by Dalton Narine
Dr. Jit Samaroo
Global - Just a single name encapsulates this slight man, what he became and the huge legacy he left pan and country.
Imagine a shy East Indian panman/arranger from Surrey, Lopinot, not your ordinary panist at all, being called upon by Renegades, a steelband from round the bridge, to arrange its music. Particularly Panorama fare.
This is a man who went on to win nine Panorama titles in 16 years. To understand the relevance of that milestone, Desperadoes celebrated 10 Panorama wins among three arrangers. If anybody in the world of Panoramania understood the depth of one’s respect for his peers, it is the triumvirate crew of Beverly Griffith, Robert Greenidge and Clive Bradley.
I interviewed Kitch at his home for “Carnival Coming,” a film I was producing in the 90s, and was blown away by his confession that he’d never met, spoken with or seen in person or on television the genius who elevated his songs high above the Savannah stage, Panorama’s iCloud of yesteryear.
“When I found out that he was winning with my songs,” Kitchener said to viewers, “I began to write music with him in mind. If this man likes my songs, I’ll keep feeding them to him.”
As a television interviewer back then, I remember Renegades approaching the stage on Panorama final night, preceded by a glass-enclosed display of bees. And I recall being so excited by that little presentation giving so much meaning to the band, that many viewers confided that the moment drew them closer to their sets.
‘Bees Melody’ by Kitchener, arranged by Jit. Look how that performance has settled in the brain all these years.
But I never found a way to interview such reticent a Panorama character.
(At first, it was “Boogsie” giving me the business and the eye-rolls, but, in time, the Phase II iconoclast had found a gear he’d never used). In Jit’s case, he would always defer to the captain, or a player hanging around nearby.
Jit Samaroo said all he needed to share about his music - with his music.
In 2001, at Trinidad & Tobago Folk Arts Institute’s (TTFAI) Legends of Pan forum in New York, Jit and his wife found themselves among pan stalwarts such as Neville Jules of Trinidad All Stars, Junior Pouchet of Silver Stars, Ray Holman, Clive Bradley and the rest of their ilk. He wasn’t awed. Just nervous. It happened after TTFAI founder Les Slater recounted all the ways the audience should love up this man. Slater asked a question to mollify him, and Jit stood up shaking like a leaf in thrall of the trade winds whipping past Lopinot on their flight across his island.
I wanted to steady his hand resting on the table where I sat next to him. But I knew the answer would be terse, then I shook it vigorously and wouldn’t let go until he heard me say, “Thank you, Jit. Thank you.”
Not that he’d got up, uncharacteristically mumbling a few words, but also for that rich period in pan when a slight panist of East Indian descent treated his countrymen with fine music, Renegades’ face devoid of racial attitudes, the band allowing a legacy for the nation to follow suit.
So in continuance of our mourning of Jit and paying our respects to his family, only a week ago I gave a friend three bands in the Rama that could supplant the old-school style of high-profile arrangers. Silver Stars, Supernovas, Renegades, not necessarily in such order.
What a legacy his father would have left if the latter of the three would beat the field in 2016, considering that “Smooth” Edwards just so won’t let go of the title that “Boogsie” Sharpe will try to wrest from his clutches.
To Jit: Such a sweet time of grieving.
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Dalton Narine joined Trinidad All Stars when the band played in the Garret, the attic of the building housing Maple Leaf Club on Charlotte Street. While serving as a Carnival and Panorama commentator and interviewer on Trinidad
& Tobago Television for more than 20 years, he continued to play the
J’Ouvert until he switched to filmmaking.
contact Dalton Narine at: email@example.com
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