Ellie Mannette at When Steel Talks Studios
Complacency is the mother of mediocrity, that’s why Mannette urged steelpan tuners to begin seriously striving for the continued development of the instrument.
“This steeldrum is in the infancy of its development,” he said, “therefore New York City’s bands must play their part in making sure that it reaches its full potential.” One way for them to start, he said, is by using the latest technology available for the tuning process.
“All kinds of [scientists] are coming into the art-form right now, especially from West Virginia University, to look at how to make this instrument better, and I don’t want Trinidadians to be left behind, because that is ultimately what will happen if we continue working by hand” said Mannette.
During his lecture he showed off a pair of sleek, new mallets, and Pan sinking devices that he said will ensure better tonal quality for the pan on a consistent basis.
All of these tools were produced by engineers from either West Virginia University, or the Rhythmical Steel company. Neither are Trinidadian institutions.
Following the lecture Mannette gladly conversed with friends and fans alike, about the history of steelpan music.
Although he is widely credited with sinking the first pan, there has been an ongoing debate concerning his role in pioneering steelpan music. This debate is especially heated among supporters of the late, Winston “Spree” Simon, whom many Trinidadians sentimentally refer to as the “Father of Pan.”
When questioned about the issue, Mannette told a reporter that all of the early pioneers, including himself, brought innovations that were pivotal to the growth of the art-form. He said that he doesn’t see why they all can’t receive equal recognition. However, he humbly tipped his hat to Simon’s legacy.
Emmanuel “Jack” Riley (left) with Ellie Mannette at the workshop
“He [Spree] is the first man, as far I understand, to play a melody on one of the small pans,” said Mannette. “From that time on he started a trend that everybody followed, so that legacy will live forever.”
Mannette’s peers who were present for the lecture said that the Pan world should always remember him as a man deeply concerned with taking Pan to higher heights.
“He’s always tried to improve the steel instrument from way back,” said Emmanuel “Jack” Riley, 68, who was a member of Trinidad’s Invaders Steel Orchestra with Mannette during the early 1950s.
“I learned everything from him.”
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