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Friday 26 April 2019
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WITCO Despers celebrates 40

FORMER WITCO Desperadoes Steel Orchestra captain and manager Anthony McQuilken did not hold back any punches when he addressed last week’s 40th anniversary celebrations of the band by saying: “we love to win and there is no place other than first place.”

His remark drew lusty applause from the audience gathered at Angostura House off the Eastern Main Road in Laventille which played host to the anniversary celebration last Tuesday.

The theme of the evening was ‘Celebrating the Past…Preparing for the Future’ and this was well chosen since 26 past and present managers, arrangers, tuners and captains of ‘Despers’ were honoured.

The contributions of Despers pan music giants including George Yates, Rudolph Charles, Lloyd Lucas and Eugene Mclean (managers), Lincoln Noel, Emmanuel Riley, Bertie Marshall and Raymond Shaw (tuners), Clive Bradley, Beverly Griffith, Robert Greenidge and Pat Bishop (arrangers), George Saul, Elias Phillip, Cecil Francis, Curtis Edwards, Kelvin Holder and Bertrand Glasgow (captains) were honouored.

Mc Quilkin noted that dealing with a band like Desperadoes could give anyone “grey hair.”

“But this is an institution that the people in Laventille look up to, they look forward to being a part of the organisation and they look forward to being dressed to show they are supporters.”

According to Witco’s outgoing Managing Director Anthony E Phillip, “forty years ago in November 1965, West Indian Tobacco began its relationship with Desperadoes Steel Orchestra. This marked the beginning of a strategic relationship between the two enterprising entities.”

“The alliance has enabled Witco Desperadoes to evolve into one of the most dominant steelbands in Trinidad and Tobago, leading the way in innovation and excellence.”

Phillip said the legendary Rudolph Charles and the celebrated Clive Bradley were two leaders who over the years contributed to the ascent of this great band . Bradley took the band to great heights and closer to their mission of becoming “the leading steelband institution globally, producing and performing the finest steelband music.”

“Desperadoes has achieved acclamations beyond the expectations of the sponsors and today Witco is very proud to be the sponsor and celebrate the 40-year union.”

The company’s dedication to the steelband was recognised by Pan Trinbago in 1999 with the Ray Holman Award for Continuous Sponsorship. Desperadoes won the National Panorama competition on ten occasions and is still the only band to achieve a hat-trick at the Steelband Music Festival (1986-1992).

Despers represented this country on various occasions appearing at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the First Black Festival of Arts at Dakaar, Senegal, Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theatre in New York and playing alongside world famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti in Barbados.

The band can also attest to innovative changes in the pan movement with such moves as the introduction of chrome pans, aluminum canopies, rocket pans, organ-toned tenor pans and reverberating bass pans.

In recognition of their achievement as true ambassadors of Trinidad and Tobago, Witco Desperadoes was awarded the Chaconia Medal Gold in 1992 and acclaimed “Band of the Century” in 1999.


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