Out of pain this culture was born - The Steelband of Trinidad & Tobago
by Gerry Kangalee
Global - Out of the pain of slavery, indentureship, colonialism and imperialism and through continuing resistance to the causes of that pain, the working class in a tiny polyglot island in the Southern Caribbean created and shaped a culture central to which is this transcendent phenomenon called Pan - at once an instrument and a movement. The story of Pan, therefore, is a story of a movement of people up from forced labour, through colonialism and the false dawn of petty bourgeois nationalism toward genuine emancipation/human liberation....
...It must be borne in mind that the French revolution broke out in 1789 and the Haitian revolution in 1791. The two are intimately connected. African slaves in the Caribbean were not averse to liberté and egalité. The titanic struggle of the Haitian people for freedom triggered fresh waves of immigration into Trinidad, agitated the slaves throughout the region and led to anarchy and chaos in the streets of Port of Spain as Republicans opposed Monarchists and spies and saboteurs infested the landscape. After the British conquest these were joined by Venezuelan revolutionaries, in particular Francisco de Miranda, who, with a wink and a nod from the British, used Trinidad as a base from which he attempted to overthrow Spanish colonialism in its Venezuelan version. Trinidad became a frontier society with contempt for authority and a tendency towards braggadocio and picaresque behaviour, characteristics which, some insist, it has since retained...
Outstanding article, Mr Kangalee, I am very very impressed. You obviously did your homework.
I was educated at one of the better high schools in T&T, and this education was lacking.
Two things of interest.
I knew some of those people who called themselves "Merikins" when I lived in New Grant as a child. They settled in companies, and those in the New Grant area lived in a place called "Sixth Company".
Two things I remember, they made great "Mountain Dew"(I heard this, I was too young to sample), and they were some of the toughest, most feared stick fighting men!
And (2) it so happens that "Tollgate" in San Fernando is where my father took me to see the J'ouvert, where I saw my first steelband that was broken up and chased by police.
Glenroy, The Merikins were also settled in an area which they deemed a Hard Bargain. They protested to the colonial authorities and were given a New Grant. hence the names of those two villages.
They still make good mountain dew (bois bache).
I knew about these areas including another area called Fifth Company when I was a child, but there was no mention of them and their historical significance in any of the schools I attended in Trinidad.
I hope that today the schools in T&T and in the Caribbean have gotten past colonialism, and are teaching the history of the region.
There is a lot of history there.
In adding a comment relating to the above,,Out of Pain this culture was born,,,,,note well that the revolution of Slaves in Guyana took place in Guyana by CUFFY and that was in 1763 there is a standing monument to date in Guyana,, Georgetown this coincides or is in sync with the suffering of the people of T&T,,,specifically speaking the Niggers,,this was and do have a relevance to freedom,,,, EMANCIPATION AND FREEDOM FOR THE PAN SO FAR IN T&T A COUNTRY THAT I DO RESPECT FOR THEIR NATIONAL HERITAGE AND GOD GIVEN INSTRUMENT THE STEELPAN,,,,,Emancipation and Freedom is AFAR OFF,in one looking at the attitude,,response,interest and full support towards the Steelpan in T&T,,,,by the relevant Authorities in T&T ,,,it,s a total and willful disinterest steered towards thePAN,one does not have to be having a looking glass,,,,a Crystal Ball,,,a magnifying glass or a Microscope to see and realise the present day situation,,it,s vividly depicted on CNT,,relevant to Ads in par with the Steelpan ,,,,with Respect ,,,,THE TRUTH
Well summarised, I believe ... thank you, Gerry K.
Somehow I keep reading this: out of our culture, this pain was born. Maybe it's dyslexia.
Excellent article Mr Kangalee. Members of the fraternity should appreciate the effort, time, resources etc, in researching and documenting your findings. It is therefore dishearten that some members believe, that if you were not born in a particular era and therefore was not part part of the struggle, then efforts such as yours are unworthy, disingenuous or underscored by some ulterior motive. Thank you very much for what you have published.