When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

by Von Martin from his book “Voices of Pan Pioneers of Trinidad & Tobago”

published with the expressed permission of the author

My first knowledge of the man named “Jules” was when I heard my godmother, Norma Daniel, speak about him with reverence, as she considered whether to let her daughter Phyllis go for a ‘Las Lap’ jump on Carnival Tuesday night. “Las Lap” means the last jump with a band before Carnival ends on the Tuesday night. The period I speak of is the late 40s through to the early 50s, when some parents were very comfortable to let their children play ‘Mas’ with the band, simply because Neville Jules had a reputation for being firm with his charges and the band never got into fights. I was a little boy living on Edward Street, Port of Spain, at the time. Neville Jules was captain of the famous ‘Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra.’ He was a man who ruled with an iron fist. Jules instilled in those around him virtues like punctuality, respect for elders, grace in defeat and humility in victory.

  It perhaps can be understood where Neville got his trait from merely looking at his youth. He was well schooled as he attended Gloster Lodge Moravian School, Eastern Boys School and Rosary Boys R.C. School. He was brought up with a sense of discipline.

I visited Neville recently, in Brooklyn, New York, to chat about his experiences in the Pan world. He said that his reputation of having an iron fist went way back. In earlier days, the majority of parents did not want their children associating with the band or the pan man. He said the parents were justified somewhat in thinking that way because in those days there were fights and riots among the steel bands. “Our band, ‘All Stars,’ was not into the rioting or fighting, so after a while, a number of people and their children joined the band. They felt safe because we had a lot of policemen in the band. Ours was the first band to go by police headquarters on St Vincent Street to serenade them on Carnival Tuesday night. Before that, other bands did not think of entertaining the police men and women, who were usually on duty and confined to Police Headquarters in downtown Port of Spain and so they had very little opportunity to see the Carnival. And so All Stars serenaded them. Soon after, the other bands in the neighborhood followed suit.”

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