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Steeldrum salvation for Port of Spain’s neighborhoods

June 10, 2015
By Nigel Campbell and Greg Scruggs

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — The metallic ring of steelpan music wafting through the Belmont neighborhood is light and cheery. But the the writing outside the home of the Casablanca Steel Orchestra is anything but: “Guns are dangerous and foreign,” a sign says. “It kills! Stop playing with your life! Come play the national instrument.”

Violent crime has spiked here in recent years as the drug trade landed in this Caribbean metro area of 270,000, just 20 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Now, Casablanca and other steelpan bands here are offering the neighborhood “panyards” where they practice and play as havens for at-risk youth to stay out of trouble — and learn musical traditions.

At Casablanca, an open-air structure with a galvanized zinc roof, cement floor and lots of steel drums on rollers, students aged 11 to 18 take music lessons three days a week. There is instruction in guitar, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, and of course, steelpan, a Trinidadian institution invented here about 80 years ago. The lessons are taught by professional musicians and are free, courtesy of a program sponsored by the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.


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I was 'born' into Casablanca when it was up the steps in Oxford St. Then it was all about

sweet music & French sailor. Arthur DeCoteau was the fearsome arranger & Patsy Haynes

the hottest tenor pannist. Baron and others provided the 'heavy' stuff, but they didn't go 

around killing people. I wish the new 'Blanca' all the best and hope to see them in Feb.2016.

Thanks for the info ODW. The innovators vision will succeed.

To all Steelpan lovers, supporters and interested parties let me introduce you to a newly launched website on Casablanca. Please check periodically as this work in progress will grow with pictures, audio and digital images about Casablanca specifically and the Steelband movement in general..

See www.casablancasteelorchestra.com  


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