1979 Donald “Dan” Seon South Panmen

Steelbands of the South

   The title Panorama was most appropriate for the Southern and island-wide steelband competition. Amongst the leading bands of South at that time were the Sundowners and Gondoliers Steelbands of San Fernando, the later became known as Guinness Gondoliers Steelband.


   Lennox “Bobby” Mohammed, a talented young man of San Fernando thought that he had something extra to give to the world of music and pan, and decided to leave the band to which he belonged and form his own steelband which he called the Cavaliers Steel Orchestra, and in which band he had with him several of the members of the Guinness Gondoliers Steelband. In 1960 this band which was regarded as a break-away from Guinness Gondoliers began making such rapid strides in their performance that the Guinness Brewing Company thought it fitting to arrange a special competition between these two bands, in order to decide which of them deserved their continuing sponsorship.

   This competition was held in Woodford Square, Port of Spain, and the Cavaliers Steel Orchestra emerged winners. As a result they got the sponsorship of the Guinness Brewing Company and came to be called Guinness Cavaliers Steel Orchestra.

   By 1961, the Guinness Cavaliers Steel Orchestra had achieved a very high reputation for their standard of ‘pan’ music. In that same year, there was a competition called [The] Steelband Festival, held at Palms Club, San Fernando. In this competition Guinness Cavaliers Steel Orchestra placed second to Sundowners Steelband.

   Onwards from 1963, the band, Guinness Cavaliers Steel Orchestra, kept in the winners row. For many years, their many winnings include National Panorama Champion 1965 with Lord Melody’s Mas. It is notable to mention that they were again Island Panorama Champion in 1967 with Lord Kitchener’s Sixty Seven.

Let us now look back at the Island Panorama competition from 1965 to 1967 and summarise the Guinness Cavaliers achievements for [those] three years of National Panorama Competitions.

1965  Placed First with Lord Melody’s Mas
1966  Placed Second to Desperadoes with Lord Kitchener’s My Brother Your Sister
1967  Placed First with Lord Kitchener’s Sixty Seven

   Although they placed second to WITCO Gay Desperadoes [ who played Sparrow’s Melda ] with the calypso My Brother Your Sister; many of us Southerners will remember, that on Carnival days of that year, their rendition of Ting-Tand, another Lord Kitchener composition; had Southerners jumping in a state of exhaustion, particularly on the Monday Carnival. [39]

   As I mentioned before, the success of this great band came from careful planning and hard work by “Bobby”, as he put through countless hours in his efforts to lift the standard of the band; and I will say that his work resulted in tremendous success, and as a result, Southerners and the whole island benefited.

   At this stage I will make special mention of the late Mr Zainool Mohammed, “Bobby’s” father, who managed the band in its initial stage and helped in many ways to lay the foundation for the success of a unique and popular steel orchestra. Some of the outstanding achievements of the Guinness Cavaliers Steel Orchestra are as follows:

1964   Placed third in Music Festival.
Tune played was Virgin De La Marcarena.
1965   Won Southern Panorama Festival.
Won trophy for best arrangement of tune Carmen.
1967   Won National Panorama Competition.
First Southern Panorama festival and all Road competitions.
Won first time “Bomb” competition.
Tune played was Sixty Seven.
Placed 3rd in Music Festival.
Tune played Is Paris Burning?
Two classical pieces Revelation from Beyond and Gallopade were composed by Lennox “Bobby” Mohammed.
Entered Music Festival
Tune Revelation from Beyond.
It was the first time that a written score by a local person was given to an adjudicator, who in that year was a Professor Russell.
1968   Went to Venezuela to play for the Carnival Celebrations in Margarita island.
It was the first time that a South band went to play for these celebrations.
1969   Placed 2nd in Southern Panorama Competition.
Won “People’s Choice” polling 1,694 votes.
Played for Mack Copeland band, in Port of Spain's Carnival celebrations.
Tune played Mas in Brooklyn.
1970   Placed 1st in Southern Panorama Competition.
Entered “Bomb” competition for the second time and again won.
Placed 2nd on the Road.

   Two other bands that must be mentioned that achieved great fame at Panorama were Ju-C Antillean All Stars of Upper Coffee Street, and Stag Fonclaire form the corner of Fonrose and Claire Streets, San Fernando.


