The Organisation of the Pan Movement
Every cloud has a silver lining and out of evil cometh good. This in a nutshell describes how the steelband movement became organized in an effort to deter the rampant gang wars.
For this year’s Steelband month, a delegation of Steelband administrators and high profile panmen wended its way through narrow streets of East Dry River to the St. Paul Street Community Centre to celebrate the Anniversary of the laying of the Foundation Stone which commemorates the inaugural meeting of Steelbandsmen to form the first representative organization – The National Association of Trinidad and Tobago Steelbandsmen (NATTS), which was headed by Sydney Gollop and included such distinguished personalities as George Goddard, Oscar Pile, Baron Arietas and George Yeates. Politician Albert Gomes, Cleric, Canon Max Farquar and News Editor Sydney Espinet were Champions of the Cause of promoting the Steelband Movement as a Cultural and Social entity that had a place in the National Scheme of things. Social worker and Lawyer Lennox Pierre, was the facilitator of the whole process, he being actively involved with Invaders as a musical consultant. Probation Officer - George Moze was delegated by the higher authorities to oversee the development taking place and he ended up putting himself entirely into the project.
Steelbandsmen were now organized with Trade Union status that gave them leverage.
They began to organize steelband competitions and concerts in an effort to raise funds with the objective of sending a representative steelband to the Commonwealth Festival of Arts in Britain in 1951, thus was born the Trinidad all Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO) which brought some recognition and respect to the fledgling Art Form and more importantly, to set the standard for improvement of the instruments of the Steel Orchestra and to catalyze its musical development.
The Colonial Authorities had long placed restrictions and impositions on cultural and social activities of the non-white residents of their colonies. The sub-class fought back and the Camboulay Riot of 1883 and the Hosay Riots later on were just a few manifestations of rebellion against these repressive stipulations. During the formative years of the steelbands transition from percussive Metal Band to Melodic Ensemble many laws were passed to suppress the spread of this unwanted phenomenon.
The war years were the most important and during this time steelbandsmen fought pitched battles against the police and suffered brutality, imprisonment and court fires for defending the right to practice their chosen occupation. There was a law against more than twenty people grouping together and this was used to mash up steelband parades and arrest offenders.
The war ended in 1945 and the steelbandsmen announced themselves to the world on V.E. Day May 8th 1945 and V.J. Day August 14th 1945. The darkness soon settled in, however, as the steelband movement turned against itself and lost many sympathizes and admirers. The gang wars left the country in a grip of fear and terror as young toughs fought it out at any place and any time with scant courtesy for the safety of the public, once confronted by young members affiliated to a rival steelband. This situation was immortalized in calypso by Lord Blakie’s famous “Steelband Clash”
It was bacchanal, ah
Fifties Carnival, aha
Fight fuh so
With Invaders and Tokyo oho
And when the two band clash
Mama, if yuh see cutlass
Never me again
To Jump up in a Steelband in Port of Spain
Level headed steelbandsmen began to take stock of the situation, realizing the irrepairable damage that has been self inflicted on the art form.
Casablanca and Invaders decided to settle their long standing feud by getting together at the Casablanca pan yard, however youths from another band took the opportunity to unleash a barrage of missiles at them while they were serenading each other.
Six (6) Bands – Merry Makers, Crusaders, Invaders, Desperadoes, Tokyo and Casablanca held peace talks in the Old Quarry off Observatory Street attended by large crowd of sympathizers, well wishers and supporters, this paved the ground for the later efforts of people like George Kerr, Flavius Nurse, Curtis Pierre, Nathaniel Critchlow and others, setting the stage for the incumbent President Keith Diaz and his Executive of Pan Trinbago to carry the movement a few steps further.