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Curepe and the First Steel Pan
There is a strong claim made by one Lloyd Valentine Williams that the world-loved but once hated steel pan was founded in Curepe and not Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad. Williams also says that when he was a child, he created a popular toy instrument for him and his poor siblings to play with.
People from Trinidad and Tobago and around the world have been hearing and getting used to the fact that the pot was made by Port-of-Spain which came through the garbage songs or songs that are sung on paint, milk and tin. The legend says that a riot at the 1935 ‘Carnival’ forced string band leader Alexander Forde of Alexander’s Ragtime Band to call out his members for beating the trash several times. His actions, according to the legend, not only involved regrouping the musicians and leading them home but unwittingly gave birth to the ‘trash’ song that ‘flooded’ the streets the following year. Lloyd Valentine Williams, who was born in Woodford Street, Curepe in 1934 dismisses this idea as absurd and absurd. Williams said: ‘Why would a well-known string band use garbage to play music?’ But there’s also more to this story about a well-known group of ancient ropes. It is known that the Alexander Ragtime Band took its name from the American movie of the same name but the film was not released until 1938, three years after the famous events of the leader of the band in the streets of Port-of-Spain.
Another claim to the invention of tin iron was by George Goddard who stated in his book that a Laventille man named Fred Corbin, in 1937, was the first to play tin pins in the mountains overlooking the city of Port-of – Spain. These were bitters used to make paint, milk, putty or other things rather than actual musical instruments with notes prepared by the heat of fire. This could not have been anywhere near what is now known as the Iron Pan because the city’s old ordinance against lighting fires was still in effect. ‘Any smoke’ according to Williams, ‘would have allowed the fire brigade and the police to visit.’ This ended any kind of real change in Port of Spain. He says that both units were one when he was a boy.
I’m not going to enjoy Winston ‘Spree’ Simon’s story which is as fake as it comes but during my research about the origin of the instrument, all I came across were short stories split here or vignettes like stories presented 10 different ways there; nothing permanent, extensive or coherent was or is to be found. Over time many of these stories grew to the status of facts and became the basis of books, writings, speeches, and fiction. It was only when I came across the experiences of Lloyd Valentine Williams that I smelled the truth about the invention of the only musical instrument of the 20th century. After all, something has to come from somewhere; there had to be a starting point and it wasn’t the garbage cans and paint cans that are funny.
According to Mr. Williams, ping-pong as it was known at the time started with his desire for a squirrel. After being told by his sister that one could easily pass out from the guava tree where they always knocked down a container that was repeatedly hit by the tree, the young Williams persevered. He couldn’t find a can. Williams found a tin basin and angrily hit it with a guava branch which didn’t produce anything; no squirrels fell. All she could manage were the statues on the basin and a gentle rebuke from her mother who was told by her cruel sister that her chores were not being taken care of.
But when his stepfather Williams, a cruel man who worked at the meeting of the Public Works Department in Laventille, began to bring home a drum of 25 gallons of cut steel to use as a barrel to feed the family dirty pigs that the first pan or steel. which was then known as ping-pong was first developed. Williams told me that he has always been interested in sounds of all kinds and said that the sound coming from his mother’s sewing machine was the first to enchant him. This later led to him regularly playing or beating old pieces of metal from a train track, a cast iron wheel and an old biscuit sunrise drum among other things. Williams also made it clear that although he was not a musician, he was always drawn to music.
He says that when he was pierced with a ‘basin of squirrels’ he took charcoal and wrote four dots.
sorry galvanize and start playing with it like a toy. The 25-gallon pork barrel, according to Williams, was the most impressive game; ‘after all’, he said, ‘we, as poor children, didn’t have a porcelain doll or a soldier to play with, we had to make our own toys out of a pile of dung in our back yards.’ Similar to the curved basin, four spots were placed by taking parts of a bottle wheel with a piece of charcoal and drilling them using an old hammer and the edge of a bicycle pedal. This alleged ‘tool’ was the first ping-pong/pan. The first time it was ‘played’, Williams said, was on Christmas morning in the year 1940. He says that in the towns where there were metal bands gathered on Christmas and played music in people’s houses and he was impressed when he saw his little metal toy. A steel band leader and bicycle repairman named Clebert, better known as ‘Shanghai’, was the first to adopt his miniature ping-pong for use by steel bands. Williams says that Clebert later modified his ping-pong by heating it (or fixing it) and thus turned it into a tool suitable for playing with metal pieces at Christmas. He also says that at this time it was not used during the masquerade or carnival; the festival had its own musical instruments for a long time. The fire order that affected Port-of-Spain did little to help Curepe, Williams said, since almost every area outside the city was considered ‘country.’ This is believable because even today many people living in Port-of-Spain refer to many places, even built up urban areas outside the city as ‘the country.’ It may sound strange but this is my experience.
