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While looking up info on pan layouts and purchase, I came across Definite Pitch.  I was quite interested in Ansel Joseph's Pan Notes, which amount to his account of the evolution of pan and steelband.  I found them quite compelling and logical.  I could be completely wrong in adopting any of the knowledge he presents, but I somehow find his perspective credible.  Thoughts?  If nothing else, I hope you enjoy what he's written.  I would have expected a history lesson like this in a classroom, not on an e-commerce website.  I'm impressed.


Definite Pitch Steelpan's Pan Notes

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Corey, Thank you for thaking the time to read, understand and get the true sense of the meaning of the piece. It is truly my life experience. I got all this from living in the shadows of the pioneers. I got my adult training and experience from Ellie Mannette in the 60's when I became a member of the Shell Invaders, Woodbrook, formerly Oval Boys, a year after the double seconds and double guitars were introduced for the first time by a steel band made mobile by stands with wheels. During this time I was exposed to the modern tuning techniques of Ellie Mannette who is today responsible for me being able to make a living as a pan tuner. Thanks again. I never expected to see this posted on When Steel Talks! Nice that someone with enough insight chose to do so. A. Joseph

The honour is mine.  I've heard the stories, but not quite told the way you detailed.  It aroused my attention and interest.


It seems to me that if you have time to recount some more of your stories and memories, you could likely fill in some gaps in the history of pan.  It would be a treasure!  Even if your knowledge is the same as another person's, I was compelled by your expressions as I read your Pan Notes.


The time period in pan history that I am talking about is the beginning of the modernization of the pans as regards to the innovation of doubles and triple pans. That is a period that nobody seems to talk about or care about. Yet today, all steel bands have adapted those instruments for their bands. This time period seems to be a "missing link" in the evolution of steel pan. People talk about development prior to this and after this but not really during this time.

This was a time when steel bands had their own tuners. You could walk into a yard and always see someone tuning a pan. Many tuners that became successful did come to Invaders yard. They were never rejected. They picked up hints or methods from the panyard tuners. Invaders was a band that had a leader that liked to talk! He alwasy boasted of his techniques and methods and was always willing to share with others his information, unlike many other tuners of that same time period who would stop tuning if somebody approached them.

Invaders was a band that players could choose any pan to play at any time and not be restricted to a particular pan as was the case with some of the other steel bands. As a result, virtuoso playing was encouraged through the likes of Emmanuel "Cobeau Jack" Riley. Today, Robert Greenidge, Boogsie Sharpe, Ken "Professo" Philmorer, and Duvone Stewart to name a few are direct descendants of that creative, encouraging environment.

Another person we hardly hear about that had a huge influence on the double second as a lead instrument for arranging at the time is Errol "Augmented" Zephryn. We witnessed the first set of diminished triple cellos ever to be made and that is now standard today in most bands. (Called Cello because it was cut with a long skirt which would eventually be cut and become triple guitars.) Many people forget aabout where the first set of double stands came from. The rolling double stand was the forerunner to the later larger racks which accommodated entire bands.

These are but a few of the pieces of history that came from the University of Tragarete Road that are not widely known or recognized. A few more items: they were the first to burn the drum, to groove, to sink concave, to have a chromatic tenor, to use the whole drum in the making process before cutting it, to tune their pans in concert pitch. I could go on! Most steel bands in Trinidad, without sitting at a table and have a discussion about standardization, adopted most of Invaders style of pans. Standardization came from use, not a committee. The question was always, "Can you play Invader's styling?" They were called the harps.

Invaders set the standard for West Bands. Eveyone aspired to be like the West. I am and always will be hidden in the shadow of those who came before me but I can share what I know from my own experience in that shadow. 

A. Joseph

I am most comfortable on a double second, so it was nice to dig a little deeper into the history... I feel like a kid in a candy store!  Thank you!

I agree with you, Corey.

Even though names are mentioned, the author tended to focus less on personalities and more on key events that occurred in the development of the instruments.

Sometimes we on this forum tend to get too bogged down in personalities, focusing too much on the who did what, and when, instead of what was actually done, and how and why it was done.

This is not to discount the importance of the historical record, it's just that our focus is sometimes misplaced when we place too much emphasis on individual accomplishments.

Very informative piece of scholarship.   However, in the "Evolution", the author stated that the African slaves were imported to replace the Indians, and I believe that it got it incorrectly.   The African slaves came first, and after 1838 - Emancipation and the subsequent Apprenticeship period of 4 years - Indians and Chinese workers were brought in to replace the African slaves who were moving away from the plantation.

You're wrong, Robert.

Amerindians - Carib and  Arawak (Taino) Indians were the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, including Trinidad, and THEY were replaced by African slaves, after they were virtually  exterminated by the Spaniards, though many of us, yours truly included, still carry some their (Carib) blood.

Robert is referring to the arrival of people from India preceding the arrival of Africans being inaccurate.



This is the same thing that our prof. told us in our studies on Religion last Monday.   The nice people slaughtered, he did not use that awful word, that is my choice, the people that were there first, then they brought over the African slaves to replace them.  Some of them died from whatever diseases the Europeans carried.  The rest would have been disposed of easily.

I went back and read the entire evolution and you're both correct Robert and Corey , and the writer is wrong.

He is the one who must have confused the indigenous inhabitants with the East Indians who came later as indentured laborers after slavery was abolished.

My bad.

That's what happens when you don't take the time to get all the information before spouting off .

I stand corrected, and I hope the author does the same. 

Hello Glenroy, Corey and Robert,

Thank you for the corrections. The website will reflect this information. You are exactly right. Websites do not always get posted exactly as intended when one does not handle ones own website. Thanks for the corrections!

A. Joseph


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