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Race and Pan Politics. Should we be "colourblind" to pan's invention?

Before reading my post, please click on the following link, and read the attached article:


Race and racism, are topics that are very "taboo" in Trinidad & Tobago society, and, indeed, I am aware that I have offended many, with my intentional insertion of race and class in this forum. Many see this as racism, and, based on their reactions and comments, obviously do not know the definition of "racism", or what it means to be "racist". One particular WST member, proposes that pan is "God's invention", and belongs to "every race", and that "Afro-Trinidadians" have no claim to its invention. Agreeably, any instrument is "universal", however, I am sure that we all agree that a tassa drum is an East Indian contribution to the arts and culture, and that the pianoforte (piano), came out of (White) Europe. Countries like China and Japan, produce some of the greatest classical pianists, however, no one has a problem with the fact that classical music has its roots in the "Western liturgical".

As to the debate on "colourblindness", I posted a You Tube video a few week ago, but you can search the site for Tim Wise, a "White American". I think it will be a mind-opening experience, for those who do not understand the dangers of ignoring and forgetting one's cultural historical contributions to "civilization". The arts are an integral part of what is defined as being civilized, and, in my opinion, the attempt to erase Afro-Trinidadians as the inventors of the steel drum (steel pan or pan), will only serve in reshaping history, by first, omitting the facts, and then altering those facts, replacing them with "falsifications". (Compare to the "history" of "Greek civilization", after Alexander "the Great" barbarian of Macedonia's conquest of Egypt.)

Ironically, there was no significant uproar, when the history of pan's invention, was manipulated, to give credit to one (Black) man, Winston "Spree" Simon. In the blatant distortion of history, "greats" and "mightys", all chimed in harmony - Kitchener, Chalkdust (with his "education"), and others. Apparently, neither of them were privy to Spree's admission that by the time he entered the steelband, pan was already invented. And so, Kitch's road march song, became memorable; a classic, based on falsehoods. Now if these works had been presented as "fiction", then there would be no issue, but, unfortunately, this was not the case. That said, it is important to recognize and remember the process. First comes the omission, then the falsification. Sometimes, when the latter fails, the former is repeated, and we are now back to the "omission" stage. The omission of pertinent facts about Afro-Trinidadian history, in my opinion, further maintains a "Western" colonial system of race and class control, and is a component of institutionalized racism. For, the "mis-education of the Negro", is an age-old tactic; used, not only in the stealing of booty, but in the removal from memory, as to who were the original owners.

I have no problem with anyone, from any background, embracing our invention, and I applaud my international colleagues, for their love of "Trinbago culture". However, if they truly honor our culture, then they would have no problem, being appreciative of how, why, and from whom, the pan came. All jazz musicians know their genre is an African American contribution to the arts, and that does not suggest that ONLY "Black" people are supposed to play it. But it should also be remembered that even though Elvis Presley copied from "Black" performers, he is considered "the King". And, although the "science of medicine" and Imhotep (Aesculapius) existed long before the nation of Greece was born, it was Hippocrates, that was given the title of "Father of Medicine".

In closing, I would like to say that we are better enriched, when we embrace the cultural contributions of all ethnicity. I reject the idea of "colorblindness", for it robs me of the opportunity to appreciate our "cultural differences", and immerse the beauty of life's variety. As someone with friends from various backgrounds, I can say that I am richer for experiencing different cultural norms and rituals. Even as a teenager, I remember enjoying lighting the straw on fire, and heating the goat skin to tighten it for Hosea, at the side of the street in St. James. I used to love Hosea, but I understood and appreciated that this is an East Indian contribution to Trinidad & Tobago society and culture. I hope thoe who are offended, come to terms with the fact, not opinion, that the pan is an Afro-Trinidadian contribution. Embrace the history, as much as you embrace the instrument.

Your In Pan,

Pan'tum - The Ghost Who Talks.
(Honoring the Legacy of George "Sonny" Goddard.)

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Good morning Pan'tum .