Williams said that passengers on a train that passed through the city of Curepe were the ones who started spreading the word about the instrument after hearing the good music it produced. The first place outside of Curepe, it is said, to use an iron pan was the southern town of Siparia which used it for their festival of La Divina Pastora. From there they were taken on trips to the beaches and to play every Christmas but not to the masquerade or carnival that was controlled by the Roman Catholic whites.
Williams says that although Port-of-Spain had sections for rhythm, bamboo, brass and strings, he knew nothing about ping-pong or pot. He said that the first person who introduced the city to the new tool was Mango Rose, the owner of Laventille club (gambling house) Teddy Kingsale who used to go to Curepe and at the same time liked ping-pong. Williams said that Kingsale took a Curepe boy called ‘Mice’ to his band to play the instrument for the enjoyment of people, some of whom may have never seen or heard the instrument played. It was after World War II, Williams said, that the iron pan began to make waves and was included in the VE (Victory in Europe) and VJ (Victory over Japan) day street parades of 1945. Williams said that its popularity in Port. -of-Spain was on fire when a Calypsonian whose name I don’t remember sang a song that went “Port-of-Spain almost caught fire as a metal band crossed a dry river, Ziglee, Pops and Batasby singing ah semi-tone, jung – bang-ka-jung-bank-ka-jung-bank-ka.” The song, according to Williams makes it clear that a metal band came from outside the city and caused a huge commotion when they entered. The existing city orchestras were no longer able to play a full song because of the equipment they had at the time.
Port-of-Spain would later rule and claim the iron pan as theirs and little by little the movement took place in the city. But even though Williams was a part of a metal band that was happening, he was not a singer or a musician. His work was a mechanical one and personal problems along with his secret desires forced him to earn his daily bread. At the same time artists and players like Ellie Mannette, Neville Jules and Winston ‘Spree’ Simon began to appear when a 55 gallon oil drum was introduced and played in Port-of-Spain which was exempted from the ban on burning. And as Williams’ trials and tribulations increased, his pig knowledge and ‘Shanghai’ skills were undermined by new legends that began to spread in the city about the birth of pot. Williams said he vividly remembers Neville Jules coming to Curepe to learn how to play the pan.
Today various names are mentioned in relation to the iron pan and its origin; Lloyd Valentine Williams is not among them because, according to him, his life took a different path and as we said before, he was not a musician; only lover of words and rhythm. Unthinkingly, all those who come to this topic make a big mistake by saying that the ‘pan man’ is the one who invented steel or invented it in a ‘pan yard’ somewhere. But this cannot be; there could be no such thing before the instrument was made. And it was called ping-pong long before it was called a steel pan.
Space won’t allow me to include everything Williams described but there’s a lot to learn about the experience of a man who says he’s only been trying to make a doll for him and his family to play with on Christmas morning since they met. the parents were so poor that they could not afford to buy them store supplies. Even Williams stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to the true story surrounding the origins of metal. He lives in the United States; worked at General Motors; he had his own houses, cars and businesses; and even went to National Invention Services Inc, in New York in 1994. He also tried to send his activities to people like George Goddard, Kim Johnson, Aldwyn Primus, Rocky McCullen and JW Lynch but they were ignored or closed. But why would such a person want to lie about a weapon that originated in myth and legend? And worst of all is the apparent desire of those at the front to keep his secret history and secret stories, good and looking like divine inspiration. As we have said before, all things must have a beginning; they must come from somewhere, there is always a beginning. And no scholar or wise man can believe that he was ‘inspired by God.’
Although Lloyd Valentine Williams claims to have invented the original ping-pong/metal pan he always appreciates the skill of the famous pan exponents who helped create his little Christmas toy. Interested people can follow the link below to get information and education in full as this article has not even covered half of it.
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