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Trinidad and Tobago Steelpan

US awards for Pan heroes

By Terry Joseph
April 17, 2001

Bertie Marshall

A Demanding schedule has been set out for 11 local pan legends who will gather in New York this coming weekend for an awards ceremony hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Folk Arts Institute.

Speaking last weekend from the Institute's Brooklyn offices, chairman of the Board of Governors, Les Slater said that the awards dinner has been well subscribed and all other events are on stream.

The awardees are Curtis Pierre, Bertie Marshall, Clive Bradley, Ray Holman, Jit Samaroo, Neville Jules, Emmanuel "Cobo Jack" Riley, Junior Pouchet, Clifford Alexis, Wallace Austin and Earl Rodney. The five who live here will be flown to New York for the celebration.

They are due to arrive in New York on Thursday evening and from the following morning, join their colleagues in a series of events.

Jit Samaroo

Trinidad and Tobago Consul General to New York, Terrence Walker, will hold a reception for them on Friday evening. There will also be a breakfast jointly hosted by two Congressmen on Saturday morning and a symposium at Medgar Evers College that afternoon. The awards dinner takes place on Sunday evening at the Crystal Manor in Brooklyn and will also be attended by Walker and TT Ambassador to the UN, George Mc Kenzie. The awards dinner is mounted in collaboration with BWIA West Indies Airways and the BWIA Invaders Steel Orchestra.

Slater said the schedule had to be that demanding: "At whatever age you might find them, most of the pan legends still work daily and the Institute is not about to disrupt anyone's income."

The Institute has established itself as a guardian of indigenous arts and a research-oriented think tank since 1991.

Slater, whose local credits include his work as a virtuoso with the legendary Forsyth Hylanders of Laventille, has also made a name for himself in the US as leader of a touring pan ensemble. He has presided over the Institute from inception.

Each year, luminaries in indigenous arts are accorded citations of merit and, on occasion, special performance tributes have been mounted to salute outstanding artistes or artforms.

Clive Bradley

The Institute has also produced talk shows and joint projects with the Brooklyn College, World Music Institute, Ethnic Folk Arts Centre and Medgar Evers College, to highlight Trinidad and Tobago's musical traditions.

Five of this weekend's honourees currently reside in the US.

Jules, founder and leader of the Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra; Pouchet, founder of the Silver Stars and whose band in Orlando, Florida, has had one of the longest running contracts with the Disney Corporation; Riley, who enjoyed celebrity status for his virtuoso work with the Woodbrook Invaders; and fellow band member, Austin, who became a tuner for the prize-winning Desperadoes have taken their skills to New York.

Alexis is now permanently employed with the Northern Illinois University Steel Orchestra, the band that came in second at last October's World Steelband Music Festival.

Holman, who just completed a two-year stint at Washington University in Seattle, is currently at home, but due to return there next month.

Pierre, who led the pioneering Dixieland Steel Orchestra, currently teaches pan; Marshall, innovator and inventor who led and arranged music for Slater's former band, Hilanders, now tunes instruments for Desperadoes. Samaroo, Bradley and Rodney are celebrated arrangers, the former best remembered for his work with the family band (The Samaroo Jets) and the prize-winning Renegades Steel Orchestra.

Rodney, who took the Solo Harmonites to several victories, is equally well known for his work with brass bands and in the jazz fraternity. His arrangements of two of Sparrow's most successful albums, adds further colour to his already varied resume. Bradley, who has also worked in jazz and with calypsonian Nelson ("Mih Lover", "Disco Daddy") has guided three champions of the annual Panorama competition to victory since 1998.