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Out of pain this culture was born - The Steelband of Trinidad & Tobago

Out of pain this culture was born - The Steelband of Trinidad & Tobago
by Gerry Kangalee


Global - Out of the pain of slavery, indentureship, colonialism and imperialism and through continuing resistance to the causes of that pain, the working class in a tiny polyglot island in the Southern Caribbean created and shaped a culture central to which is this transcendent phenomenon called Pan - at once an instrument and a movement. The story of Pan, therefore, is a story of a movement of people up from forced labour, through colonialism and the false dawn of petty bourgeois nationalism toward genuine emancipation/human liberation....

...It must be borne in mind that the French revolution broke out in 1789 and the Haitian revolution in 1791. The two are intimately connected. African slaves in the Caribbean were not averse to liberté and egalité. The titanic struggle of the Haitian people for freedom triggered fresh waves of immigration into Trinidad, agitated the slaves throughout the region and led to anarchy and chaos in the streets of Port of Spain as Republicans opposed Monarchists and spies and saboteurs infested the landscape. After the British conquest these were joined by Venezuelan revolutionaries, in particular Francisco de Miranda, who, with a wink and a nod from the British, used Trinidad as a base from which he attempted to overthrow Spanish colonialism in its Venezuelan version. Trinidad became a frontier society with contempt for authority and a tendency towards braggadocio and picaresque behaviour, characteristics which, some insist, it has since retained...

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Research projects are all good, and they bring out good overviews and data that could/should be added to the existing pool of information. However a great deal of history and reality in Trinbago, especially its cultural development is embedded in oral tradition and as such slivers of it resides in many of us who are survivors of the particular era, and those of us who have become carriers of the oral tradition. This does not deny the usefullness of mr Kangalee's patient and thorough research. There are still many of us who have first hand experience from growing in the ghetto, who know first hand about these evolutions, and who are denied the validity of their simple dissertations. And here we find another manifestation of the class struggle. The story of the emergence and evolution of pancan be heard through the voices emanating from : Behind the Bridge, Laventille, Woodbrook, St James/Cocorite, Belmont, Hell Yard etc.,etc.The archives do not have as much as the memory of the Oralists. Let's also hear from them.  Blessed Love. Ras Rico I SELASSIE I

Some true words, brother Rico.

I agree that the oral tradition is bulging with rich stories, which, if only someone would take the time to document and publish them, would constitute the greatest cultural resource we could have abouit pan, kaiso, etc  But those who were actually there through it all (and there are still many around) must be convinced that's a worthwhile project.  They themselves have seldom put their own stories to paper.


2 cents,   Peter


Rico, Peter,

Fortunately, you guys don't have to wait for that someone to document stories from the culture.

 WST(and the Internet) provides a forum where everyone who has a story can be heard.

Don't wait, if you guys have stories to tell then tell them! Once it's in cyberspace, its there forever!

Quite true, Rico. Profound, actually!!! The pan door is now too open too many pimps and exploiters and

Johnny-come-latelies when in fact the oral tradition can only be authentically argued and presented by witnesses to the evolution.

If you went to the first Panorama in 1963 you could have arrived 10 minutes before the start of the show and PICK your front area seat. Where were all the panatics and historians then?


So many of today's researchers and proponents of the pan  were too timid to stand up and shout when the pan needed loud voices ... so I now read their articles with reservations. Exploiters today want to write papers and profess love for the pan; yet they have to research the facts which were right before their eyes growing up as children in T&T. How genuine is that?

In 1963 I was eleven years old

Ras Rico I hear yuh. I am having a problem with the line "THERE IS A LOT OF NANCY STORIES ABOUT SOMBODY TAMBOO BAMBOO BROKE AND HE SNATCH UP A DUSTBIN COVER" Well known pan elder OSCAR PILE has lectured in universities in T&T and the USA and told that very story of the "Banboo that broke" are we to say now that he told us a NANCY STORY?

Cecil, try and get a copy of George Goddard's book, the title could be "40 years in Steelband", or something to that effect.   The person (Totie Wilson) who is alledged to have taken up and beat the pan, confessed that ,  they were beating pans before this incident.  

We are still unravelling the story.

Robert, thanks for your comment. People may not know, but your dad and my dad were very close friends. I remember going with my dad to your dad's home in Lanse Mitan, just before you get into Pt. Cumana. I still remember your dad's face and smile clearly. He really had a peaceful spirit. (May both our dad's Spirits continue to Rise In Peace!) Anyway, I am glad you posted this advice to Cecil, because their are too many WST talkers, who know NOTHING about what they are talking about. And they fell that EVERYONE is as unreliable as they are. smh.


Congratulations Mr. Kangalee.  This should be required reading for everyone involved in pan.

i love that description...true emancipation...from the slavery of men and also from the slavery imposed onto our souls through the misdemenours of others.......imposing their guilt onto others....is a life threatening invisible shackle ....As Bob sung......



Well done, Gerry.  Too often we deny, neglect and discredit the significant role of African descendants in the foundation of pan.
Wow. Fascinating information. Imagine, a tribe of ex-slaves brought to Trinidad from America to be called "Merikins" after fighting in the Revolutionary War.


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