National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago honors Steelpan Pioneer Elliot “Ellie” Mannette
National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago honors Steelpan Pioneer Elliot “Ellie” Mannette || Picture Courtesy: National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago (Facebook)
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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago celebrated the legendary steelpan pioneer Elliot “Ellie” Mannette, who is known as the co-inventor of the steelpan.

Mannette was the first person to sink the top of an oil drum into a concave surface, thereby changing the structure of the steelpan and how notes were placed upon it.

According to the official update by the organisation, he was born on 5 November 1927, in Sans Souci and spent his childhood in Woodbrook. During the 1930s, the use of bamboo for musical instruments gave way to metal instead during the Carnival season, leading to the rise of “steel bands”. In 1939, Mannette formed his band, The Oval Boys Steelband, which later became Invaders Steel Orchestra.

After Winston “Spree” Simon discovered that creating dome-like sections in the surface of his “kettledrum” led to differing notes, Ellie Mannette later reversed this process during the 1940s, sinking the surface of an oil drum and creating the steelpan as we know it today. He also invented the rubber-tipped sticks that are used to play pan, which softens the notes.

Exceptionally skilled in tuning, by 1951, Mannette had created the tenor pan and even taught rival steel bands how to play the instrument. That year, he travelled to the UK with TASPO (Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra) to present the steelpan at the Festival of Britain, accompanied by other pan leaders like, “Spree” Simon and Anthony Williams.

In 1963, Mannette was invited by the US Navy to create the US Navy Steelband. He toured the US for years, educating and creating steel bands throughout the country, and by 1994 headed the steelpan programme at West Virginia University. US President Clinton bestowed upon him the 1999 National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honour in traditional arts.

Mannette has been highly awarded, receiving the 1969 Hummingbird Silver Medal, an Honorary Doctorate from UWI in 2000, and was admitted to the United States Hall of Fame of the Percussive Arts Society in 2003. The Ellie Mannette Park was named in his honour in Port of Spain in 2001. Sadly, on August 29, 2018, he passed away in West Virginia.

It furthermore shared a photo which showed Ellie Mannette tuning a tenor pan is courtesy of the Trinidad Express Newspaper, August 29 2018.