For over 50 years the world enjoyed the scintillating music of Trinidad's steelband. Audiences all over the world were spellbound and amazed that such a rich tonal quality of music could come from discarded steel drums.
After decades of hard work under the guidance of George Goddard the steelband movement held its first panorama competition in 1963, and following this, pan emerged in 1992 as the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago.
The bands comprised mainly of unemployed young black men who often found themselves in confrontation with the police. But after Trinidad became independent, the new government moved to change the image of 'panmen' as they were called. Official involvement in the movement was evident with the hiring of bands to perform at social functions. Corporate sponsorship was also encouraged to provide bands with funds to purchase drums and pay for arrangers, tuners and uniforms.
The involvement of corporate sponsorship slowly helped to remove the stigma that was associated with the performers, and there was social acceptance of pan by the wider community. Panmen are now regarded as musical ambassadors as they travel to various countries to provide steelband music.
With this new image, the war on the streets was changed to another kind of musical war on stage, and in 1963 the Carnival Development Committee in conjunction with George Goddard, President of the Steelband movement, held its first Panorama competition in Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain.
The competition allowed each band to appear on stage to be judged by a panel comprising people with experience and training in music. The competition on that occasion was not without controversy. Invaders who had appeared first on stage and played in the presence of two, instead of three judges did not place. The players protested vigorously about the third judge not having heard them. They were advised that the reason for the absence for the third judge was that they started to play before the scheduled time.
On that historic occasion the winner of the competition was North Stars led by Anthony Williams. The band had played Williams' arrangement of the Mighty Sparrow's "Dan is the Man in the Van". In second place was Sundowners with Sparrow's "Harry and Mama" with Desperados third, playing Kitchener's "The Road".
The following year, 1964, was also a great success. On that occasion it was a joint effort of the Steelband Movement and the Junior Chamber of Commerce. The crowd in the Savannah saw for the first time the introduction of the pans on stands, as well as pan around the neck. Pan on the stand was introduced by North Stars, who, once again, were winners of the panorama competition. This time they played Lord Kitchener's "Mama Dis is Mas".
Steelband music has come a long way since 1945 when players were restricted to conducting their musical affairs in abandoned buildings, open yards and under the homes of the players.
From that tangled environment steelband music developed to the point where they were playing in such places as London's Royal Albert Music Hall and other prestigious centres of culture.
Steelband music has come a long way since 1945 when the bands were not allowed to parade on the streets. Because of the war the police had tightened its security in every way possible.
On May 8, 1945 the bands hit the streets with a vengeance with thousands of followers as they commemorated the surrender of Germany, thus bringing to an end a war that lasted four years.
Steelband music started with the — do-ray-mi- fa-sol-la-ti-do, then "Mary Had a Little Lamb". In the years that followed they moved from calypso to classics and were performing in various churches throughout Trinidad.
Panorama has now become one of the premier events of Trinidad Carnival with visitors from different parts of the world arriving in Trinidad to take part in the annual Panorama Competition.