Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago expressed pleasure while announcing the commencement of Steelpan History Month with one of the first Steelpan pioneers in Trinidad and Tobago, Winston “Spree” Simon! He is credited with inventing the “ping pong” steelpan, which made way for today’s tenor pan.
As per the update by the organisation, “Spree”, Simon grew up in East Dry River and played with a number of bands, such as the John John-based steelband Destination Tokyo. He made his breakthrough with the “ping pong” pan by converting a kettle drum into a melodic instrument with convex, dome-like sections on its surface, which allowed it to have different pitches or notes.
This change gave musicians the ability to play entire melodies on the steelpan, a skill which Simon debuted at Carnival 1946, the first Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago since the ban during World War II, according to the update shared by the National Archives.
He played the “Ave Maria”, calypsoes by Lord Kitchener, and the British national anthem to an audience that included the then Governor of Trinidad and Tobago and his wife, as well as social worker Audrey Jeffers.
Simon was then invited to be part of TASPO, the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra. He toured Great Britain and Paris in 1951 while performing with them.
Over the course of his life, Simon spread his love for Steelpan at home and abroad. He travelled widely to countries like Nigeria and Ghana, where he introduced people to the steelpan and showed them how to play it.
Furthermore, it outlined that in 1974, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago honoured Simon with a Public Service Medal of Merit (Gold) for his contribution to the development of the steelpan. Simon’s legacy as one of the great steelpan innovators has been immortalised in a few calypsoes, such as Lord Kitchener’s “Winston ‘Spree’ Simon” and Merchant’s “Pan in Danger”.