The History of Steelband in Jamaica

The earliest record of steelpan in Jamaica was in 1954. Arden Williams, a student from Trinidad carried his ping pong with him when he attended the University of the West Indies, Mona campus (then the University College of the West Indies). Soon after, he and other Trinidadian students and one Jamaican started the first-ever steelband on Jamaican soil. Over time, different steelbands have come and gone but the Mona campus has never been without a steelband since its arrival in the 1950s. In 1973 the steelbands from two halls of residence merged and became known as UWI Steel (You-We Steel). In 1976 this band was re-branded UWI Panoridim and is still in existence today.

Steelpan has always been generally well received in Jamaica. Because the pan movement started at the University, it never had the stigma of violence or any major struggle for acceptance compared to other islands. The main source of friction was and still is, that some members of the public find the sounds of the steelband’s rehearsals irritating.

By the 1960s, steelpan spread from the UWI into neighbouring communities and across Jamaica. In 1962 McDonald ‘Mackie’ Burnette of Trinidad came to Jamaica as an entertainer and was instrumental in galvanizing the formation and development of new steelbands which gave fierce competition to the UWI steelbands. There was even a steelband competition and this was the closest the Jamaican pan movement came to having a Panorama culture.

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  • imagine that they REJECTED a MAN like MR. LAWFORD DUPRES for PRESIDENT OF PAN TRINBAGO strictly on RACIAL GROUNDS and put DO-NOTHING BEVERLEY RAMSEY-MOORE to keep the organization in LIMBO for three years.

    Not a word coming out of PAN TRINBAGO!!!

    Racism is ah REAL HELL OF A THING, YES!!!

  • The first Trinidad steelband to visit Jamaica was DixieStars in 1953 as the Esso Steel band. We played at several theatres and at a festival of some sort where Louise Bennet and her dance troupe were the main feature. Also performing there was Tiroro, a famous Haitian drummer ( look him up).  From there we were flown by Esso aboard a U.S Air Force DC-3 to Puerto Rico where we performed at several locations including one or two night clubs. It was the first time a steelband had reached Puerto Rico. From there we were flown back to Trinidad aboard the same plane.

    • Great and extremely valuable information Mr..Dupres

      Much thanks for sharing.

  • UWI Panoridim - Pan Commandments

    International Conference and Panorama
    Trinidad and Tobago, 2015

  • "... some members of the public find the sounds of the steelband’s rehearsals irritating."

    I cannot believe that DEM JAMAICANS could say that about OUR BELOVED PAN MUSIC and NOBODY comes to the defense of OUR BELOVED INSTRUMENT.

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