Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Veterans tell of badjohn pan days

The “badjohns,” from left, Rawle Dove of Starlift,
Rudy Marshall and Keith Moore of Renegades. PHOTOS: NOEL SALDENHA

A comprehensive and vivid dissertation on the birth and development of pan, and the formation of Pan Trinbago, was delivered last Wednesday night, at bpTT Renegades pan theatre on Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain.

Produced by Pan Trinbago, as part of Pan Month, a small gathering of pan enthusiasts was held captive throughout accounts by six steelband veterans, including former Pan Trinbago president Melville Bryan, Bill Trotman, Rudy Marshall, Rawle Dove, Hugh “Dasheen” Hackett and Kirton “Eddie Boom” Moore. Cameo snippets were also given by Pan Trinbago trustee and event host Allan “Pablo” Augustus and Renegades pan player Leiba Trotman.Proceedings were opened by Bryan who traced Pan Trinbago’s birth and development, from its emergence out of the National Association of T&T Steelbandmen (NATTS) and the Steelband Improvement Committee (SIC).

In his address, Trotman, who is also an accomplished artist, calypsonian and dancer, read extensively from his treatise on pan. Speaking on the evolution of the national instrument, from the incidental discovery of the two note dud dup, Trotman said: “Badjohn wasn’t a criminal. The badjohn was a protector of the community, which respected the badjohn. Today doesn’t have badjohns; today has criminals; they kill people.”

Endorsing what Trotman had to say, Starlift veteran Dove stated that the Bomb competition began with a “musical clash” between Trinidad All Stars and Starlift. Dove also stated that pan musicians were not “badjohns” but were “very fast runners.” He said the badjohns of yesteryear were primarily supporters of steelbands.

In a brief speech before introducing the next speaker, an emotional Augustus lamented the small turnout and lack of support by steelbands for the event, adding “every steelband in Trinidad knows about this event tonight.

“We have to take this programme into schools to get wider support from young people. Young students come to Pan Trinbago every day to research papers for their theses. Think of how much they could learn by attending sessions like this?

“Let me make it quite clear tonight, pan is an African thing. But, I must let people like Sat Maharaj and they know that pan is also a Trinbagonian thing. Jit Samaroo is one of the greatest pan musicians ever.” 

Augustus complimented Renegades president Michael Marcano and the band for allowing Pan Trinbago to use its premises free of charge. He called on other steelbands to emulate Renegades

Renegades pioneer Rudy Marshall spoke on the history of the Charlotte Street band. He emphasised that the notorious Lawbreakers gang was formed long after Renegades was in existence. He, too, sang praises of Samaroo. 

Up next was Hackett, a longtime Woodbrook and Invaders “badjohn.” Proudly disclosing that he was born on February 18, 1930, the 83-year-old boldly predicted: “Invaders and Tokyo could never win a Panorama. Invaders has been unfairly judged every year.” 

He suggested that steelbands are kept in check by their sponsors as bad behaviour causes the risk of a band losing sponsorship.

Contradicting Dove’s account of the start of the Bomb competition, Hackett said the competition was initiated by Invaders and Trinidad All Stars.

In the wake of Hackett’s address, Trotman, a pan and music academic, spoke of the relationship between Invaders and Casablanca.

Moore, 71, a living Invaders legend, claimed, “Renegades and Invaders were always in war. The only Invaders man who could have gone by Renegades was ‘Cobo Jack’, because he was the band’s pan tuner.”

Moore gave a vivid account of his life as a “badjohn” at home and abroad, his reputation taking him as far abroad as Britain to add “muscle” to Mangrove steelband. 

He also revealed that “weapons of choice in the badjohn days” included cutlasses, iron bolts and bombs. Adding that “icepicks were for cowards,” Moore said that airplane fuel increased the devastation of a bomb.”

The audience sang happy birthday for Hackett and Moore at the start of their speeches.

Source: http://www2.guardian.co.tt/entertainment/2013-08-16/veterans-tell-badjohn-pan-days

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