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Rudolph Charles - Thirty-Five Years Later, Steelband Leader Still Exceptional - Revisited

Rudolph Charles - Thirty-Five Years Later, Steelband Leader Still Exceptional

Originally published - February 2010

Global -  - March 29th, to be exact - will be thirty-one years since the death of one of the most influential figures in the history of the steelpan movement. Rudolph Valentino Charles was one of the finest leaders, innovators and visionaries ever produced by the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. His ideas, concepts and products still reverberate in steelpan music communities globally today, both in terms of his inventions and the people he influences and motivates. Moreover, his thought process and vision went way past the steelpan art form.

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This is a great article, thanks for educating everyone about this legend!
They don't make them like this no more. An awesome leader.

We forgot to mention that in addition to Rudolph's several inventions and innovations including the nine-bass, quadraphonic pan, triple tenor, rocket bass, and the chroming of steelpan instruments as well as the use of aluminum canopies, he also invented the 12 - bass, ying yang pan and triple tenor.
its time the goverment of T&T and pan trinbago honor those great men who have done so much for culture

Mr Momo,we got bare face liar and bare face thief,,,well i gon be bareface truth,,,to the point,,it,s time for the Honourable Kamla Persaud of T&t to Honour those already gone,,,,,dead,,,don,t wait for the rest to be deceased,,let not the impression be laid as though there is partism,  segregation,,it,s a fact that persons of high standing in office   hands are filled,, But the Steelpan ,the National Treasure of T&T needs to be addressed impromptu,,,and we do know that the sensorship is there ,the message is and has already been heard and read,,,ACHA.it,s hindi,,,meaning Good.,,,give jack he jacket,,the truth,,,with  no malice i do make my comments,,, respect  for all.God Bless

The lenght of time over which memory extends, of my childhood growing up with this ICON Rudolph Valentino Charles, not only retain mental impressions of someone i looked up too, but the spirit, activity,transition,and time of great revival of the art form that are close to me. Rudolph Charles was the renaissance man; he was a man knowledgeable or proficient in more than one feild. He had vision innovative and produce. Unlike him bringing pan from out the medieval times, (riots of bands amongst themself and pan around neck) he was very influencial and spearheaded leadership in the communities. Rudolph has not only crave a place in our history but all those motivate by him globally. I think the government of Trinidad and Tobago should honour more ICONS like Rudolph Charles. R.I.P.  MESSIAH SHAW.



Anyone who ever met Rudolph would be immediately struck by his majestic stature and powerful voice. This charismatic leader was without equal. His leadership and innovative ideas have helped to define pan. History will remember Rudolph Charles as the quintessential leader and gifted tuner that he was. RIP Charlo.

When we speak of infuential leaders, some people immediately pop up like Malcolm X,-  Martin Luther King, - Muhammad Ali,- just to name a few..Rudolph Charles for the Pan World can hang out with these brothers. It is one thing to have been in the era of his time, it is another to have seen him with his band, It is yet another to have met him....but to actually know him...those of us who are able to say I knew Rudolph Charles ....... a vertical shake head and a smile will come to your face because you are one of the fortunate ones. Now there are many other iconic Pan personalities living and dead that surely it is an honour to know or have known them also...but right now we are just speaking about Rudolph. Yes Bugs they really don't make them like that any more ...there is no mould for Rudolph ...just one of a kind...Rest in Peace brother Hakim

