National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago honours Merle Albino-de Coteau
National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago honours Merle Albino-de Coteau || Picture Courtesy: National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago (Facebook)
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago remembered one of the first women to arrange a steel band for Panorama in Trinidad and Tobago, Merle Albino-de Coteau.

As per the update, she is a gifted composer, music director and pannist, Albino-de Coteau has over 70 years of experience in music and has mentored generations of local musicians through her music school, The Music Makers School in Laventille. Though she mainly plays the pan and the piano, she can play several other instruments which she learnt during her studies at university.

Albino-de Coteau was raised in a musical household in Success Village, Laventille. She learned pan in a time when panyards were socially stigmatised, and there were fewer women involved. Speaking on the history of the pan in an interview with the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, she said, “It was only when a certain set of people with a certain respectability came into the pan, then it got its recognition. Coming from the grassroots, it was not recognised.”

Although her parents were hesitant about her and her siblings playing with a steel band, they excelled. Albino-de Coteau began arranging music for the Chase Manhattan Bank Savoys (formerly known as Torrid Zone), and in 1972, she became the first woman to arrange a steel band for Panorama, with an arrangement of “Mas in May” by The Mighty Sparrow.

In the 1970s, she was invited by Pan Trinbago to judge steelpan competitions and has since judged Panorama competitions locally and abroad for over 40 years.

Now a retired Director of Culture in the Ministry of Culture, Community Development and Women’s Affairs, Albino-de Coteau continues to inspire others. She published the book, “Learning Can Be Fun: A Music Text for Students” in 1994 and was an editor for the book, “History of Steelband Panorama of Trinidad and Tobago, 1963-1990” by Gideon Maxime.

Merle Albino-de Coteau was awarded a Sunshine Award and has been recognised by Pan Trinbago, as well as the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), for her pioneering work in music. In 2019, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts in the areas of Music and Education from UTT.