Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 27th 2014 Contents "At the present time, when anyone dares
to make the connection between the Orisha
religion and the birth and development of
the steelband movement, that person is
scoffed at and dubbed an obeah man."
Enter Randolph Phill Wiltshire, also
known as "Ladd," of Tacarigua, who,
Thomas says, "defied the hysteria, angry
protestations of his youthful relatives, cler-
gymen and peers, and ploughed his entire
youthful vigours, leadership qualities, musical
prowess and skill into steelband in its infancy
in Tacarigua in order to promote its positive
Panrigua traces a path of defiance in the
face of social ostracism in painting pictures
of the role of people such as Rufina Thomas-
Thompson, whom the author describes as
"one of the first women to play a tune on
the pan" in 1946.
The occasion was a concert at Rex Cinema
in Arouca and the song, played on the "ping-
pong," was Symphony of Love.
By then, the Dead End Kids steelband,
under Mack "Zorro" Thomas had already
been established in Dinsley Village, a few
houses away from the original tamboo bam-
boo headquarters dominated by the Orishas
in the area. The band would eventually be
renamed Boom Town. As was the case else-
where in the country, members of the band
were described as "badjohns" by fellow vil-
lagers and it was deemed axiomatic that
"every steelbandman (was) a hooligan and
every criminal...a steelbandman."
But, together with "official flagwoman"
Lyn Belle, the band persisted and was later
assisted by Orisha drum legend Andrew
Beddoe, who, Thomas says, "automatically
won the hearts of members of the steelband,
because he took one of their pans, made a
few indentations in the convex mould and
started playing out simple melodies which
mesmerised the members."
Panriga features such anecdotes from a
first-hand participant in much that had
taken place in steelpan music s early years.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, March 27, 2014
Kenrick P Thomas literary account of Tacarigua s
role in the development of steelpan music might
have annexed neighbouring Tunapuna and Curepe
territory, but it provides a fruitful opportunity for
readers to journey into the inner dynamics of a
world of music, religious practice and politics in
one of the more vibrant pre and post-independence
Panriga: Tacarigua s Contribution to the Evolution
of the Steelband Phenomenon in T&T is the long-
winded title of the publication, which looks at what
Thomas insists are the contributions of a "country
district" to the development of the instrument.
Thomas basic thesis is that while much attention
is usually paid to the role of pan icons in Port-of-
Spain and south Trinidad, "there were, in fact, many
pioneers and other persons in different villages and
districts throughout the country whose spontaneous,
unselfish and simultaneous actions in their respective
steelbands all contributed to the overall development
The author s credentials are derived from his active
involvement in pan as a player, tuner, arranger, leader
and teacher and tenure as an executive committee
member of the defunct National Association of T&T
Steelbandsmen (Natts) under the late George Goddard
in 1962---a post he held until the birth of Pan Trinbago
Thomas insists throughout the book---first published
in 1999---that steelband history has been "one-sided"
to the detriment of communities such as Tacarigua
which produced both great musicians and outstanding
"I have found," Thomas insists, "that whenever
representatives from the country districts, who may
not have enjoyed any measure of popularity, made
any genuine efforts to have the valuable contributions
of persons from their areas noted on the national
forum, they have always been casually dismissed by
their Port-of-Spain counterparts."
Thankfully, this is not a chip that remains on the
author s shoulder throughout the publication.
In fact, Thomas suggests that the longstanding
claim that pan emerged in the early 1930s is an error
and he credits the phasing out of tamboo bamboo
bands in the late 30s and early 40s for the emergence
of the instrument. In the process, it was the original
Orisha drummers, who had faced a post-emancipation
ban in the 1830s, who led the use of alternative per-
cussive instruments to accompany the tamboo bam-
"The Orisha drummers and other Orisha devotees
viewed the pan as the nearest alternative to their
original skin-covered drums," Thomas writes.
Memories of a country panman
Cover art of Panriga.
Links Archive March 26th 2014 March 28th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page