Some More Pan History In Arima

Keith Denalli

What was the first ever steelband in Arima?

Here are some of the responses:

Was it Waterfront boys?

I always thought it was Melodians, but I recently heard that there was an earlier steelband from “Over de Bridge “

I think it is Cross Stars from ‘Over De Bridge.

It is Cross Fire from behind the Catholic cemetery?

It is Casbah from Over de Bridge.

I remember Cross Fire as a child in the 50’s, and I am almost sure they were around some years before.

Many years ago, Hamlet “Snake” Emmanuel told me Crossfire, from up by The Ruse. I often heard people refer to “The Ruse”. What or where is “The Ruse”?

Both Casbah and Melodians were around before Cross-fire and Cross- stars who both came on the scene together.

Well if a Melodians man, Terry Noel, says Casbah, it must be so. That however doesn’t say Casbah was the first band.

Was “Waterfront Boys” the forerunner to NuTones? No.

Where was Tropical Harmony with Scorpion in that mix? You can say Tropical Harmony was Casbah rebranded, as most of the players from Casbah formed Tropical Harmony. Sylvestre “Scorpion” Garcia was the tuner and arranger for both bands. The both bands were situated at the back of the yard where Tannis lived on Calcutta Street. Scorpion went on to be Nutones tuner/arranger.

I would say Casbah. Crossfire under the tonka bean tree would run a close second. Casbah was on Calcutta St.

Dixie Stars came after Melodians.

Bescrete Steel orchestra that was Symphonettes. Bescrete Harmonisers was my band. We based opposite the 7th day Adventist church on Green street. We were the first band to have pan on wheels. Ken Gray was our welder. He came up with a three-wheel contraption using an old bicycle. I still have a photo taken out in front of Windsor cinema.

Info is not even available at Pan Trinbago which should have been the obvious place.

What of Tropical Harmony from Raglan Street?

Casbah was from over the bridge, they became Tropical Harmony with Kulupin as the tuner and arranger. Later on, Cross Stars came out of Tropical Harmony. Melodians started around Aleong bakery before they moved to Bellamy Street. Skull (Ivan Henry) started his tuning with Cross fire, but after a short while left and formed Melodians with the Bernard brothers.

Reminiscing about those Original bands in Arima. I was born on Pelewah Hill (Over De Bridge) next door to Ma Brown and her sons including Alligator Teeth, and Big Sax! My memories are Casbah, Tropical Harmony, Crossfire, Crossstars and then Melodians. Then came Teenstars and Dixie Stars. I also remember bands like Malabar All Stars, Gaylanders, PanPipers and Bestcrete Symphony. Scorpion had a band near the cemetery in the Ruse! DogPatch Marsicans. Melodians was my band but I remember spending a little time around TeenStars.

Didn’t remember Rogues Regiment but I Remember Alligator Teeth and others had Vigilantes before it was Casbah.

Some notes— Thunderbird spent its embryo year on Calcutta St.
Some little bands that passed through temporarily have been left out.


Melotones from Dog Patch was forced to move so they merged with Angel Harps. When Melotones broke up only a couple players joined what was then Merry Makers which morphed to Born to Lose and then became Angel Harps. Eddie Garth was probably the only Melotones player who played with Angel Harps consistently.

They inherited a few other former Melotones players besides Eddie Garth. One of the names I remembered was the late “Gollywog”. He was Poogie’s elder brother and Eddie Garth’s brother in law.

Other Bands

Waterfront was also on the same property where the Lezamas and the Rileys lived, they then moved to the back of Scorpion Garcia’s home.

Bestcrete and Cross fire were located at the corner of Longden Street and King Street for many years. Tulu Bernette started a band in the Ruse later calling it Nostalgic, then Trinidad Nostalgic.

Rhythm Rockers moved to Bon Air. Nu Pioneers to represents both.

Who was Pan Pipers again?

