The acceptance of steelbands grew when middle-class, lighter-skinned, and white young people started getting involved, often over the strenuous objections of their parents, teachers, friends, and relatives. Curtis Pierre became involved in 1949:
“I took the instrument home and I got enough flak from my parents, ‘What the hell you doing with this thing here? I don’t care who plays that. This is the underprivileged.’” (1983:1). “The grouping in my band would be considered a little above middle class, which was anathema, that kind of thing was just not done by people in that class.” (ibid. :2).
Pierre attributes to his group the change in the degree to which steelbandsmen and women are accepted in society:
“We have been told it’s because of our group…that… ‘You fellas made a breakthrough. You guys don’t realize what you did. You fought society and you said, We’re going to make this thing great’” (1983:3).
Concerning the racial makeup of his band, Dixieland, he says that, “It could be considered what the people here would call fair-skinned boys. And there was not a predominance of Negroes in it at all, mainly because that was what middle class meant in those days. And that’s true, middle class had a certain color. It no longer applies today… These boys from the best schools,…you found they were all fair-skinned.” (ibid. :6).
The steelband tradition is rooted in the struggles for self expression of the, largely African, urban underclass in the post emancipation social settlement in Trinidad. The pathway for other social demographics to claim the steel pan instrument as their own was not identical. However the steelpan’s emergence as arguably the most enduring symbol of our Independence mandate, and its designation as the ‘national instrument’ is a recognition that there is room under the steelpan’s big tent for believers irrespective of their pathway to the discovery of their love for pan. Curtis Pierre’s contribution, in retrospect, was very significant, in so far as it anticipated the steelpan as a national symbol, at a time when the governing elite and class discriminations were unwilling so to do, and dare I say, who still continue to demonstrate by their actions to this day, that the self-same stubborn unwillingness lingers on, albeit to a significantly lesser degree. Well played Curtis! Salute to your labour of love and your contribution to the steelband story.
Our Deepest condolences to the family and friends of Pan pioneer Curtis Pierre....
Condolences to family, friends and Pan Fraternity: His contribution, music, colour and class, adds considerably to defining our musical cultural heritage.
Condolences to the family on the passing of pan pioneer, Mr. Curtis Pierre. I met him at his home in 2007; he had a great sense of humour. I called him a few months ago to clarify some history about Dixieland regarding panorama 1968, he said the 83 year old brain still ticking lol.
Condolences to the Pierre family and the Belmont community by extension. He and his group did make that breakthrough.
My Condolences to the Pierre family on the passing of Curtis. He really did mean a lot to the Pan fraternity and all of it's struggles. Even though I played with Shell Invaders, I used to go up to Belmont many nights to listen to Dixieland which was a joy in itself. Thanks for your contribution to the Pan Movement...... R.I.P. my Brother...............
... very sincere, TENIA!!!
Now, this is a GREAT COMPLIMENT ...
Condolences go out to the Pierre family. The memories of the sounds of Dixieland emanating from Palmiste Street in Belmont remain indelibly ingrained. May his soul Rest In Peace.
Curtis Pierre, was one of my true friends. He had a great sense of humor and deep knowledge of the Pan. I treasure the times we spent together under his tutorledge playing a variety of tunes on pan with other adults who did not have the time to devote to playing in a steel band. He will be sorely missed. My sincere condolences to his family. May he rest in peace.
We have lost a great Pan Pioneer of the years,Condolences to the Pierre family and friends. R.I.P.