A journey and lesson in pan

He also said some of the content was told to him by others who grew up with him.

This is Fyfe’s fifth book, one which is completely different from the first four. He describes the others as instructional books on the tenor pan, the double tenor, the double second and advance pan (notation).

As the name suggests, this is merely his recollections of what transpired while he made his path through the world of pan. It is quite clear that Fyfe is an Invader to his heart although he started at age nine with Crossfire Steelband.

This was so only because his uncle Rudolph “Tiger” Hessic was a founding member of Crossfire.

Steelpan Reflections gives an insight into the birth of the pan and the men behind this invention.

What is notable is that no one man is responsible for this world-renowned instrument.

According to Fyfe, famed Casablanca Steel Orchestra leader Oscar Pile is quoted as saying Victor “Totie” Wilson was the first man to play a pan. This came about when Wilson, a tamboo bamboo player with Alexander’s Ragtime Band went in search of something to play as the bamboo he was playing burst. Wilson came back with a tin pan and while knocking it found it sounded better than the bamboo.

It is said that Wilson influenced his band to use pan instead of bamboo and the next year –1939, Alexander’s Ragtime Band came out beating pans thus being the first steelband. History has shown that Wilson sat around the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain and tuned the pans to the chimes of the Queen’s Royal College clock.

The book also shows that Woodbrook and St James were the places that produced the most steelbands. Names like Green Eyes, Dixie Stars, Merrymakers, Silver Stars, Metronomes, Nightingales, Oval Boys, Red Army, Saigon, Tripoli, Katzenjammers, Del Vikings, Cross Roads and Wonder Harps.

Fyfe says it is reported that Invaders is a conglomeration of Green Eyes, Nightingales and Oval Boys.

The story goes that each time the bands went to town there were fights with bands from East Dry River and so they banded together to form Invaders. Even then there were several clashes between Invaders and Casablanca and Invaders and Tokyo.

Lord Blakie (Carlton Francis) popularise the Invaders/Tokyo clash in his classic calypso Steelband Clash; the chorus of the song goes: Invaders beating sweet, coming up Park Street, Tokyo coming down beating very slow and friends when the two bands clash, if you see cutlass, never me again to jump in a steelband in Port of Spain.

Fyfe says there was a very close bond between Desperadoes and Invaders back then, he remembers George Yeates coming to Invaders yard with a truck to collect pans from Ellie Mannette. He even said Desperadoes and Invaders sounded alike in their tone because Emmanuel “Cobo Jack” Riley and Mannette used to go up the hill to play and blend Deperadoes pans.

It is said that Desperadoes raised most of the money for lawyer fees when “Cobo Jack” was in trouble and spent some time in jail.

The book also clarifies the myth that Ray Holman and a group of players from Invaders started Starlift and Starlift came out of Invaders.

But, Starlift is an offshoot of Saigons.

Though not in chronological order Steelband Reflections shows the road on which the players, the tuners and arrangers from the early days walked linking them to those who followed and those of present day.

The stories tell of Victor “Totie” Wilson to Sterling Betancourt, his uncle Rudolph Hessic, to Ellie and Birdie Mannette and Emmanuel “Cobo Jack” Riley, on to Junior and Edwin Pouchet, Cliff Alexis, then to Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, Ken “Professor” Philmore and Liam Teague up to present day.

Now a music tutor, Fyfe said in 1962 he had an encounter with Yeshua the Christ and accepted him as his saviour. He left the pan world but came back several years later but this time to glorify Yahweh and evangelise. He said despite his many efforts the evangelical church was slow to accept pan and gospelypso.

One of his main reasons for doing Steelpan Recollections was the lack of history knowledge by most of the students he now teaches.

He also feels that the reason why youths do not take to the pan professionally is the lack of images of successful players.


"A journey and lesson in pan"

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