Republished from PAN Summer 1988 - Vol.3 No.1
Provided by, and republished with the expressed permission of, PAN Magazine
by Dalton Narine
The best you can say about anything is that it is the greatest in the world. Greatness is an absolute distinction that shouldn’t be measured or taken lightly. And it is in such regard that this writer must take issue with a New York daily which, several months ago, touted Desperadoes as the greatest steel band in the world. Now, hype is hype, but “pan talk” is a serious preoccupation in down-to-earth Trinidad and ‘Tobago, the land of, well, the greatest steel bands in the world. And, there’s the rub.
The names of several bands rush to memory when superior quality and character are considerations in the best-steel band debate. In alphabetical order, the list includes Casablanca, City Symphony, City Syncopators, Crossfire, Desperadoes, Ebonites, Guinness (actually, Cavaliers), Highlanders, Invaders, Pan Am North Stars, Phase II, Renegades, Silver Stars, Solo (or Harmonites), Southern All Stars, Starlift, ‘Tokyo, and Trinidad All Stars. Here is a rundown, as well as the lowdown, on how these bands stack up against each other:
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hello Randisc, you definitely have information on Starlift for which i have great respect. But you obviously do not know much about Casablanca and to a lesser extent Synco (City Syncopators. We had bands which the Public referred to as "Good Road bands" The reasons (1) They played extremely good on the road and (2) they always played mas and had a large following. The bands which came out in the road at Christmas were Casablanca, Desperadoes,Renegades (Lawbreakers), City Syncopaters and sometimes Sunland. While Sunland did not come to far down, the others could have gone over the hills and escape the harassment by the police since there was a law which prevented "noisy instruments" been played on the road. Lock up sure, pans thrown in the Black Maria.
Kim Johnson in his reply a little further down went into certain aspects of Casablanca. The First Steelband to play with a Pianist, Professor Walter Katz playing with soloist Ellis Thorne. The this info may be still in the museum. The First Steelband to perform a Classical piece in a local competition, "The Bells of St. Mary,s" arranged by Arthur De Coteau, using the tuned hubs of IRON to get the sound of the Bells, at the Grand stand Queen,s Park Savannah. The Bomb competition was as big as Panorama, without the Pomp, finance and Glory, but it was big. Casablanca was one of the main contenders on J'ouvert morning, maybe that is why All Stars had to practise their bomb tunes with their fingers in the "Garrat" Arthur De Couteau designed the Chromatic five bass, because as a guitarist his instrument of choice was the Bass guitar. By the way Arthur De Couteau is the Father of Ronnie Mc Intosh.
I f you want the history of the Pan Yard Theatre in Argyle Street, i can provide that at will. Between 1968 to 1984 the band was under the Musical Directorship of Supt. Anthony Prospect(deceased), one of the Greatest Steelband arrangers to transpose Classical pieces to Pan, also to compose music for Pan, Have you forgotten 1812 Overture in 1982, Zampa Overture in 1980? Actually in 1984 Casablanca performed a piece composed by Tchaikosky and arranged by Prospect, The piece was written as a protest against the British Monarchy by the composer, Casablanca was thrown out of the preliminary round, reason by the English judge: The tune was not appropriate for the competition.
Casablanca is one of the few bands that has performed in The Royal Albert Hall in London in the presence of Royalty. I can continue writing pages of the development of this great band. I was there. The first Pan Yard where a Mass was held by Arch Bishop Anthony Pantin after been ordained.
Good to hear some history about Casablanca, didnt know too much of them but I knew of some of the members when I was growing up, like Oscar Pile, Patsy Haynes, Auzie, Baron or Barker. I knew bout Syncopators just after "Boots" days.I remembered one Carnival tuesday night the sagaboys of Synco wanted to just jump up with their girlfriend and not beat pan for the last lap and Kelvin Hart and his brother was the only ones that was playing and the band had the biggest Tuesday night jump up, those were the days.