Biggest Respect


Salah, no disrespect, but although Rudolph Charles may have been a great steelband leader, he was NO Malcolm X or MLK, in my opinion. These two great men fought for civil, human, and workers' rights, and neither of them EVER crossed any picket lines to their boycotts. Ever. That is EXACTLY what Rudolph Charles did: he met with my dad (at our home in Diamond Vale) the weekend of the Panorama boycott (1979). In a unanimous decision, 300 individuals (including Rudolph Charles) from 80 member steelbands (including Witco Gay Desperadoes) of Pan Trinbago, vote to boycott the Panorama competition, in protest of the low and inadequate appearance fees they had been receiving for years. Desperadoes, under Rudolph Charles' leadership, decides to go against their union's collective stance, and breaks the boycott. (Rudolph, by the way, was the one who actually came up with the dollar amount they were demanding.) What would have happened to the Civil Rights "Movement", if either Malcolm X or MLK went against their own planned boycotts? I think if we are honest, we know the answer, but a civil rights leader, Rudolph Charles was definitely not. And that is why, when I look at the body of work of ALL the pioneers of the steelband "movement", NO one comes as close to MLK or Malcolm X, as George "Sonny" Goddard. That is what the facts of history has recorded for posterity, and whether we honor this leader - THE GREATEST LEADER OF THE STEELBAND MOVEMENT - or not, his legacy speaks for itself. In my opinion, George "Sonny" Goddard was "The Malcom X Of The Steelband Movement". Key word: MOVEMENT! Keep in mind a "movement" is ALL about the struggle for equal rights and justice of a people, be they African Americans, as in the case of MLK and Malcolm X, or "steelbandsmen", as in the case of George "Sonny" Goddard.

BTW- Next January, marks the 25th anniversary of my dad's ascension; let's notice the attention (or lack thereof) that this pioneer receives, however, based on the evidence, his death, like his contributions, mean nothing to the people he served, lived, and (yes) died representing and defending. With his last breath! And in case you all forgot, this is a breakdown of what he did as leader, not of a band, but of a MOVEMENT!!!


QUESTIONS: As far as the "steelband movement" is concerned, what did Rudolph Charles do, that benefits the social conditions of the local panman and panwoman? How has his works made the conditions of the local steelband members better? What, as a "panist", can you say, that Rudolph Charles did, that positively impacts the social conditions you face? Did he fight for wages? Did he fight to made pan acceptable in Church? Name one unselfish action that Rudolph Charles took, that benefits the steelband fraternity, as a whole, socially speaking. Better yet, list ALL pioneers accomplishments, as I have done with my dad's, and let's compare them, so we can finally put to rest the question of: WHO WAS/IS STEELBANDS' GREATEST LEADER?

In Ma'at (Truth, Justice, Reciprcity),

Shem Em Hotep (May you go in peace.)

Pan'tum - The Ghost Who Talks.

Honoring the Legacy of George "Sonny" Goddard, the "Malcolm X of the Steelband Movement"!


I stand corrected, in reality of the bigger picture of daring to compare Rudolph with the likes of Brother Malcom X....I also may not have supported him against the boycott if I was there . at that time....and as far as  your dad goes I can say without hesitation that there has not been another leader of the Steelband mnovement like him ( George Sonny Goddard) ever since and the  recognition of this fact should be acknowledged..nuff repect.

Concerning Rudolph however like I said if one  did know the man ..this very colouful character ...one would come to the conclusion that only some one like him would go up  against the boycott. even if one dis agreed with this move. it was daring. Secondly he was the first to take the officials to court to settle a perceived Panorama competition mismanagement in regards 1982 "Party" ...right or wrong he dared..


No one can deny his numerous innovations as far as contributions of different types of Pans, chroming etc...( I acknowledge that there were many other innovators and contributors also) .. but looking at leadership for his community one wonders if Despers would still be on the Hill for Panorama  practice today ..

but other concepts would be like having four of the very best pan Tuners ( Bertie, Lincoln, Wallace & Rudolph)  at one given time producing a unique sound that no other band was able to have or even come close to... such as that you would immediately say ...that is Despers.


Putting him in his rightful place  however..he worked tirelessly for his community and Band...whether that benefited other bands as regards that type of leadership to emulate would be up to the other bands. but I stand corrected on some of  previous things hat I stated  I humbly admit that. .....but I also  knew Rudolph and I can only smile when I think about this controversial colouful individual which adds to the Mozaic of the Pan History

Nuff Respect brother


Unfortunately, i am not familiar with these Great Pannists that you're referring to, I just want to know where the Great Anthony Williams fit in all of this?

It is good to see so much came out to the general public,also in respect to the subject in concern, the comparison could of been avoided,simply because of the body work of the steel pan movement,meaning, the body work of countless hands that shape and frame this great work of this so-called third world country, anyhow, my point is, your father will have his day let this one be honored in it's timely monument...love to all, what is true is seldomly respected


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