Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 19th 2016 Contents PETER RAY BLOOD
Born in East Dry River, Port-of-Spain in
1940, Owen Serrette s family moved to
Morvant when he was just one year old,
a move that eventually saw him become a
bona fide Harmonites Steel Orchestra member,
a steelband he still faithfully serves. Serrette
did return to his birthplace as a child, at 10
Bonaparte Lane, Basilon Street, to attend
Rosary Boys RC School.
It was during his return as a primary school
student that Serrette first got involved with the
steelband. At the age of ten he played with City
Syncopators for the Carnival of 1950. At that
time, calypsonians and steelbandsmen were
considered "outcasts" as eulogised in Sparrow s
calypso Outcast with the famous lyrics: "If yuh
sister talk to a steelbandman, yuh family want
to break she hand, put she out, outcast."
Said Serrette: "Because I was living in Basilon
Street and attending Rosary Boys, I was attracted
to City Syncopators."
family was a
gious one so
it is no sur-
prise that his
his involvement in pan, broke down in tears.
She refused to believe that her dearly beloved
boy child was seen "beating pan" on the road,
believing that he was associating with "bad
johns" and "jamettes" who formed part of the
steelband fraternity. Ironically, it was okay for
Serrette s elder brothers to "beat pan," but not
little Owen, who she saw as becoming a priest.
Indeed, Serrette s venture into the world of
pan was cut short when he enrolled at the sem-
inary at Mt St Benedict. But, though ensconced
in the hallowed halls of the seminary, he man-
aged to frequent the panyard of Flamingoes
Steel Orchestra, located in "the Village" on St
John s Road, the roadway to the Mount.
Upon departing the Mount, Serrette rejoined
the Teenage Serenaders steelband in his then
hometown of Morvant.
As its name suggests, this was an aggregation
of young panmen who did not qualify to play
with the loftily perched and legendary Ebonites
Natural progression followed and Serrette
eventually became a member of the renowned
Ebonites outfit as a tenor player, his instrument
of choice. This was a dream come true and at
the time Ebonites, of Roses from the South
fame, was known as "the dance band of the
In 1966, Serrette was lured away from
Ebonites to Harmonites Steel Orchestra by its
first captain Winston "Skull" Flemming and
arranger Knolly Bobb. From that fateful move,
in addition to being a stalwart playing member,
Serrette served Harmonites in several capacities,
inclusive of becoming an executive member,
being appointed captain in 1980-90, and as
manager from 1990-94.
Serrette represented this Morvant steelband,
and by extension T&T as a cultural ambassador,
with pride and distinction, performing regionally
in Barbados, Suriname and the Cayman Islands,
and internationally in places like New York,
Atlanta, Switzerland, Spain, England and Brasil.
There is some historical significance to when
Harmonites toured New York, then sponsored
by Solo Beverages, in 1979, as Serrette is the
only member of the contingent to voluntarily
return to Trinidad.
Solo Harmonites, described by Serrette as
"the beacon of Morvant," has won the National
Panorama title on four occasions with some
creative and unique arrangements by Earl Rod-
Proud of his band achievements, Serrette
said: "My favourite pan arranger is Earl Rodney.
I honestly believe that Earl was way before his
time, especially with his arrangements of stage-
side music. Jit Samaroo, Renegades arranger,
confirmed that to me."
In 1994, a core of Harmonites players, led
by Serrette and Lloyd Manswell, severed ties
with the legendary steelband, taking with them
the prized Solo Beverages sponsorship to form
Solo Pan Knights Steel Orchestra.
With Pan Knights he toured Nigeria, Colom-
bia, London and returned to the Cayman Islands.
The two Morvant pan giants reunited in 2000
but the relationship again irretrievably disin-
tegrated in 2013.
In the steelband world, Serrette is widely
respected as a leader, so it came as no surprise
when he was elected as the assistant secretary
of the now defunct National Association of
T&T Steelbandsmen (NATTS).
When NATTS dissolved and Pan Trinbago
formed, Serrette served as Education Officer
of the new organisation in 1982- 88. He sub-
sequently succeeded president Arnim Smith
upon his demise, many of the opinion that Ser-
rette was handpicked by Smith to be a succes-
sor.Indeed Smith was
Serrette s role model
in pan. He said: "My
was Arnim Smith. I
believe that not too
much credit is given
to him. Because of
his street (common), and not
necessarily (book) sense, he
was able to carry the move-
ment to a point which made
my reign as president the suc-
cess I believe it was."
Serrette, his quiet
demeanour in stark contrast to
the robust attitude of previous
steelband organisation leaders
like Smith and George Goddard,
had a very successful tenure as
Pan Trinbago president. In 1992,
it was his recommendation to the
Patrick Manning administration,
that led to pan being declared "the
national instrument of T&T."
The formation of Panvesco and
the introduction of the Panyard
Development Programme stand
out as just two of many success
stories of Serrette s stewardship.
It was during his tenure at the
helm of Pan Trinbago that the
business sector was said to be
"most pan friendly," seen as a dec-
laration of its confidence in the
national steelband organisation.
Said Serrette: "Corporate spon-
sors seemed more appreciative
of work done and partnerships
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2016
Continues on Page A26
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
Serrette's family was a very religious one so it is no surprise that his mother, on learning of his involvement in pan, broke
down in tears. She refused to believe that her dearly beloved boy child was seen "beating pan" on the road, believing that he
was associating with "bad johns" and "jamettes" who formed part of the steelband fraternity. Ironically, it was okay for
Serrette's elder brothers to "beat pan," but not little Owen, who she saw as becoming a priest.
music literacy for
pan musicians at
UWI, no doubt inspired
to do so having being a
member of the UWI
steelband in Mona,
in 1973. He also
in management and
young managers of
He insisted, and
still insists, that
literate and be
and not panmen.
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