Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago recalled and paid tribute to the original Steelband Music Festival of the country. As per the update, the Festival is known as ‘Pan is Beautiful.’
The National Archives outlined that this week’s throwback Thursday was to the original Steelband Music Festivals of Trinidad and Tobago, known today as Pan is Beautiful.
As per the update, these festivals were an offshoot of the Trinidad Music Festival, first held in 1948 to showcase Trinbagonian musicians. After the success of TASPO’s tour of London in 1951, steel bands gained a wider audience and were allowed to participate in the Trinidad Music Festival.
Due to growing interest in steel bands during the 1960s, the Steelband Music Festival was founded as a standalone competition in 1964, outside of the Trinidad Music Festival. Because Trinidad lacked a concert hall at this time, the Steelband Festivals were held in movie theatres, such as Roxy Cinema in Woodbrook and Globe Cinema in Port of Spain. They attracted international attention and – according to Anthony Williams – led to improvements in the design, making and tuning of pans, plus arranging and orchestration.
Accordingly, there was intense rivalry between soloists, who performed mostly European classical music. A Junior Steelband Festival was introduced in 1981 as a training ground for younger members of the Steelband movement. From 1980 onwards, the Steelband Music Festival was renamed “Pan is Beautiful” and, since then, has become a platform for steel orchestras, single pan bands, and soloists to compete.
Cultural icon Pat Bishop was also a major influence on the Steelband Music Festival, as both an adjudicator and participant for many years. She was a pioneer in the steelband movement and used her classical music training when arranging music for steel orchestras. As one of the first women to arrange music for steel bands, she worked alongside Jit Samaroo, Ken Philmore, and Lennox “Boogsie” Sharpe.
By the 1980s, Bishop became Director of the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra and under her guidance, they toured the US eight times, performing at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in 1987. Then, in 1988, she led Desperadoes to the first place position at the World Steelband Music Festival.