   The Ju-C Antillean All Stars Orchestra, famous for quick tempo and “heavy jamming” and an off-shoot of Battan and Destroyers Steelbands. The Stars as they are commonly known to Coffeeites are accepted by the people of The Coffee as ‘the’ Coffee-band. Their panyard was situated about one hundred yards on either side of where the Battan and Destroyers panyard used to be, but they have since removed their headquarters to Carib Street. Hence the reason we of The Coffee link this band with its predecessors, Battan and Destroyers and it is my feeling that some of these lads must have seen and heard the older panmen of Battan times and made up their minds some day that they [40] would become grown up and replace the men of Battan.

   Actually they have not only replaced the men of Battan, but they have surpassed the Battan standard by far. It is also a fact that the Ju-C Antillean All Stars Steel Orchestra qualified for the Island Panorama Championship several times, and won the Southern Panorama Steelband Competition in 1974.

   Apart from producing sweet steelband music and “heavy jamming” the Ju-C Antillean All Stars Steel Orchestra must be credited for producing the largest Carnival mas’ band[s] in San Fernando for many years. It does not take many moments to recall the All Stars Sailor band which numbered approximately fifteen hundred to two thousand members. The sections of a band with a membership of this amount would be large and this then gave the players the opportunity to bring out the best in the mas’ which they were portraying. Mas’ bands can produce large sections, from greasers to high ranking officers.

   I will now try to reverse the readers mind to where I spoke of steelbands producing their own carnival mas’ bands as the old times of Pearl Harbour, Battan, The Snow and Texas knew nothing whatsoever of producing carnival mas’ bands.

   Ju-C Antillean All Stars Steelband is rated as the top Sailor band in South and is looked upon as the “Starlift band of Port of Spain”, for producing large Carnival mas’ bands with costumes fixed at reasonable prices. By so doing, this band allow many mas’ players to join in the full pleasure of Carnival by beating out ‘sweet pan’ and producing mas’ at prices that the average mas’ player can reach.

   I have touched briefly on about thirty years of the steelband movement in the Southland, starting from Pearl Harbour, going up to Ju-C Antillean All Stars Steel Orchestra. I believe that most of the present panmen are well known to the general public and it would be pointless to go into detail to describe the various panmen in their respective roles in this band, but I must mention the Ju-C Antillean All Stars Captain “TackiePan from booklet Donovan who has stood at the helm of this band for many years, and apart from making the band one of the leading steelbands of the island, he also led the band on to becoming one of San Fernando's top Carnival mas’ bands.


   In the year 1965, by which time the steelband movement had become well established in South, a group of young men, who were members of a soccer team based in the Fonrose and Claire Streets area, and who used to gather on Sunday mornings to hold soccer competitions, decided to form a Steel Orchestra which they named Fonclaire Steel Orchestra, so called because their meeting place was at the corner of Fonrose and Claire Streets in San Fernando. They practised continually and consistently for a couple of years, and in 1968 they took part in the “Bomb” competition sponsored by the West Indian National Insurance Company, and won. Since 1968, this band competed regularly in this competition and almost every time they entered they emerged winners, until finally, they became permanent holders of the trophy which was at stake. [41]

   After a long search for assistance, Fonclaire Steel Orchestra, through the instrumentality of the then Minister of Labour, Social Services and Co-operation Mr Errol Mahabir, obtained a sponsor from Mosco Tiles Limited and came to be known as Mosco Tiles Fonclaire Steel Orchestra, but have since became Stag Fonclaire Steel Orchestra.

   In addition, two San Fernando businessmen Mr John Hoyte, manager of Hoyte's Auto Paint Shop and Mr Robert Montano of Imperial Stores Limited, who had the band at heart, assisted the members in many ways in improving the band. Milton “Wire” Austin, managed to keep the band together and succeeded in getting them to work regardless of adverse circumstances. He led the band from its inception, in 1965, and still is its captain up to today [1979]. “Wire” as he is commonly called, has always kept the interest of the band at heart, so much that he not only engaged himself in the musical aspect of the band, but also took upon himself to organise bingos, raffles and other fund-raising projects to promote this band. [42]

© 1979 Donald “Dan” Seon

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Historic Update: 13 January 1999; Last Update: 25 June 2014 01:00:00 TT

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