When Steel Talks

Everything Related to the Steelpan Instrument and Music

  • Mass exodus from Haiti, Martinique & Guadeloupe to Trinidad
  • White population grows from one hundred (100), to twenty-five hundred (2,500)
    • Introduction of Mardi Gras (Christmas to Ash Wednesday)
  • Slave & colored population mushrooms from five hundred (500), to sixteen thousand (16,000)
    • On plantation festivals banned
    • Enslaved Africans established own celebration - Cannes Brulees (Canboulay)
    • Enslaved Africans introduced own dance (Calinda) & own songs to African drums
  • Emancipation
  • Canboulay celebrated yearly on August 1st, later moved to Sunday before Ash Wednesday
  • Mardi Gras on Monday & Tuesday
  • Now deemed ex-Slaves, this segment of the population replaces Mardi Gras with Canboulay
  • Whites withdraw and denounce the festivities
  • Sunday revelry is banned
  • Canboulay riots
  • Ordinance declared: the use of African drums outlawed in Canboulay celebrations
    Restrictions placed on size of bands -
    • Yields sporadic & violent outbursts over the years

  • Colonial government & business community take control of Canboulay
    • Organized into disciplined parade of masquerade bands
    • Bands vie for competitive prizes
    • The “Upper class” return to festivities
  • Elliot "Ellie" Mannette also known to many as the Father of the Modern Pan was born 5 November 1926 in Sans Souci, Trinidad and grew up in Woodbrook
  • Neville Jules Born on 21 May 1927, 3 Richards Lane, East Dry River, Port of Spain, Trinidad.
  • Winston “Spree” Simon was born in 1930, Rose Hill, East Dry River, Trinidad
  • Anthony “Tony” Williams is born - St. James, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
  • Outright banning of African drums by the British colonists
  • Tamboo Bamboo replaces outlawed African drums as main musical medium
    • “boom” for low tones
    • “foule” or “buller” for mid-range
    • “cutter” for counterpoint/lead
  • Tamboo Bamboo banned
  • Gonzales Tamboo-Bamboo Band introduces the first type of “bass pan”
  • Lincoln " Delgado " Noel also known as the "Pan Doctor" was born in La Brea, San Fernando
  • bertie marshall Bertram Lloyd Marshall - Berite Marshall was born 6 February 1936, 16 St Vincent Street, Port of Spain, Trinidad
  • Clive Bradley was born in Diego Martin, Trinidad, 1936
  • Alexander Ford establishes The Alexander Ragtime Band
  • Sweet-oil pans, dust bins, biscuit pans: convex-shape
  • Sticks without rubber


  • Steelband competition held at Queen’s Park Oval
    • Alexander Rag Time Band (winner)
    • Hell Ward
    • Second Eleven
  • World War II (1939-1945)
    • Carnival suspended
    • Bands parade “illegally”
  • 3 note ping-pong introduced



Experimentation period begins

  • Roaring Lion - first calypso ever composed for the steelband
    • Alexander Ragtime Band
  • Brute Force (Antigua) - first band to use rubber on sticks to play bass
  • Hollywood influence on band names (violence, force, terror, heroes & movies)
    • Hell Yard >> “All Stars”
    • Merry Boys >> “Casablanca”
    • Laventille Boys >> “Desperadoes”
    • River Lady >> “Destination Tokyo”
  • Age of the “Badjohn”
  • Pat Bishop was born 7 May 1942, Port of Spain, Trinidad
  • Lennox "Bobby" Mohammed was born in 1943 and grew up in San Fernando.
  • Ray Hollman was born on April 22, 1944 in Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
  • Reynold Gillies known throughout the steelpan world as "Tony Slater" hailed from Port of Spain, Trinidad
  • V.E. day (May)
  • Tenor kettle (5 notes), ping pong, cuff boom, dudup (bass kettle) appear in the bands of revelers
  • Developments (1945-1950)
    • sweet-oil drums (ping pong) sunk in convex fashion
      • 5 to 7 notes
      • drums held in one hand, rubberless stick in other
      • oil drum sunk in concave fashion
      • 15 notes with rubber-tipped sticks
    • competitions begin in Port of Spain & San Fernando
    • notes continue to be added to drums/instruments
  • Antigua Steelband Association formed - 8 members
    • “The Steelband Herald” published as its official paper
  • “....steelbandsmen attained a standard of performance which equals if not surpasses that of the best there is in Trinidad....”, Sunday Guardian, January 26, 1951, p.17 - in commentary on Antiguan panmanship
  • Antigua’s “Brute Force” steelband gets picture in “The Times Survey of the Colonies”
  • Antigua’s Hell’s Gate is planned to represent West Indian steelbands in Festival of Britain
  • Antigua’s Hell’s Gate wins panorama with tune “Peanut Vendor.”