Am I to understand that no one person invented the pan as we know it. I mean the instrument that has notes hammered out , that one can play a tune on ---- our pan. Is there no history of who actually hammered out the first pan , to play something on it and another person recognized that and wrote it down somewhere? Understand what I am asking as a rookie of history of the pan. Is there nothing recorded that would point the finger at one person in particular that did this? If not , why not ?

Again , enlighten me.

Emile, there is NO recorded history that points to one person. Even the earliest pioneers, NEVER gave credit to any one person, including themselves. Does that answer your questions? What you need to understand is that the pan existed looooooong before "notes" were "hammered out". Keep in mind, when you speak of "notes", you are referring to the 12 tones in "Western music", and "traditional" music, has "notes", that you will not find in "Western music". (Examples you hear in African, Indian, and Chinese music.) When pan was "invented", the focus was NOT on melodic structure using the 12 tones of "Western music"; rather, the African-influenced poly-rhythms, and the stressing of the "weak" beats (syncopation). It was more about volume (noise level) than "musical" content. The fact remains, that during the "invention" and "experimentation" period, there was no desire for, or focus on, the recording for posterity, the "history" of the steel drum or pan, and changes to this new "instrument", was rapid and competitive. In reality, what we know as a pan, is the invention of, not one person, but of one purpose - to continue in the African traditions of (their) Carnival. Not the Mardi Gras-style Carnival of the bourgeois class, But, as Gordon Rohler put's it, the "Jamette mas" of the African slave class.

In a few years, Ellie Manette and Invaders, would take pan to a musical level based on melodies, not rhythms, as the pan had now evolved to having "notes" (which, by the way were not "tuned" to the 12 semitones, mentioned earlier). Melodies were created based on the available "notes", and, as one persons came out with a pan with, say, two notes, another would soon follow with three notes, and so on. Keep in mind, we are speaking of the early forties here, and the "standardized" pan (as we know it), was still some time to come. Consider the tire; who invented it? I'm sure no one knows, although we know the process of vulcanization made the tire what we know it as today. No one however, says that Goodyear invented the tire. They say that "necessity is the mother of invention", and in most cases, the "inventors" do not have the luxury (and, unfortunately, vision) to record and document their "inventions". I assume the "inventors" of the steel pan, had no idea the pan would be where it is today, for, again, they were not focused on playing music, but on expressing their "Africaness", through rhythm, dance, and ritual.

QUESTIONS: Which one person invented the tassa drum? What "race" do you think he/she came from? Why? Which one person invented Kung Fu? What "race" do you think they came from? Why? Which one person invented jazz? What "race" do you think they came from? Why? Who invented the talking drum? What "race" do you think they came from? Why? Finally, why are you holding pan to a different standard, where "one person" has to be credited, and when undetermined, the "race" of the inventor becomes questionable or irrelevant?

The "enlightenment" you seek, is within you, and all you need is to be genuine in your search. All I can do for you, is provide a reference list, and I will be more than happy to do that. It is ONLY someone who has genuine love for his colleagues, that will share information, and not selfishly keep it. So, for those of you who think that this has anything to do with my ego, you are only projecting your own personas, and your assumptions have nothing to do with reality. To the rest of you, I will keep you informed, and continue providing you with facts, that will help you better articulate on the subject of: THE HISTORY OF THE STEEL BAND AND PAN.


Pan'tum ----Thank you , I appreciate this discussion and it has also enlightend me. My love for the pan and the music it produces drew me to this and you. Again , thank you.

Thank you, Emile. As they say: "Iron sharpen iron.", or in this case "Steel Sharpen Steel". (Meaning, we can all learn from each other, and become "sharper", when we learn from and teach each other.) 

Pan'tum - GHOST

Very well put, my brother. You and I know that "they" are constantly trying to discredit the Black Man of his genius. Because the white man knows that there is no way he can claim the Pyramids like he claimed Jesus, he's is in hot pursuit of ancient aliens as the builders. The same would happen if we go along with this colourblindness stupidness and the Pan, for if we do, within fifty years the Black Man would be totally out of the picture as the inventor of our most ingenious invention. The great Merchant said that if we continue to disrespect our beloved Pan, as we do,we would one day wake up and hear that Pan came from Sweden.

