Daily Archives: May 29, 2011

Tribute to steelbands before Mash 1970 – Godfrey Chin

Tribute to steelbands before Mash 1970

by Godfrey Chin  – Nostalgia 485  http://godfreychin.com/book.php – Order his Nostalgias – Golden Memories of Guyana 1940-1980 from this site.

Steelband has been the essence of our Caribbean Carnival/ Mash/Crop-Over celebrations since this phenomenon emerg-ed after WWII, and remains a unique musical art form in the twentieth century, with efforts from Japan to Sweden usurping this contribution from our tropics. Like our own Demerara rum and sugar, we need to propogate, preserve and defend steelband in the Caribbean – especially since our vaunted WI cricket prestige is currently on the wane and in limbo.

Steelband started in Port of Spain during their VJ celebrations in September 1945, following the temporary wartime ban on ‘jump up’ on the streets. The local musical instruments ‘tamboo bamboo’ stored temporarily under bottom houses were taken to the streets, but burst from recent disuse.  Bottle and spoon, shack-shack, rubbish-bin covers and lard cans were brought out to provide the cacophonous din for the celebratory street tramps. In a few short years the island pioneers – Ellie Mannette, Spree Simon, Neville Jules, etc, pioneered a galaxy range of pan instruments from discarded 45-gallon drums at the US Chaguaramas Base, and the steelband was born.

By 1947, the Trinidad band Red Army arrived in Georgetown by schooner, and made an impressive appearance. The nylon goes that at a dance performance at BGCC, there was a huge scuffle near the stage. When order was restored a first pan was missing. I have never been able to corroborate this story, but must admire that even before 1950 our natives were demonstrating enterprise and resourcefulness.

Read article: Tribute to Steelbands before Mash 1970 by Godfrey Chin

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