Orman “Patsy” Haynes - Professor Of Steel Band Music

by Doris Green

Orman “Patsy” Haynes from Casablanca Steel Orchestra is simply one of the all-time greats of Pan. When Steel Talks (WST) spotlights Orman “Patsy” Haynes as we revisit his 1985 interview with academic, journalist, historian, ethnomusicologist, choreographer, notator and cultural and music standout Doris Green.

Republished from -  Steelbands of New York with permission from the author

A When Steel Talks Exclusive Reprint

Oral History

Francis Orman “Patsy” Haynes
Francis Orman “Patsy” Haynes

This soft-spoken man, a world-renowned guitar player of the steel pan, was born in Boissiere Village, Trinidad on February 22, 1930. The National Council of Steel Bands presented a program at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in December 1983 in which Haynes played a medley of classical and carol tunes on the double tenor pans.

Mr. Haynes was asked to comment on the origin of the steel pan. In 1937 the fellows in Trinidad were playing bamboo shoots of different sizes. The big ones with deep tones were struck against the ground to supply the bass tones. Others of varying sizes played different rhythms and were struck against each other and against the body, in or around 1939 this led to playing garbage cans. These bands also had a bass can while other cans played various rhythms. Then came in the five gallon paint cans, followed by the biscuit drum, and the bass kettle which were the beginnings of the first steel bands.

Do you think the steel pan has any African origins or relationships?

Ellie Mannette with his self-styled Pan
Ellie Mannette with his self-styled Pan

To this question, “Patsy” replied that he felt it has both African and Indian relationship stemming from an Indian festival where Blacks and Indians joined together in playing pans. The art of using bamboo shoots as an instrument is an African connection, but “Patsy” says they were unaware of it at the time.

The steel pans started with a five gallon paint can which was burned, cut hammered out, then a few indentations were put on it. This pan was not grooved, so only three or four notes were possible. The size of the pan would cause the notes to blend together if more notes were added. This pan was hammered outward with a few indentations on the outside. The first one to sink a pan inward, the shape it has today, and groove it was Ellie Mannette (Elliott Anthony Mannette). Although Winston “Spree” Simon was the first to play a full tune on a pan. He played “Ave Maria,” while others were playing “Mary had a Little Lamb.” When the pan was hammered out in the convex shape, it did not have sharps and flats. The concave shape as we know it today was an invention of Ellie Mannette. It included sharps and fiats permitting many more tunes and melodies to be played.

How many pans were in the first bands?

The original bands had basically five drums. The biscuit drum (cracker tin) was used for the bass drum; tenor, second, tune boom and grumblers were the first instruments in the early steel bands. They composed their music by playing their own parts. Each player had a separate tune which would complement each other in performance.

How many styles of pans do you have?

There are two basic styles, the Ellie Mannette and the Spider Web.

Who created the spider web pan?

“Patsy” responded that he introduced the spider web form with six notes, but Anthony Williams perfected it. Anthony Williams came to tune for the Casablanca troupe when they lost their tuners. At that time, “Patsy” showed Anthony what he was doing and Anthony Williams perfected the pan. He added more notes giving the spider web pan the form as we know it today. According to Patsy, the original drum that he started still remains in the yard where he practiced.

What is the advantage of the spider web pan?

Soprano Pan
Soprano Pan 36 Notes (3 Octaves)

It is tuned in cycles of fifths. It is easier to make, but more difficult to tune. The first pans, Mannette—style, started with a few notes which were randomly put on the pan in various places to see how they would blend. Adding sharps and flats caused difficulty and they had to rearrange the notes to maintain the blending of tones. The spider web pan does not present this problem because it is tuned in cycles of fifths and each row is an octave of the preceding row. Each row of notes is placed — directly over the preceding row becoming narrower as it goes to the center. This type of construction does not present a foul-up of blending the tones.

The most difficult thing about the pan is the tuning. When they first started to tune the pans they had three or four primary notes which were randomly placed on the pan in various areas wherever they would hold. Certain notes do not blend together, therefore, the placing of the notes on the pan was a hit-and-miss process for a while until a pattern was established.

Was there any confrontation with the police?

Yes very much. Playing the steel drums was frowned upon, called jungle drums. The players were considered riff-raff. The bamboo shoots players also received the same kind of harassment. There were many attacks and clashes between police and musicians and public playing was banned for a period of time.

What is your opinion on whether the pan should be used to play Calypso or the classics?

“Patsy” responded that any type of music can be played on the pan, but musicians are freer when playing the calypsos. He added that his preference is “jazz” because it offers him the greatest challenge.

What adaptations were made in the pan that enabled it to be used in playing classical music?


The addition of sharps and flats. Sometimes when pan players were missing a note (F#) they would pull the note (drag the beater across the F note) to give the illusion of the F#. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Therefore, to play the classics, sharps and flats had to be included on the pans.

When the pans were first invented “Patsy” recalls, they were created with the sound of other instruments. The guitar pan had the tones of the guitar; the cello had the sounds of a cello. Nowadays, they tune pans to the tone of the eighty-eight keys of the piano. The tones of the older drums were sweeter then they are nowadays.

Now that the pan has emerged as a recognized musical instrument, what do you feel is the future of the pan and pan players?

Well, he hesitated, if they do not learn to read music, they will stay in the same bracket and will not be able to secure full employment. They will remain hobbyists in their own creation. Furthermore, if they do not decrease the size of the bands, they will stay in Trinidad.

double seconds
Double Seconds

double guitar
Double Guitar

Bass Pan
Double Pan

Publisher's Note: We regret the untimely death of Orman “Patsy” Haynes on October 29, 1985. Mr.  Haynes’ accomplishment as a musician is without parallel.  He was scheduled to perform two concerts for our organization on November 4, 1985 at P.S. 134 in Hollis, Queens.  “Sheik Orman” will be profoundly missed.

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