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When did STEELBAND PARTICIPATION on the road for Carnival hit its peak?

Cecil Hinkson and Glenroy Joseph are always clamoring for the return of PANS ON THE ROAD for carnival. And most of us remember PAN being the dominant musical force on the road for Carnival during our window of youth. What year did PAN ON THE ROAD reach its zenith?

Some people point to the 1979 Panorama Boycott as the turning point. Is there a consensus on this?

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Attended 1976 and 1981 carnivals.  Great pan on de road.  Large and complete bands.

I believe with my Little old Bird brain that Pan on the Road really hit its peak during the Sixties and the Seventies. In that era Panorama was not so much of a focus as it is today. Those were the days when Steel bands used the be playing in most of the Big Fetes. I can recall playing in Desperadoes in 1966 as a teenager where we had two [2] Bombs tunes Czardas and My Fair Lady a Panorama Piece Obeah Wedding 'aka' Melda and eight Calypsoes those were the Golden days of Pan on the Road.

In the era of the P.A.N.S.  i.e.  Pan Am North Stars.

Good one patrick.

I agree that the seventies, up to 79, may have been the golden era for participation. But the real golden years for me was the late fifties to early sixties. It was a most exciting time. Nearly every year there was a new innovation: it was the era of the growth of the idea of the 'bomb' when after hours, panmen would quietly and secretly practise classical or other items which no one heard until jouvert morning. I remember the excitement when Trinidad All Stars dropped their first bombs on us. I think it was 'Minuet in G' and then 'Melody in F'. I became a young member of the 'fleet' for a while then, one of hundreds of sailors, jumping in steelpan  ecstasy, with Mayfield waving the flag, looking like a true Amazon!

It was also the time of steelpan innovation, with a tremendous growth in the number of pans and variety and complexity of arrangements. Real genius flowed. Double tenors were introduced, the 6 bass! The 'spiderweb' tenor! Hylanders came up with their  'amplified pan' sound. I remember hearing this extremely high ringing sound in the distance late one jouvert morning and, then I heard the excitement "Hylanders!" I think it was 'Let Every Valley be Exalted'.

You went out on Monday morning to hear the great bands on the road (going to the yards was not the same thing.) Bass and iron echoing between the buildings on Frederick and Henry Street you heard  the likes of All Stars, Despers, Symphony, Synco, and from the west came the great Invaders, Starlift, North Stars and from 'uptown', bands like Silver Stars. Then from out of town you got bands like Ebonites (I remember their breathtaking rendition of Melody's 'Ice Man'.)

We knew too that South was 'doing its thing' because we were there when Cavaliers blew us away with 'Mas' one Panorama and we heard that Hatters was crazy too!

Neither the small steelband skirmishes that occasionally  caused us to scramble for safety, nor the big ones between Invaders and Tokyo, and later San Juan All Stars and Despers/Tokyo (which I witnessed cowering in an alcove near the hospital) could or ever will dampen the sheer joy and ecstasy of those days for me.

That is a great flowing essay, Noel!!! I had to read it TWICE!!!

Well, it is about time that someone brought up this subject. I enjoyed the response by Noel. He spoke of the bands up North, but the same thing used to happen in South.

What ever happened to loyalty to your steel band? These days, people are playing with 3 or 4 bands for Panorama and Monday morning you cannot find 25 players to come on the road. In my time, which was in the late 60's when my band Sundowners took part in Panorama, on Monday morning the whole band was present with every body setting up their pans to hit the road. Well maybe 2 or 3 would take off but all the others would have their girlfriends right there with them and the girls would be pushing the pan stands. The women understood that the guys had a responsibility to the band and they would not complain.

It was so much fun, so much joy to come down the road playing your bomb tunes and entertaining the crowd. The people did their own judging and for months after, you could here people talking about which band they liked and who they taught had the best bomb tune.

I could go on and on with this but I am sure that you get my point. I have been residing in Canada since 1968 and every time that I return for Carnival it seems to get worse. 100 players for Panorama night and 20 to 25 on Carnival day. Mind you, the same thing goes on up here with Caribana. When the bands hit the road on the parade day, you wonder if that was the same band that you heard playing the night before. A handful of players and you could hardly recognize what they are playing.

Maybe this year when I go down to Trinidad for carnival, they will surprise me. I say bring back pan on the road.

Steve Regis

(Former leader and arranger of Texaco Sundowners and arranger with Texaco West Stars) 

Ah few people making big dollars, our young women walking to streets almost naked and noise that will do serious damage to ones ear is the trade-off we made for what Noel and Steve spoke about.

The Movers and Shakers in the Mecca should be ashamed for allowing the steelband to be pushed out of carnival. The steelband today is akin to an old man that cannot get around on his own, they come on a float, the steelband will die sooner with that float.

For me the steelband peaked in the 60s that was the best decade, instruments were better violence kool down and half of POS used to be by the oval waiting to go in town with INVADERS j'ouvert morning.

Cecil, Pardnah: After reading all these dramatic recollections of GENUINE PAN HISTORY, ah feel ah have to do like one ah dem Hollywood producers and MAKE UP AH STORY.

On a more serious note, if a group of people get together and start pushing Government & Corporations to sponsor ONE BAND on the road for carnival ... you know what they say about a journey of a thousand miles.

1963 to 1968 that is when I was FEELING IT!!!


Beginning by promoting ONE BAND one carnival

This might really be an excellent idea. If young people got the opportunity to have the real steelband experience on Carnival day, it might reignite that love for pan music. There is absolutely nothing like this experience

Another point (for  those who focus on the money-earning aspect) Some yeas ago, when pan was still a key part of Carnival a rich tourist said to me that  of all the Carnivals he had seen, Trinidad's was the most exciting, the most memorable.  Why? Because of the steelbands!

He said that carnival in Rio, although fascinating and dazzling, came a distant second to ours because they had nothing to compare to the steelband -- an orchestra comprising of indigenous instruments that seemed to capture the very soul of the celebration.

This suggests that to people like him, we may now run a distant second to Rio!

What makes our carnival unique now?

Without pan we no longer have that edge.

So marketing our Carnival as 'the greatest in the world' can only work if we give  - steelbands. their central place in the celebaration once more

ALSO the tourist's statement that steelbands captured 'the soul of the carnival haunts me.

Could it be that the decline in steelband participation is part of the reason why carnival is losing its 'soul'? why it is becoming simply an orgy of 'show skin an wine'?


I remember that thing about the girlfriends. It was not only about supporting their guys, there was a bit of a declaration of 'ownership' . It meant "This is my boyfriend who pan I pushin so all  udder gyul, jes back off!" ( If you had two girlfriends you had a problem on Carnival day.)

I remember, as a teenager, beating in Symphonettes in my first year  and how the bond between me and a girl  I liked deepened because she came and pushed my pan nearly all day.

Won't speak about what happened that night!


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