street an' when they turn into Charlotte street, they saw Tokyo in front of them, who block the road an' stop beating, while "Casablanca" was at Observatory street an' "Casablanca" move down behind Invaders, so Invaders get sandwich right in de thing, they call it the great ambush. So "Invaders" had to fight dey way through these two bands and come back home. But while in de yard, they were thinking about what they would do, whether they should go back into town or not and in come the great Boysie Singh. Boysie Sing come in de yard and tell them, 'what happening?, we going to town' and he distributed weapons and march them to town with de hench men an' when "Tokyo" see "Invaders" flag coming, they decide to come to it, but when they see Boysie Singh, they turn back and Invaders run them straight behind de bridge and they had to scatter. From then on they realize that Boysie Singh was part of "Invaders" too, so they eh taking dat chance. Then you had Oscar "Bogart" Pile who was Ellie friend, even though the band was rioting, they wanted peace.

The riot start with "Casablanca", Casablanca, was de the first person to invite "Invaders" to go San Fernando. The riot started with ah girl call "Little One" and Carlton Blackhead from de Blackhead brothers, he was with "Little One", she was a red short girl and sometimes she use to live Jerry street here, an' she was with de both men but "Zigilee" use to beat her up and Carlton Blackhead and "Zigilee" started to fight, but no way at all he could'-a beat Carlton Blackhead so when he geh licks, he went an tell these boys and dem, more than once, because they always fighting, then they decide to gang up and beat Carlton Blackhead and this is how the riot with "Casablanca" start up. During de course at that time yah know de clashes take place and yah had Ossie Campbell who Ellie stab an' the people were complaining and asking about, what happen to these steelband men and them, why dey rioting like dat and Oscar Pile was doing his best to get everything to cool down an' it suddenly came to an end when they agree to cease fire.


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