18th Article “THE FIRST STEELBAND IN ARIMA”
Francis Morean @26th December 2019
(This is the eighteenth in a series of articles being published here by Francis Morean with the focus upon the history of Arima. I hope I have not lost count. It could be the 19th. If anyone has been keeping count, please correct me. It has been a few months since I last shared a piece. Lol.)
Sometime recently, someone in one of the Arima FB Groups had asked a question about the first steelband in Arima. I can’t recall for sure who the person was but I think it may have been Mayor Metivier.
For the benefit of persons interested in that topic, I wish to share this interview I had conducted some years ago with Lennox Francis aka Chickeechong.
Lennox Francis aka Chickeechong
He was born on April 12th, 1936 so that should place some perspective on the information he had shared with me. I do not mean to take away from the Christmas celebrations, however I just came across this bit of information, which I had been meaning to share for some time, so I am expediting it. In any case, I can also share some interesting narratives about pan in parang, but not in Arima. I wish to simultaneously send Christmas greetings to members of the Arima facebook groups.
Regrettably I cannot presently pinpoint the date of this interview. It was however definitely between 1999 and 2001.
“The first steelband in Arima was called “The Rogues”. They later changed their name to the Vigilantes. They were based at Calcutta Street. A house in on the spot now, however in those days it was only bush. There were only a few houses near the junction of Eastern Main Road and Calcutta Street. The band was on the left hand side in going into Calcutta Street. The band was there when I was 6-7 years old. I used to run away and go with my brother.
The man leading the band was called Gillis. He was the first tenor pan (first pan) player in Arima. He lived on Calcutta Street. Other men in the band were Little Forde, my cousin “Bits” or Sonny Etheline. His mother was Etheline. I cannot remember her surname. It may have been Boville. There was Allan, ( I don’t know his surname) Dalgo,
Jetsam, Alligator Teeth, Big John and about 10 others. I can’t remember all the names. I don’t think anyone alive today. The band stayed on for a while but at age 8 my mother took me to Coryal and I was back and forth.
Melodians was the second band in Arima. They are still on the same spot. They started about 2-3 years after the Vigilantes, but I did not know them. Then Crossfire came in Calmona building on the left hand side right on the corner after the cemetery. This band was inside the building. The house was called the “Room of Doors” because it had plenty doors. One room, every room had several doors. The owner was Calmona and he had been the captain of All Stars; was All Stars was in a place called the “Garrot” up on top a building. Calmona encouraged the boys in Arima led by Lenny Marcano to start a band. That was how the band started.
Abby Calmona teached Marcano how to play the pan. I lived nearby at #6 King Street, Arima, about a ¼ mile away, by the mechanic lodge down by the Anglican Church there. At that time I was 11-12 years old and still going to school in Coryal. Whenever I was in Arima, I started learning the pan with Crossfire. Marcano is still alive. Crossfire lasted many years. Melotones Syncopators was a band that started in Coryal when I was 8 years old. The band crashed after a while. It had been started by Perez in Talparo. Marcano still tunes pan. His children started Arima Nu-Pioneers.”
Among other things he has been a calypsonian, agriculturalist, cocoa farmer, woodcutter, pan-tuner, vigilante, and pan pioneer.
This interview can be read in conjunction with an interview I had done with the late Lawrence Sorzano about the steelband movement in Arima, which I had published some months ago.