In his element: Rudolph Charles led Desperadoes to the National Panorama Championship in 1970, 1976 and 1977. —Photo: NOEL NORTON

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Time to honour ‘The Hammer’

By \\\\\ Verdel Bishop verdel.bishop@trinidadexpress.com

Late pan icon Rudolph Charles should be honoured with Trinidad and Tobago’s highest national award. This is the belief of the people of Laventille and the steelband fraternity in general. And this year should be the year that the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago should be bestowed posthumously upon him. Following his passing 29 years ago, the Rudolph Charles Link Road was named after him however there have been calls from some circles for the pan inventor/tuner and Laventille community leader to be honoured. The National Awards of Trinidad and Tobago recognises the contributions of citizens and non-nationals who have had a significant and positive impact on the country.


Laventille resident and close friend of Charles, Andre Cabarr, is hoping the powers that be would posthumously recognise the pan icon. Cabaar has written countless letters to the relevant ministries over the years but his pleas have always fallen on deaf ears. “I am calling on the Government to recognise Rudolph’s dedication to not only the national instrument but also to his community. He was a community leader who put his country first. He has never been honoured for this dedication and for the everlasting work that he has done for the upliftment and development of the steelband movement and the tremendous work and reform he has done for his community.

“It is now 29 years and since his passing, had ne not been honoured? I wrote five letters a few years ago to the relevant authorities. Letters were sent to the Patrick Manning People National Movement (PNM) administration and to the People’s Partnership administration. I have sent letters to the Minister of Community Development Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters, to the National Awards Committee, to Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Lincoln Douglas, Minister Bhoe Tiwarie and to the President Anthony Carmona.

“I have been communicating via letters and also through personal visits to these offices. Nothing has come out of this. My aim is to get the powers that be to recognise the late great Rudolph Charles but this never happened. I am not the only one who feels that he should be honoured. Ask anyone in Laventille who knows what Rudulph has done for the community and they will tell you that he deserves the country highest award.

“This country is still benefitting from Rudolph’s input and dedication. His work is also recognised internationally; he has put Trinidad and Tobago and our national instrument the steelpan on the world stage. At a time when the steelband movement was in search of a better and more refined tonal quality, a deeper and further range of pans, in order to truly compete with any of the traditional symphonies in the world, Rudolph came up with the superb innovation of pans including the quadrophonic pans, the ying yang pans, the six pans and the nine bass pans.

“All these innovative pans have multiple functions in a steelband orchestra. They can be used at times as the leading pan which is the tenor. They can also be used to enhance the melody or counter melody in a tune. They are also used for harmonising all aspects of the music in any tune. All bands nationally or internationally that are using any of these pans at present are all using the innovated work of Rudolph Charles.

“Rudolph was also a devoted social worker who used his wisdom, knowledge and charisma and humanitarian nature in helping and assisting others. He assisted many in obtaining sustainable jobs. He got many youths off the streets and got them to learn a skill. He got many to turn away from the violent pathway and nurtured them on a musical pathway. On many occasions he assisted in getting roads paved, erecting of retaining walls, the building and the cleaning of drains. He was one of the first to challenge the powers that be for a better financial package for the national Panorama champions. He brought Desperadoes from steelband status to steel orchestra status to an institutional status. He turned Desperadoes into an institution of learning.

Rudolph Charles, from his rise to fame in the 60s, to his passing in the 80s, produced remarkable and memorable achievements both in the national and international music arena, as a charismatic and maximum leader of the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra. In 1964 Charles led the band to second place in the national Panorama competition playing Lord Kitchener’s “Mama Dis is Mas”.

In 1965 Desperadoes under Charles, won the only Best Village steelband competition and was the first steelband to perform in a church. In 1966 the band won the triple crown which included the national Panorama competition, the Jouvert morning Bomb competition and the Best Playing Band on the Road. In 1967, again under Charles, Desperadoes won the Governor’s Ball Steelband Competition.

In 1970, 1976, 1977, Charles led Desperadoes to win the National Panorama Competition. He also came up with the superb innovation of pans: Quadraphonic Pans; The Ying and Yang pans; the six pans; the nine pans and the 12 pans. In 1972, Charles and Desperadoes performed at the Royal Albert Hall in England. They played the “1812 Overture”. He was also given a posthumous award by Pan Trinbago but never a national award.
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