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Hello everyone,

This question is more for the seasoned veterans out there, but of course any suggestions would be appreciated. Last weekend I was at Miami of Ohio University's steelband festival with Michael Spiro and some of Indiana pan folks, and after Spiro's clinic on Afro-Cuban instruments Liam Teague asked him a question that I had never considered... The rhythm used as the typical count-off for Panorama tunes sounds like a Cuban rhythm, isn't normally heard anywhere else in steelband music besides the starting count, and isn't used in any other Trinidadian music (that any of us could think of).

First of all, if I am mistaken with anything above please let me know. Otherwise, do any of you have any thoughts on where this call-in came from, how long it's been used in steelband, etc? I guess I've just taken that rhythm for granted, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone speak of it's history. I understand that Latin music of all sorts have influenced and become part of the steelband musical palette, and have done so since pan's early history. It seems unexpected for that specific rhythm to be singled out and put in such a prominent place in steelband music, isolated from any sort of "Latin" section but instead counting off the band to start the piece.

I've asked a few people about this, and they have only theorized that the rhythm may have come from the 50's, when mambos were especially popular with steelbands. I would love to know the history of this rhythm... How far back has it been used (pre-Panorama?) Did the count-off actually come from mambos, rumbas or some other type of Cuban music; did it come from Venezuelan or other Latin American source; or whether it came from a Trinidadian source? How, when, where and by whom did this phrase become introduced and adopted into steelband music?

If any of you have thoughts on this, I would love to hear them! If there is anyone who can tell me if bands used that rhythm in the first Panorama, that would at least be a start. We've all heard this rhythm used to count off tunes, and I imagine it is understood by pannists across the globe. Until Liam raised this question, I had never considered where the pattern comes from and why and how it has become such an important part of steelband's musical identity. I'm not sure if anyone can give me an exact answer, but I would love to hear any suggestions people may have. Thanks everyone!

Life for Pan,

Eric Mannweiler

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I'm pretty sure the first to use it for counting off was Boogsie Sharpe.

You can also hear it sometimes when iron men start to break away and improvise.

But in general 'latin' rhythms are part of the same vocabulary as calypso. The 3-3-2 subdivision which is so elemental to both. The two-bar feel of on the beat in bar 1, off the beat in bar 2 (which is very common in current soca rhythm). All that stuff gets shared.

Do you know what year Boogsie might have introduced it?
No clue, I'd have to go back and listen to my old Phase II. Of course he may not have been the one to introduce it - but likely he popularized it, as Bradley popularized the trend of arrangers going in front of the band

That style of counting came from Boogsie Sharpe.   The traditional count was done with an iron and the count was a straight four count.   Anyone who have been around for some time can chime in.   

Borneo (Desperadoes !967 - 1970) relocated to US.

Hilary Borneo


I think it came from Steel the "motor car hub "that is used in steelbands today

in the forties and fifties steel was a major part of steelband rythm

there was no drum setas or other rythms except steel and a biscuit drum

that particular 4/4 ths  timing was exactly how  the steel player used to play

pang pang, patang pang ,  pang pang Pang Pang.  with some alternations

its latin allright ,and i think it came from  listening to spanish stations in the

old days from venesuela when all the radios in trinidad was shortwave  

Triniidadians  use to liaten to a lot of spanish music and most of it was 4/4 ths

timing   if you linten to some latin beats today especially  some "Sound Fonts "

you may still hear that beat.

That was Ray Holman all the way ask Boogsie
I think you are correct, people should know that in the late sixties Boogsie was a player in Starlift and Ray was the arranger.

i remember in the old days the bandleaders/arrangers  set the tempo from the iron section. The iron section were usually in three parts.

You had the heavy bass iron setting the foundation with a sound something like "tokka tokka" the  higher pitch answer that sounded like "likki likki".

This gave that "tokka-likki tokka-likki"sound.

Then you had the "cutter" who kind of freelanced within the beat. The leader usually would have a "cutting" iron, and this is what he would use to start the count.(Sometines it was done on the side of a pan)

.That beat on the iron to start the band is a modified version of "cutting".

I never gave it much thought as to where it came from, but I recall seeing and hearing that beat from way before the prominence of Boogsie or Ray.


 Glenroy I know you are an old veteran in this thing and so do I; but that count off started with Ray Holman while he was in Starlift   for Panorama when you hear that count off you know it was Starlift  also the Guitar Pan Strum used by quite a lot of today steelbands was originated by Ray.


The count used by most steelbands in those days was the  1, 2 , 1234,   Desperadoes, Renegades, All Stars and a few other bands still uses that count.


Correct again, I played Guitar pan in Starlift and I remember the nite that Ray showed us how he wanted us to strum. 
The first person who I can recall counting in a Steelband to start playing using the Iron was Steve Achiba  with Hatters in the South Final of 1968. Remember also that Bobby Mohammed used to be beating the Rhythm on his bell before starting Cavaliers. It was common to start the band by the Arranger saying " We going in, 1,2, 1234". But as the bands became bigger hitting the side of a Pan or the Iron to start was more appropriate. As regards the number of times the Arranger hits the Iron or Pan  to start the Band I believe is his choice, it may be what he is comfortable with and what was practiced. Dr. Jit would listen to a recording before starting Renegades which I suppose gave him the Tempo he wanted and the number of hits they used when starting. I have no idea where this method of 'Counting in"  the Band came from .
Yes that count off started in the west bands, most likely with ray or puckerin. And also the strum used on the middle pans (cel + gtr ) pram pram...pram. as against the purum purum which is standard and you clearly hear in boogsie's pan army. But i just want to add abit more on the idea of our music being influenced by "latin" which is like the mistake people make calling brazillian music latin, the key word here is "afro" cuban. African music is what has made latin what it is today, the mambo,rhumba, cha cha cha, merenge, salsa, and all the others, its like a case of someone taking all your oranges and selling it back to you as juice and having you believe you're getting an original product of theirs, so if and when these elements are used, we're just being ourselves and doing what comes naturally. african music has influenced many of the major musical genre's or styles that there are now.....will even add dance as well. And please, this is not about a race thing, for some who may want to jump on that, this is about musical influences as you can hear from europe in the work done by many of our arrangers especially in the ending of their panorama pieces. but please, my comment is not to say if its wrong or right about being influenced by any musical style but only to inform, especially the young musicians who may not know.


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