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Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra

   TASPO of 1951 could be called TASPO I; because there was another incarnation of this steelband in 1954 called TASPO II.

   The historical importance of TASPO I, to the rest of the steelbands in the world ever to follow, is only just beginning to be unravelled and understood, far less recognised. TASPO was pivotal to the future development of the steelbands; not only for its function as a ‘role model’, but at that time it was probably the most technically advanced steelband in the world. But there are other facets of this steelband that mark its importance; even that one social cause that helped inspire its genesis, but that it failed to achieve for another 15 years or so. Much of this had to do with the players and tuners who made up the band and the band leader Lieutenant Nathaniel Joseph Griffith; himself an extraordinary influence, both in and out of this band.

   Most of these people individually either were and continued to be, or became, major influences on the future developments of the steel drum instruments themselves, renowned band leaders or players, or helped the spread of the steelband idiom to Europe and North America. And that was after the impact and influence TASPO itself, as a band, had made on the local and international forums.

   The honour of inspiration for the formation of TASPO, is at odds by comparison of Blake’s and Goddard’s accounts. In that this honour was more likely conferred on the Governor, rather than inspired by him; that needs to be clarified. TASPOs social aim of unification of steelbandsmen remained unattained for about 15 years, a deeper sociological problem that needed other influences to surmount; but its call to social acceptance was nearly immediate and for reaching; as accounted both by Blake; and Dr Thomas, Goddard’s Editor.

   At this end of history, the roll call of the band is nothing less than astonishing. Orman “Patsy” Haynes, Dudley Smith, Granville Sealey, Theo “Black James” Stephen and the fated Sonny Roache to begin. Where Blake records that Philmore “Boots” Davidson, Elliott “Ellie” Mannette, Anthony “Tony” Williams and Sterling Betancourt are tuners; the roots for cross pollination of ideas become firmly sown; with Andrew (later to become “Pan”) de la Bastide and Winston “Spree” Simon on the side, history as yet unrealised for the instrument, is in the making. Blake reveals Griffith’s strong influence and tells more of this part of the story. “Ellies” double tenors and William’s spider pans are later legacies of this collusion.

   TASPOs advertisement as a steelband to Europe, and the UK in particular, is unparalleled. Blake (later in his theses) records the influence that Orman “Patsy” Haynes, Philmore “Boots” Davidson and Sterling Betancourt had on the spread of the steelband idiom to the UK.

   Both Seon and Blake remind us that, to the locals in Trinidad and Tobago in general, the acronym TASPO was well placed but open to playful euphemistic misinterpretation, when expanded to names like Philharmonic and All Stars.


© 1998: - 19981230 - 1m20071228 - 2m20140615
Historic Update: 07 January 1999; Last Update: 21 June 2014 12:15:00 TT