  • Jit Sukha Samaroo Dr. Jit Samaroo was born on 24 February, 1950, Lopinot, Trinidad.
  • Steelband Committee setup by government to investigate steelband violence and to find solutions
    • Cannon M.E. Farquhar - chairman
    • George E. Mose - chief probation officer
    • Carlyle P. Kerr - solicitor
    • Lennox O. Pierre - solicitor
  • Albert Gomes defends steelband men
  • “Public should discipline Steelband prejudices”, January 8, Sunday Guardian “Behind the Curtain” column J
  • White college students play pan in streets of Port of Spain, later to become Texaco Dixieland
  • Steelbands clash
    • Feb 21 Invaders attacks Tokyo (on Carnival Tuesday)
    • Mar 2 Casablanca & Invaders meet, agree to bury hatchet... meeting attacked... bombarded with stones & bottles...
    • Mar 6 More steelbands agree to end clashes, meeting at Old Prison Quarry, more than 500 members and supporters present from March Hill 60, Invaders, Casablanca, Destination Tokyo, Crusaders, Merry Maker, All Stars and Desperadoes
  • Cannon Farquhar defends steelband men
    • link to “dark past of slavery, plus a century of economic deprivation”, March 12, Sunday Guardian
  • Steelband Association formed by Lennox Pierre & Carlyle Kerr
    • President Sidney Gallop of Crusaders
    • 76 bands joined
    • banned steelband competition for next 5 years
      • poor judging contributing factor to violent clashes between steelbands
    • introduced steelband recital (June)

    • Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) established
      • Lieutenant Griffith of St. Lucia Police Band is musical director
      • formed specifically for Festival of Britain
      • toured France and United Kingdom for 3 months
      • 11 best players from the country, 13 reserves
        • Orman “Patsy” Haynes / Casablanca
        • “Boots” Davidson / City Syncopators
        • Sterling Betancourt / Crossfire
        • A. De Labastide / Chicago
        • Dudley Smith / Rising Sun
        • Winston “Spree” Simon / Tokyo
        • Granville Sealey / Tripoli
        • Clive Belgrave / Southern Symphony
        • Ellie Mannette / Invaders
        • Anthony Williams / Sun Valley
        • Sonny Roache
        • Theo Stephen / Free French
      • Operation Britain - to raise $15,000 for TASPO
      • July 6, TASPO departs on San Mateo, Sonny Roache ill, left behind in Martinique
      • September, Winston Spree gets contract to teach pan music at University of Nigeria & Ghana
  • Developments
    • 3 drum bass boom
    • 2 drum cello coom
    • establish complete chromatic range of notes from ping pong to bass


  • Trinidad Music Association accept steelband men after initial rejection, Music Festivals no longer off limits
  • Bands from south form: Southern Steelbands Association, 25 members


  • Lennox “Boogsie” Sharpe -  He was born 28 October 1953, Benares Street, St James, Trinidad. The nick-name Boogsie was given to him by his mother
  • Hell’s Gate wins Antigua Panorama
  • Anthony Williams creates the  “SPIDER-WEB” ping pong, referred to as the “fourths and fifths” pan..

    Anthony  Williams (right) displays his spider web pan with Herman “Rock” Johnson (left)

  • George Goddard elected President of Steelband Association (June)
    • 12 member band
    • Constitution drawn up
  • Hell’s Gate wins Antigua Panorama
  • “Desperadoes” & “San Juan All Stars” clash
  • Hell’s Gate wins Antigua Panorama
  • Emmanuel Riley improvisations in the Invaders’ recordings “Liebestraume” and “Melody in F” set a standard for pan soloists
  • Kenrick Philmore -  Ken "Professor" Philmore was born 1959, Trinidad.

Timeline Continued click to view

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What happened to the Esso Tripoli Steel Band? Isn't it part of history that in 1967 and 1968 the then Trinidad Tripoli made a marvellous tour in the USA  and Canada? Touring with a famous artist, Liberace, nationwide and playing in big shows such as the Ed Sullivan Show, and the David Frost Show should be mentioned. I also observe that, for our fifty years of Trinidad being a Republic, bands such as Rogues Regiment Steel Band were acknowledged. A band that came out for only a few years was mentioned, but not one word about the Tripoli Steel Band that played in places such as Las Vegas, Carnegie Hall,over two hundred Universities and Colleges, and Airforce and Army bases. The Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band should have a mention in the development of the steel band!

Don't worry Mr. Leiba this is a work in progress. WST will add info on Tripoli Steel Band.

Don't forget that the Trinidad Tripoli Steel Band was also nominated for a Grammy Award in 1972 under Ethics and Traditional recordings in 1972. It is the only Trinidad Steel Band that had that success. Thank you WST for giving me a quick reply.

Thank you, Pan Times, for that erudite review ...

Question : Am I right in assuming that the Canbouley riots of 1881 are the same riots that coincided with the rout of Capt. Baker, who was subsequently recalled to England for his failure to curb/eliminate the festival?

Also, good to know about significant developments in pan in Antigua from 1949.

Cheers,  Peter

Yes, you are correct Mr. Gray

No mention of small/medium winners in T&T?

Also: Sanch Recordings already produced not one but twos CDs of panorama versions at slow tempo... Pan Sweet Pan 1 & 2...

Can't please everyone

Well you should probably please Trinidad All Stars, who performed "Play Yuhself" and not "Gie Dem Tempo" in 2012... nice list though, pretty good timeline of history despite those omissions

As per trivia,

                    At a certain Hotel in Port of Spain in 1962, a few members of a group dove into the pool after performing and the Hotel's management may or may not have emptied the pool afterwards. This is also history (lol)  

Next, y'all want Pan Times to mention who was the first person to roast brehfoot (breadfruit) in a panyard. Allyuh good yes.

Aye patrick, Ah doh know who is the first man to roast but ah tink Splav eat the most. LMAO


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