Dr. Jit Sukha Samaroo (Musician, Panist, Composer, and steel pan arranger) was born in Surrey Village in the Lopinot Valley, Trinidad, on 24 February 1950, the sixth of Sookram and Lakia Samaroo’s thirteen children. His love for music manifested itself at a very early age, influenced perhaps by his mother, who played the Dholak, and by ‘parang’, a Spanish-derived musical art form for which Lopinot is famous. Jit played the cuatro and guitar and at Christmas time, would accompany the village paranderos in their traditional house-to-house serenading.
When his mother died in 1961, the young Jit, appointed the task of taking care of his younger siblings, formed a little combo to keep them together. He had played Pan with ‘Village Boys,’ a Pan-around-the-neck steelband in the village but his true love affair with the instrument began at age 14, when a neighbour took him to join the Lever Brothers Canboulay steelband in Tunapuna. The musical director of Canboulay, Landig White, recognized Jit’s potential and encouraged him to take music lessons; he also allowed him to try his hand at arranging. Sometime afterwards, Jit took home some discarded pans from the band and began to teach his younger siblings to play. They eventually formed a family band, the ‘Samaroo Kids’, which made its debut on 23 August 1967, at a concert held at the University of the West Indies.
Renegades Steel Orchestra
In 1971 Renegades tuner, Bertrand "Butch" Kelman, who also tuned pans for the Samaroo Kids, made the necessary connections for Jit to land the job as arranger with Renegades Steel Orchestra. The following year, The Samaroo Kids entered and won the Anglican Centenary Music Festival, and there Jit met Anglican priest, Fr. John Sewell, a gifted musician and arranger. With the Steelband Music Festival coming up in July that year, Jit asked Sewell’s for his advice and assistance. The Samaroo Kids got into the finals and Jit won the ping-pong soloist prize. Years later, Sewell also helped Jit prepare Renegades for the Steelband Music Festivals.
Jit’s burning desire to excel musically has made legends of both his family band and Renegades. The ‘Samaroo Kids’ grew up to become the Samaroo Jets, and under Jit’s guidance, played to rave reviews at home and across Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, North, Central and South America. Under him also, Renegades dominated Panorama in the 80’s and 90’s. They qualified for the National Panorama finals 29 consecutive times and won the competition on 9 occasions from 1982 to 1997, making Jit the only arranger to have as many wins. Renegades were also in the top three spots 15 times, from 1980 to 1997, won Panorama back to back on three separate occasions, and is the only band to have scored a hattrick (1995 to 1997) of victories in the conventional bands category of the competition. In 1984 Renegades won panorama by 17.5 points, then the widest margin of victory recorded in a Panorama finals, scoring 476 out of a possible 500 points. Jit also took Renegades to victory at ‘Pan in the 21st Century’ in 2003 and to 2nd place twice (1984 and 1988) at the ‘Pan is Beautiful Steelband Music Festival’.
Jit is also a versatile composer. In 1971, a Canadian physical education expert asked Samaroo for help to make a ‘Keep fit’ record to use when he returned to Canada. Jit composed a suitable repertoire that was recorded by the Samaroo Jets. Since then Jit has gone on to compose several ballads, gospel, Jazz, folk, Latin jazz, chutney, Indian and calypso songs. Along with Samaroo Jets, Jit has put on 2 full-length concerts of solely his music in 1997 (For the Love of Pan) and 1999 (Original Notes). This was the first time concerts like these were held in Trinidad and Tobago.
Eleven of his compositions were Test pieces for Pan competitions. "La Trinity" was the test piece for the conventional band in the 1994 Pan is Beautiful Music Festival. “Pan Patterns’’ was the 1985 Junior Steelband Festival Test piece and “Utsav Ki Awaz’’ and “Milap’’ were the 1995 National Pan Chutney Competition Test Pieces for the conventional and Pan-around-the-neck steelbands respectively. “Song of Lopinot’’ was the 1987 Junior Steelband Festival Test Piece and “Jaago’’ (Wake Up) was the 1997 National Pan Chutney Competition Test Piece for traditional Pan-around-the-neck steelbands. In 1996 Jit also composed the sound track for Kamalo Deen's full length motion picture "The Panman", which was filmed in Trinidad & Tobago.
Jit has also arranged for several other steelbands both at home in Trinidad and Tobago and abroad. He was awarded the Hummingbird Medal of Merit (silver) in 1987, as well as the Chaconia Medal (silver) in 1995. In 2003, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies for his musical accomplishments.
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