When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

I left Trinidad in October 1966 I was seventeen. At the time, it was hoped I would continue and finish my education in England and return at some point to continue where I left off. The best laid plans of mice and men…. Fate had other plans.

After college education, I joined the treadmill like several others 9.00 – 17:00, got married and life went on.

I was always proud of my home though, life in London included pubs with small steelbands Notting Hill carnival etc.

For several years, my wife heard stories of T ‘n T. Steelband, calypso and carnival. She listened to my records of both old and new. When the internet came along she got to hear live Trinidad radio when bandwidth allowed.  

Although my Mother returned to Trinidad to work for the government to draft the new constitution of the republic. I made several promises to visit but they never transpired. My father spent most winters in Trinidad in the meantime. Eventually they both retuned to England and retired. After they both passed away I promised my wife we would visit what I still called home.

I eventually returned home in 2004, 39 years away, for a short holiday in Tobago which included a day trip to Port of Spain. With me was my wife of 32 years needless to say after that one day trip she was hooked.

We returned for carnival the following year 2005 “ Ah come back home” as Defosto’s song goes.

We made the pilgrimage every year after that, me gradually getting back in the swing of things. But things had changed too much, even since then.

Calypsos are no longer the de rigour, Soca and big trucks are the norm. Steelband has deteriorated in to rhythm with not much melody. Far too much reggae is played on local radio. I don’t hear Jamaicans playing Soca or Calypso by the way.

Mas has also taken a retrograde step to just bra and panties with Red Green Blue Yellow or Purple feathers. Not that in the old days bra and panties were the order of the day. BAILEY, SALDENAH, LEE   HEUNG et al saw to that.

Nevertheless we persevered until 2 years ago, when we sat on Arapita Ave. waiting for bands to come along. In the hot sun waiting is never a good idea. I wondered when it all went wrong? Was it just the love of money or lack of talent and ideas that brought about the downfall of Carnival and Steelband.

Look I’m not naïve, I know we live in times when instant gratification and shallowness rules supreme. That is the result of progress. I suppose. My mantra when I worked in International Banking was Time is money.  Modern life is instant. I always find myself cussing when my computer does not respond is .005 of a nanosecond. Patience flew out the door long ago.

We know the music or what passes for it, has changed beyond all recognition. That in itself is not a reason for my despair. The crime and general state of the nation has contributed, drugs, easy money  and a general lack of self-respect by some have had their influence. But mainly I think it is the disregard for the people of the twin Island state by those who should be there to protect that hurts the most.

The idea that just because you can, you withhold appearance and prize money from 2016 panorama to steelbands’ men. Perhaps the banks should be made to publish the account statements of all to ensure transparency. Ha! That would put the cat amongst the pigeons. You’ll be selling off a lot more Q7s than roti to put the money back.

Maybe someone will come along (someone foreign) to make Trinidadians realise what they do have and what it’s worth. But I very much doubt it.

This year I’ll wait until the bacchanal done before holidaying in Tobago. Perhaps one day I’ll visit for carnival but I won’t hold my breath.

I hope those of you who are taking part, really enjoy yourselves.

Randi SC

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WONDERFUL STORY!!! Touched my soul!!!!

I feel your pain Randi, it is sad when you realize that you no longer has the desire to return HOME. There are people that cannot accept Carnival without the steelband. 

Cecil: This is exactly why I spend so much time separating EXPATS from LOCALS. And this is exactly why I think that EXPATS should form EXPATRIA organizations to GLOBALIZE STEELBAND MUSIC. All those practical ideas sitting on the outside and not organizing to contribute to the GLOBAL SOPHISTICATION of STEELBAND MUSIC.

What do you think WST is?

  Randy,  I agree with everything you mentioned except your opinion of the steelband  (steelband has deteriorated  in to a rhythm with no melody) the steelband has not deteriorated  musically,  on the road  it has been reduced to a trailer truck  and few bands on the road  as compare to the glory days when the entire band would take to the streets, and yes there is way too much reggae music on the radio and these idiots who continue to play it don't realize the damage they are doing to our culture. In trying to ease the congestion of bands in P.O.S. and Arapita Avenue  they created the soca dome which is not working,  is a bad idea, and I think we should remain original and create our own names  and leave Brazil with their dome.

But please don't give up  there is always hope Carnival remains the greatest show on earth.

Fitzy,

Don't get me wrong I will return for the odd carnival but not religiously every year.

The last 2 years we came down for panorama semis and then went off to Tobago. Also took in their panorama. But with only two weeks available, rest and relaxation comes first.

Trini panorama semi finals has the best vibe of all and you get to listen to every bands' selection played at a more sedate speed on the drag. The transformation to competition speed sometimes leaves me dumbfounded. Most panorama judges appear to be musically challenged so for them to understand the nuances counter-melodies and extended chords at that speed must be difficult. But hey I'm old fashioned I like to chip.

I've come to realise that with the passing of years, things change. But if you take this to the inevitable extreme, at some point the youth of today may look back at these days with fondness and nostalgia thinking .. remember when we could jump up for 2 days without sitting down? Or turning up their hearing aids to hear synthesize music and rapidly turning them back down again. Saying Da is jess noise! Stewpssss

Come back Machel all's forgiven.

Progress! 

Love Trinbago.

Thank you, Randi, for sharing your feelings of despair. Some of us in our senior years who live here are as sad as you are to find that the Carnival we knew has gone. We live in the pretense, we cook the pelau, throw back a shot of ... but we en hearing de tunes!

Ayesha, what's troubling is most everyone is seeing things falling apart but no one is willing to anything about it.

Even, Cecil, if they wish to, they cant. Research shows that radical change comes about when the people select a radical leader or someone radical emerges with a profound vision which belongs both to  the country and its citizens. Think of what Pan would have been in either Cuba or Singapore if it had originated there!!

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