Steelband Competition
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[The following article written by Gideon Maxime is supplemented with a note from {Dr Felix Blake}]


   The Steelband in the late forties and early fifties, regardless of the social pressure, had as their supporters young and middle aged men. As the second World War came to an end in 1945, there were several attempts to outlaw the steelband altogether. The intense rivals, which sometimes resulted in the senseless steelband clashes, also had its very positive side at times; but it appeared to have gone unnoticed.

   This creativity was in the form of songs or calypsos which were composed by steelbandsmen themselves and presented in a non-competitive manner.

   For instance, on J'Ouvert morning, bands which were of an unconventional nature at the stage of the development of pan, used to compose their own hidden tunes and rehearsed in the wee hours of the morning. This song glorified the band while instilling fear into the hearts of other steelbands.

Here is a verse of one by Casablanca of Belmont

Steelbands members tell them who don't know
The Blanca is here again
and we standing firm to defend we name.
We warn them once and warn them twice
Casablanca bound to look nice.
For when you coming for melody
we have "Teasley, Patsy and Croppie"

   This was sung on J'Ouvert morning and it was considered a "Bomb" tune since it was kept especially for this early Carnival Monday morning to be played especially for opponents to hear.

   When songs of this type were heard, other bands would go into seclusion and prepare similar songs.

   This form of friendly rivalry event on for quite a number of years before Neville Jules, captain of All Stars, decided to create this J'Ouvert morning Steelband Contest.

   {But it was the introduction of the J'Ouvert "bomb" however, that proved Jules' mastery over his medium - if any proof were needed. In the run-up to Carnival, steelband practice was by the very nature of the panyard an open affair. The feeling among All Stars' supporters was that members of other bands would come to their [yard] to copy the work Jules was doing. True or not, it led to an incredible decision, to learn the chosen tune secretly.
   This is how it worked. Pan practice would end at the hour prescribed by law, 11 pm. But an hour and a half later, pan players would return to practice the "bomb" tune, using their fingers, instead of pan-sticks [some have said that they used to use lead-pencils in some cases], to learn their parts. One result of this extraordinary practice, was that the pan players themselves never heard the tune in its entirety until it was 'dropped' on an unsuspecting public J'Ouvert morning. Needless to say, this created the greatest excitement.}

   From as early as 1963, when the competition was at Park Street sponsored be Penguin Monte Carlo Club, crowds thronged the panyards hoping to hear a note of what was expected to be the tune of the steelband on J'Ouvert morning.

   However, many enthusiasts went away un-rewarded, for it was into the wee hours of the morning that really any attempt was made to practice or rehearse the tune. As a result only the real core followers would have had an idea of the tune to be played and they were coaxed into not divulging such a guarded secret.

   In the North; the Trinidad Chamber of Commerce, along with the First National City Bank, played the leading role in the promotion of the "Bomb" Competition from as early as 1965.

   There was criticism of this competition by Mr Pete Simon and strangely enough, Mr Frank Dowdy, who in fact was instrumental in getting Citybank to sponsor the competition in the first place.

   The criticism of the competition arose after some people found that there was too much congestion on the road along the parade routes.

   Pete Simon in one of his articles to the Trinidad Guardian dated 19th January 1969, found that

..."The Bomb" was progressively destroying the spontaneity and unrestrained gay abandon of Carnival. Also it had no business in Carnival!

   It is worthwhile to note that although this competition tailed off on J'Ouvert Morning, after 1969 in Port of Spain, in San Fernando the competition found a champion in Mr John Hoyte, a businessman who sponsored this competition for steelbandsmen in San Fernando for twenty years, from 1970 to 1989.

© 1997 Gideon Maxime: Pg 13; PAN THROUGH THE YEARS (1952 - 1996)
© 1995 Dr Felix Blake: Pg 168; THE TRINIDAD & TOBAGO STEEL PAN: History and Evolution

   [In Port of Spain; the Bomb competition re-emerged in 1973 with the name Jesus Christ Superstar; then once again in 1986; then again as Pan on The Move between 1991-93 and just The Bomb from 1994 to today. (1998)]

© 1998: - 19980317 - 1m20071228 - 2m20140615
Historic Update: 05 December 1999; Last Update: 23 June 2014 14:30:00 TT
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