Panorama Gold

Flamingoes Steel Orchestra

2024 Tune of choice: Engine Room |  arranger:  Dr. Anthony Salah Wilson

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The inception of Flamingoes Steelband from St John Village in St. Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago began in 1957 with founder Bob Theroulde, uncle of Salah Wilson. From the beginning, the concept was a community-based organization. It was the pride of the village in its heyday, which stretched from the early sixties to the late seventies; it was nationally regarded as one of the best recording and dance bands in the country and a strong contender in the Panorama and other competitions, being sponsored by Lever Brothers under the evolved name of Lever Brothers ‘Gay’ Flamingoes.

After quite a few of the prolific members migrated to North America in the early and mid seventies, the band suffered from the lack of leadership and started spiraling downwards. The strength of its community-based roots kept it alive, but the band experienced its biggest setback in the eighties when it was forced to split into another band - which turned out to be the now-renowned Exodus Steel Orchestra. Throughout the nineties, the band was retained, but only as a shell of its former self.

Says Salah Wilson “It is amazing that there is such a lack of interest in this village which at one time housed three prominent steelbands. There were, also, numerous prolific players, arrangers and tuners who have been involved in this village including Carl Greenidge, Michael “Nazi” Contant, Wallace Austin, Leo Coker, Lincoln Noel, Leslie Bernard, Mambo, Robert Greenidge, Kenrick Headley, Henry“ Bendix” Cumberbatch, Tyronne Noreiga, Rupert “Shadow” Nathaniel, Gaston Maloney, Cordell “Spongy” Barber, Louise McIntosh, Hetty De Gannes, Carl “Boots” Williams, Kelvin “Zuzy” St. Rose, Jules Cazabon and Amin Mohammed. (There are many more people who could be added).”

Flamingoes Steel Orchestra celebrated its 50th year of existence in 2007 with an attempt of revival, but it was not until the return in the latter part of 2009 by some of the former members of the seventies who had migrated, and with the change of management – that new life was breathed back into the band.

Salah Wilson began arranging the panorama song that year (2009), and Flamingoes participated in the 2010 Panorama competition, getting to the semifinal round and missing the finals by placing 11th (10 bands were chosen).

It continued by participating in the 2010 Arouca and Tunapuna competitions on Carnival Monday, which had not happened in more than two decades, and emerged in second place in Arouca and first place winners in Tunapuna. After the carnival, the band continued with a music literacy program for the membership and now includes the youths of the village as well as getting the senior citizens involved. It is an attempt at community development involving the entire village with the hope and aspirations of not only bringing back an entity to be proud of but an organization that can assist in stopping the spread of crime and bad elements in the society.

Salah Wilson continually appeals to the villagers of St John to support the re-building of Flamingoes. “If at any time the old African saying that “It takes a village to raise a child” has a meaning, it is now. Flamingoes is that child and it surely needs the village to participate again.”

by Salah A. Wilson

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