Harmonites Steel Orchestra
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The band Solo Harmonites has its genesis in 1963 when a group of teenagers from Egypt village, Second Caledonia, Barataria, Trinidad came together to form a steel band, which was originally known as Wonderland. Under the leadership of one Mr. Justin '"Baba'" Fredericks, the band endured a name change to “Harmonites” when it was discovered that there was another steel band by the name of Wonderland. Mr. Fredericks migrated shortly afterwards and the mantle of leadership fell to Mr. Winston “Skull” Fleming, captain and Mr. Vincent “Hueloy” Lila Yip Young as Manager.
In 1965 the band gained sponsorship from Solo Beverages due to the efforts of Messrs Gibbons, Chai and Simeon Bradshaw, a community leader of John John, Port of Spain. The band was thereafter known as “Solo Harmonites.” During that same year the band was fortunate to visit various communities throughout Trinidad, with the Julia Edwards dance group, in a caravan sponsored by Solo Beverages and hosted by the renowned Holly Betaudier. The band played regularly on Sundays in places that included Siparia, Chaguanas, Sangre Grande, Princes Town, and Point Fortin. During that period, the band established itself as a national steel band.
Solo Harmonites made its debut in the panorama competition in 1966 and was an instant success, reaching the seven- band final with its rendition of ‘Man in the Pajama Suit’ arranged by Knolly Bobb. In 1967 the legendary Earl Rodney took over the musical director's position, taking the band to its first victory in the ‘Is Paris burning’ competition for which the band was rewarded with a trip to Suriname. In that same year the band placed third in the prestigious Panorama competition. Dedication and hard work is vital to success. But success to “Solo”, as the band was known, did not come easy. After three years of hard work and constant practice, and when that historical moment came, the band and its supporters exhibited sheer jubilation. Some shed tears of joy as some thirty thousand patrons applauded vociferously.
The Band won the 1968 Panorama competition with an unforgettable rendition of Kitchener’s “Wrecker” which automatically made them the world’s champion steel band. In 1969 the band rocked town with the pulsating tune ‘Bongo” composed by the Mighty Sparrow, and arranged by Earl Rodney. Rodney once again teamed up with then-captain Joseph Renaud and the band repeated their magical winning performances in 1971 and 1972.The band continued its winning ways in 1974, with Kitchener’s “Jericho” - this time the musical arranger was Rupert Mark, again under the leadership of Joseph Renaud.
During the ensuing period, Solo Harmonites ruled the dance hall when steel bands were an integral part of fetes especially around the carnival period The band also produced an LP album every year comprising at least ten songs of the current carnival season, a feat yet to equaled or surpassed by any other steel band , past of present.
Over the years, Solo Harmonites represented Trinidad and Tobago and performed in Barbados, Suriname, Brazil, Switzerland, Spain, Cayman Islands, London, England and Atlanta and New York, USA, leaving behind them a trail of musical excellence equaled to the best of steel orchestras coming out of Trinidad and Tobago.
While being a regular feature at the finals of the annual Panorama competition, the band obtained moderate success throughout the ensuing years - the major ones being three East zonal championships under the leadership of Owen Serrette In 1993. Mr. Flemming who had lived in the USA, returned to Trinidad and rejoined the band. However due to managerial differences in 1994, a core of Harmonites players, mainly the younger members led by Owen Serrette and Lloyd Manswell decided to sever ties with the legendary orchestra taking with them the prized Solo Beverages sponsorship to form “Solo Pan Knights Steel Orchestra”. The rest is history.
Mr. Flemming, who had regained leadership died in a tragic accident a few years later. At present, Mr. Peter Kanhai is the Manager, and Mr. Shellford Lawrence, the captain of Harmonites.
A new chapter was then written in the biography of this great steel orchestra. On a historic and momentous occasion,– a landmark was planted in the steel band landscape- as both steel orchestras decided to forget their differences and the merged Solo Pan Knights and Harmonites become one – SOLO HARMONITES, the original Road runners No1. This successful re-union (there were other failed attempts)—which took place on 11/09/09—was initiated by Vincent “Hueloy” Lila Yip Young.
With this merger, the band has now been directed as follows:
Captain: Kern Bobb
Vice-Captain: Dennis Clement
Secretary: Crystal-Ann Timothy
Treasurer: Shanice Smith
PRO: Stephanie Hackett-Bascombe
Mr. Joseph Renaud, Chairman;
Mr. Anton Simmons Vice-chairman;
Ms. Odora Alexander, Secretary;
Mr. Mark Quamina, Director, Finance;
Mr Owen Serrette Director Operations (Manager of the Steel band)
Mr. Peter Kanhai, Director Marketing and Business Development - Manager, Administration
Mr. Shellford Lawrence, Director, (Band captain)
Ms. Sheralda Moore Vice-captain
Mr. Reggie Ramnath, Director, (Sponsor’s representative)
|Harmonites was originally formed as Wonderland in 1961 by a group of teenagers from Morvant and Second Caledonia, Barataria. In 1963, the band changed its name to Harmonites and set up its headquarters at the corner of Churchill Roosevelt Highway and Fourth Street in Barataria. The band later gained the sponsorship of the Solo Bottling Works Company. With musical arrangements by Earl Rodney and Rupert Mark, the band won four Panorama titles. In the early 1990s, some members of the band left to form the Pan Knights Steelband but returned to merge with Harmonites 15 years later. In addition to its accomplishments listed below, the band made the Panorama Finals for Large Bands in 2010 (7th-Tied) and 2012 (5th-Tied). Harmonites finished among the top three steelbands in the following significant competitions:|
|Compiled by Ronald C. Emrit|