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Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

courtesy of Everybody's Magazine - by Ivor B. Ford

While the Steel Pan may have its roots in Trinidad, it is Antigua and Barbuda that has produced the oldest continuously operating steelband in the world Hell's Gate Steel Orchestra.

Begun as Housecoat Band in 1945, the instruments then used were automotive clutch housings, hollowed piped, biscuit cans, pieces of solid iron and the like. They were obtained from Townsend's Blacksmith shop on Mariners Lane (now the only existing blacksmith's shop on the island). Materials of this nature were also acquired from the Main Solid Waste Dump which was called Dung Heap by the people of the Point Area.

Hell's Gate Steel OrchestraThe Steel Pan came to Antigua by Antiguans who traveled to and from Trinidad in the early years. In 1946, the transformation of the Oil Drum to the Steelpan was done locally. Experiments were carried out at Townsend's Blacksmith Shop and the burning of the pans was done at the Dung Heap, where fire was always available.

The name Hell's Gate was given to the band by the people of the Point Area, and chosen mainly because of the local noise and variety of rhythmic beats produced by the then instruments used. The official naming of the band was adopted in 1947.

The first captain of the band was Eugene Weston and the first manager was Ivan Edwards. Mr. Eustace (Manning) Henry, a pioneer member, former captain, builder and tuner, along with his son, Veron Henry, the vice-captain, are presently the builders and tuners of Hell's Gate Steel Orchestra.

During the late 1940s, the steelband movement was strongly opposed by most of the aristocrats on the island of Antigua; they even went as far as to send petitions to then Gov. Lord Baldwin to outlaw steelbands in the colony. Were it not for Gov. Baldwin, who himself was a steelband enthusiast and a friend of the Grass Root People, together with the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, then headed by the Hon. Vere Cornwall Bird Sr., the steelband may have long been extinct in Antigua.
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That my friends was really really good
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Mr. Kim Johnson writes -

"Hell's Gate is far from being the oldest steelband in the world. Trinidad All Stars, which came out of Hell Yard and USS Bad Behaviour in 1940 is older. So too is Invaders, which was formed in 1940 also. Ditto Tokyo. Those bands were formed immediately after Alexander's Ragtime Band launched the steelband movement in 1939."
let the truth be told that hell gates is not the world
oldest active steel band and i can prove it . so who ever is
making that false statement need to correct it and stop
playing with my inteligent
They can't fool you momo, I know you know your stuff.

I think when they said, "oldest continuously operating steelband in the world Hell's Gate Steel Orchestra" that they mean the oldest band still functioning, but even then I think they are wrong. I have no idea what band is the oldest functioning band, but my feeble guess would be...I dunno, Invaders?

oopps...just realized Pan Times already mentioned it...
Please provide the proof or if it's too much trouble just let us know who the world's oldest active steelband is so we can do our own research thank you.
Interestingly,some of the first steel-band recordings I remember hearing on the radio in Trinidad were from Brute Force of Antigua, not Hell's Gate, This would have been in the early 1950's.
Casablanca released an album in 1948 (recorded 47), TASPO released several songs in 1951. The earliest recording by far, however, was before the "steel music" could play melodies -- 1940 Decca Records, recently released in the collection West Indian Rhythm

Taspo  was not an official steel band then, TASPO  was  compliation or picked group of men from differnt bands created as a tour Steel  Band also Casablanca release was not a full steel ochrestra it comprised of more percussive instrumetns,unlike The Brute Force from Antigua which recorded with a full steeel band.


The 1948 Casablanca recording is a full steel orchestra recording, with songs like "Brown Skin Girl" on it. Their 1952 recording even has songs specially composed for steel orchestra (by Art de Couteau). And as for TASPO, how can you say the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra was not an official steelband? What was it? Are you claiming that the Soca Warriors, or any other World Cup team, are not football teams because their members are brought together for the competition?

Hell's Gate could not be the oldest steelband if it began in 1945 because Invaders, Trinidad All Stars and Tokyo were formed in 1940, although under different names.
Mr. Johnson just out of curiosity - the article says Hell's Gate officially adopted the name "Hell's Gate" in 1947. When did Trinidad All Stars and Tokyo officially adopt their names?


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