Peace my brother. Keep spreading the truth.

Thanks, Sherwin. You are also right on point with your comment. Sad, offensive even, but TRUE. Thanks again for your courage and support.

I am glad someone else has the guts and temerity to say it PUBLICLY.  Spree Simon did NOT INVENT ANYTHING. He came to Port of Spain and JOINED  DESTINATION TOKYO.  Ellie had already invented the playable instrument  we call a steelpan..WE SHOULD STOP THIS NONSENCE.  WHY ARE WE DISTORTING THE KNOWN FACTS.  IT was ELLIE MANNETTE who in 1939 made the FIRST playable instrument  we now call a steel pan. thEn called the Ping Pong. You ALL know of the CONCAVE sinking of the pan. You held it in the left hand and played with 1 rubberless stick. 8 notes on the Ping Pong.The first PLAYABLE PAN INSTRUMENT. BEFORE THIS it was all rhythm (Tympanic) instruments that couldnt play a tune. MIDNIGHT INVADERS was the FIRST steelband. All the others came later and copied. About  2 or 3 years later he invented the real Tenor by using the 55 gallon drum. By 1949 he created the 32 note Tenor with the F# in the middle that became the standard pan for all bands in T&T and beyond. He invented the Tripple cello (3 diminished chords)  invented the first set of double pans,  put rubber on the sticks and the neck strap. ALL done at 147 Tragarete Rd Woodbrook  Invaders pan yard to this day. Know your real history and keep it safe.  paddy corea

Paddy, THANK YOU!!! On behalf of the ENTIRE PAN FRATERNITY! This is the nonsense that "members" continue to support, and chastise me for speaking the TRUTH. When Ellie left Alexander's Rag Time Band and formed the new young band, they took EVERYONE (as Boogsie would put it) "by storm". I posted Spree's own words admitting he was not the inventor, but many appear to be conveniently myopic. A ridiculous bunch of hypocrites, those "who the cap fits" are. Again, thank you, Sir, for your COURAGE!

Pan'tum - GHOST

Have you all been following SIDD? His last comment should shed some light as to his focus, which, apparently, is to have his ego stroked by this WST forum. So, he admits to being more concerned with quantity, rather than quality.So he puts out garbage, hoping to piss as many people off, and calls that "good thinking and referencing". (I'm sorry, but I hear the sound of a cuckoo clock, if you know what I mean.)  And I quote: ".. Automatic agreement does not create good thinking and referencing. It stops the posts short. I am known to have some of the longest posts running for days."

In response to the positive replies to this post, SIDD decided he would attempt to diverge attention by posting "About class,color, and race- a more complete understanding of a people's music and culture.". He got slammed with comments, mainly questioning his sanity, and sees this as "good publicity". I know in my heart of hearts, that he has issues, including the inability to make sense, and as such, is always easily dismissed, as someone totally disconnected with reality. He is so wrapped up in his ego, that he fails to realize that he impresses only himself, or how stupid his comments are. I mean, EVERYONE knows that there is NOTHING "more" than "complete", and, as such, it is IMPOSSIBLE for ANYONE to provide a "more complete" ANYTHING. This is an example of how easy it is to dismiss his self-indulgent posts, which do nothing but swell an already overly-bloated ego. The ONLY thing he can EVER make "more complete", is the arse he continues to make of himself.


You are 1000% correct Sidd only wants to divert attention from the truth and spread his own propaganda. His psychological deficiencies and agenda to feed his ego has been exposed.


Wonder why few can. They feeding this guys's ego. Know what's worse than a wolf in sheep's clothing? A wolf in shepherds' clothing. SIDDS can't fool me, and can't deal with me on ANY intellectual, historical, or "spiritual" level. Whoever wants to drink his kool-aid, can go right ahead; me, I'm focused on the real issues. 


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