first steelband competition

The first Steelband Competition to be organised in Trinidad and Tobago is reputed to have taken place in about 1948, somewhere in Port of Spain. [This reference is a matter of research for these pages]

It must be emphasised however, that the steelbands, their music and their adherents, were at that time considered personae non grata to the mainstream establishment. [The reasons for this it is hoped will be explored in later editions of these pages]

Suffice is to say that Sidney Gallop, the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Steelband Association at that time, wishing and always trying to move forward the cause of his steelband members; would have had an enormous task in getting the establishment to support his members. This was complicated by the fact that his members in turn, who were themselves virtually warring with each other, and themselves not too enamoured with the establishment, and whom he had to encourage to work together in the first place; had to be similarly convinced of any benefit that would result in them entering an establishment competition.


However, it was in 1952 for the first time that steelbands were invited to attend The Colonial's Biennial Music Festival. A music festival heavyweight that was initiated in 1948.

The competition awarded prises to the best Conventional steelband and the best Ping Pong Soloist.


The preliminaries were held at the Cocorite Youth Centre on March 5th 1952. Twenty bands were registered to take part.

Chosen by the Trinidad and Tobago Steelband Association, three local judges adjudicated the preliminaries.

  • Mr Harry Pitts
  • Mrs Vivian Comma and
  • Sargeant Watson of the Police Band

The Finals were held at the Globe cinema on 11th March 1952. For these first finals, a Doctor Sydney Northcote was chosen to adjudicate. Doctor Northcote in his address to the audience remarked:

..."I can confess to having a pretty wide experience as a Festival Adjudicator but I cannot think of any other adjudicator who has had the pleasure and honour of judging a Steelband Contest."

"We have witnessed man's ingenuity in trying to get beauty out of something that is absolutely a waste product. That, I do deeply respect."

"When I first saw steel instruments, I wondered what kind of music they would make, I was astonished that they could make such mellow sounds."

However he warned zealous enthusiasts that it would take patience to build up the technique and purity of the steelband to make it really effective. "Don't be too hurry" he said.

Extracts from: 1997 Gideon Maxime: Pg 1-2; PAN THROUGH THE YEARS (1952 - 1996)

[This reference is a matter of research for these pages]

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