Pan Stereonettes - Single Pan

 

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Motto: Winning is a Behaviour

“Ascending from a legacy of ingenuity, the steelpan has displayed the ability to shape society; uniting people of many creeds and races and carrying them through times of adversity.” This is the thought held by the members who first started the Pan Stereonettes - Mr. Alphion Byron and Mr. Vernon Ruiz.

Mr. Ruiz - originally from Fascinators Pan Symphony Steel Orchestra, serving the Toco band as the tuner, and Mr. Byron - originally from Renegades Steel Orchestra, serving as the manager, came together to uplift the community of Toco as in their words, “There was no Steelpan there. We have to do something.” Today the band carries a story that contributes a rich piece of our history as told by long-standing manager Mr. Byron.

Initiation

On the 10th of December, 1995, a group of young people from the rural village of Cumana on the north coast of Trinidad, came together in the name of the steelpan. They called themselves ‘Pan Stereonettes’. The two ‘panmen’ (Mr. Byron and Mr. Ruiz) put their heads together to create a name for the band. As a representation of music, the term ‘stereo’ came to mind and Toco was a fishing community. So there they merged the words and found the term ‘Stereonettes’. They called themselves Pan Stereonettes as a cousoumeh of three elements of their roots.

The Journey begins - Building a legacy of perseverance

After establishing themselves on the north coast, the Pan Stereonettes’ first order of business along with their 34 members, was to perform at the national Panorama competition, 1996. They took their pans and swayed through Independence Square. As they passed Frederick Street and parked the band to get their final practice sessions, they heard the performance of other bands. At first their captain, then a man known as Paul, contemplated the chance of victory with their old-fashioned pans and the abilities of the players, some with less than 8 months playing experience. The captain immediately became disheartened and as a result, abandoned the band. Many people now started to confirm their doubt that a “Toco Band” could even perform at Panorama, much less hope for victory! Mr. Bill Trotman took action immediately - he took their flag from the flag-bearer and began waving as though leading a band of champions from Independence Square to the Town Hall!

Grandmaster’s Plot Twist

It was at the launch of David Rudder’s “High Mas” where the Grandmaster, Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts), also recognised the band and made a bet with a ‘partner’ that we would make it to the finals. Unfortunately, the Grandmaster lost his bet.

It was at this point, his curiosity increased and he decided to find out more about the band. He visited on a Sunday as recalled by the band’s manager, and was determined to see where the band was located. He quickly realised that the band hadn’t had much of a home! He told them that he didn't have money but still wanted to make a contribution to the band. Following his visit he worked with the band on his legendary calypso ‘Toco Band’ - a name which stuck to the Pan Stereonettes.

He also gave the band a mileage which resulted in travels to various places such as Venezuela and St. Vincent. This was a major achievement for them. Little did they know, their experience would become a pillar in solidifying that winning is a behaviour and that the true victory is achieved through perseverance.

Toco Band would always take pleasure in honouring the Grand Master. He studied their lesson and transformed it into a masterpiece and a blueprint for struggling steel bands who also sacrifice for youth and community!

His last words to the band before his passing are highly revered -

“The band must keep on going! Don't give up because anytime a country band has to come to Port of Spain or anywhere to perform they have to make marks to come in town before they make marks to play.” - Grandmaster Lord Kitchener


A New Direction

From 1996 to 2022, the Toco Band has lived by this and implemented it at every step of their journey. After some years, they had been forced to abandon their panyard due to vandalism and other issues. They moved to the manager’s residence but still found that the arrangers did not want to make the long journey to Toco. Consequently, they found a home at the community centre at Jacob Hill, Arima. Presently, the band has been merged with the Sangre Grande Hill Toppers Steelpan Academy under the directorship of Mr. Akil Browne (son of the late Cecil Phillip, nephew of the late Herman Guppy “Brown”) as captain and musical director along with Mr. Byron, still serving as manager.

Mr. Nathanael “Crix” Flemming a profound member of Desperadoes Steel Orchestra and captain of its Junior band, also renders his Musical Directorship. Mr. Steven Henry (son of the late Robert Henry) assumes the role of the vice captain. Together the band of youths, with the youngest member being 13 years of age and eldest at 22 years old, work to integrate the academy’s diverse curriculum into their daily activities.

Over the past 5 years Hill Toppers have taken a bold step to diversify their organisation beyond the realm of traditionally oriented steelpan organisations. This has been done by pioneering a multi-faceted program in partnership with their mother band, Siparia Deltones and WHYfarm.

The program offers training modules for the sustainable development of youth, communities and country and covers a full spectrum of patriotism, Innovation and entrepreneurship. Additionally, so are skills development in Agriculture, Education, Upcycling, Steelpan Production, Spiritual awareness, conscious community and self development.

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Address:  Robinson Lane #2, Damarie Hill, Guaico, Sangre Grande.
Contact:  1 (868) 366-3549


History given by Mr. Alphion Byron and documented by Tiffany Rampersad


 

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