The history of Steel pan in Saint Lucia dates much farther back than Saint Lucia’s independence, even farther than many today can recall vividly enough to attribute its introduction to any one individual. However various names are almost always spoken with respect to this. Lennard “Scrub” Wellington, Augustus “Pan” Andrew are two very instrumental names in the history pan music in Saint Lucia soon to be followed by Roderick Walcott, Antonius “Sycra” Gibson, the Emmanuel brothers, Ivan Smith and more recently with individuals such ac Allison Marquis.
The influence and substantive importance of this art form to Saint Lucia is vastly understated by the silence of blank sheets of history or small scribbles here and there in photo albums arid notebooks of the valiant patriots of the Steel pan.
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The influence of pan spans a wide cross section of society quite apart from the class divisions, as pan was a stereotyped form in its early days. The steel pan and its music found work for idle hands which would otherwise be clawing at mischief at the Boys Club. This activity spearheaded under the tutorage of “Scrub”, can still be balled by testimony of person’s such as Victor Marquis who emerged from this effort. Much later his son, Ivan Smith was to mimic his level of social responsibility by doing the same at the Massade Boys’ Training Centre.
During the early prosperous years of the tourist industry in Saint Lucia, many steel orchestras took to the Hotels providing an inflow of cash from the highly foreign dominated industry. This practice continues today although on a smaller scale.
The existence and development of costumed bands in the Carnival celebrations owes much to the Steelband fraternity. The Turks as well as Scrub’s Steel Orchestu and others paraded the streets with their pan in neck and costumes which many times modelled after Movie hits. The Bands soon began to allow followers in costume to follow. The acclaimed costume designer and band leader, Antonius “Sycra” Gibson came from the ranks of The Turks. Among other members of the hand were Victor Marquis (journalist), Jeff “Pelay” Elva (veteran Calypsonian), and Dunstan Fontinelle.
Pan Orchestra takes to the road The sound of steel pan was the sound of Carnival, before they were gradually phased out by the advent of brass bands and synthesized jam bands. Many from the relevant generation(s), remember the carnivals of strictly steelband music and the violent clashes of bands in the streets, one of the unsavoury aspects of pan history.
The sustenance of a declining influence of pan in Carnival was greatly assisted by efforts of individuals such as Gregory “Shining” Emmanuel who kept his band the Diamond Steel Orchestra continually in the Carnival through the assistance of sponsors. Despite the vast decline of pan presence in the Carnival Jump up, pan has maintained its influence on the island as a whole.
It has become present widely in schools with the assistance of arrangers Ivan Smith and Guy Innocent who tirelessly provide tutorage to students. Pan has also spread through various communities island-wide with a record five bands in Babonneau alone. Pan has even begun seeping into churches of late. Such is a long way off from where Steel pan started with the common stereotype as a past time of vagabonds and “wharf rats.” The respect for and interest in the art form is constantly growing.
The status and general appeal of steel pan grew as did that of Carnival since the art form was so intimately intertwined with Carnival celebrations. This is also on account of the industry gradually becoming more consolidated through the inception of the Saint Lucia National Steel-band Association. The Association was formed in 1997 toward the revival of the panorama championships in 1998 for the first time since 1982. This decisive move spearheaded by individuals such as Lucius “Goatie” Alexander in the pan industry, has led to a widespread respect for the music and the industry as a whole.
The Association has grown to include 15 bands from around the island. It is led by a nine member executive comprised of a president, vice president, secretary, assistant secretary, public relations officer, treasurer, assistant treasurer and two trustees.
The National Panorama championships, has constantly been improved since its revival in 1998. The constant progress of the Steel pan industry continues to manifest itself through continuous innovation and a determination to build on past errors.