I believe Pan Pipers was a breakaway from Thunderbirds. Pan Pipers was formed in the lot behind Eatrite facing ProQueen St. Their pans were painted black, and their tuner was the late Desmond Jerry of Arima All Stars.

That was at the Martin’s home on Pro Queen St.

Pan Pipers was the Martin brothers’ band.

Thunderbird. Finland. Gaylanders also come to mind. Also, ICI down Tumpuna rd. Most other bands in Arima came about in the 50’s and 60’s.

Teen Stars were situated where TTST is on Green Street. Winston Black, Hector, Billy were some of its players…these guys went on to be a major section of Highlanders.

Two well-known members of Teen Stars were Bumpy (tailor) and Spratt.

I remember the name “Dixie Stars”. I can’t remember where they were situated or any of their players. I don’t think they look lasted long.

Billy Martin did confirm that his brother Perry was the leader of a band named Pan Pipers.

I now remember ”Pan Pipers”. The band eventually moved to Salamat Ali at the Badals. There they changed the name to “Steel Stylers” because of sponsorship.
At one time the band by the Badal’s on Salamat Ali Street was known as Orientals and was sponsored by Standards and Fosters Limited. That’s why they changed the name to Steel Stylers.

Wasn’t Nu Clear a reincarnation of Thunderbirds? No, they actually were both in existence at the same time. You can say they were a breakaway of Thunderbirds, as Thunderbirds were a breakaway of Gaylanders.

Thunderbirds Started in Calcutta St. They moved to Mt. Pleasant after a year. They practiced in Tannis yard.

Arima All Stars. People called them “Box Factory Band”. Their yard was on the same spot that Spots has his club now.
Correction: “Box Factory Band” was situated around the Tumpuna Rd area close to ICI. The Harding brothers were prominent in the band, which included workers from ICI Factory. Bartlett was their tuner.

ICI Monarchs was the band down by Spots.
Arima All Stars panyard was in the now abandon lot next to the big drain on Malabar Road opposite Koon Koon Street.

There’s a new steelband in Arima, Nu Stars on Bye Pass Road. (Northern End).

Does anybody remember Finland?

They were made up mostly of the fellas who lived up the hill, in Calvary, but their pan yard was in the Tonka bean, and I believed that John Wayne was their captain. I remember Finland! I remember the band playing on the road. In those days Arima had as much as 15 steelbands playing on the road for Carnival. The parade route those days was around the Savannah. They followed Crossfire.

The History From Keith Denalli

When the actual formation of steelbands began in the late forties they had a romanticism with war movies. There was Destination Tokyo, Invaders, Casablanca, Red Army etc.

The idea was not lost on the “tesses“ in Arima, many of whom were roughnecks in their own right. So those living in the barrack yards of Over the Bridge made the first move.

Arimians would know where Juteram’s had their first store on Guanapo St. In the old days where Juteram’s was and part of Yummy’s Bakery premises housed one such barracks with a very large yard that led to Calcutta St.

It is there guys such as Tarrangie, Pepe, Gabilan, the Brown brothers (Big Sax and Aligator Teeth), Frank Ruiz and others formed “Rogues Regiment” which in fact was the first steelband in Arima.

The name, which was gotten from a movie, did not sit too well with the few people who happened to like pan so they changed it to “Vigilantes“, after another movie called “The vigilantes are coming”.

One Cedro, who was a neighbor on Calcutta St and about whom we don’t know as yet if he was a member of Vigilantes, soon after formed Casbah on the same open property.

Crossfire and Crossstars followed Casbah then Melodians, which was started by “Skull”, who learned his tuning in Crossfire.

A Full List Of Steelbands That Existed In Arima

VigilantesOver d bridge

Cross Stars

Eastern Harmony


CrossfireThe Ruse

MelodiansBellamy St
Pan on d MoveJonestown
Nu Pioneers

Arima All StarsMalabar Ext/Box Factory
Steel StylersSalamat Ali St
MelotonesDog patch
Arima Angel HarpsCongo
Simple SongPinto
Arima Golden Symphony

ThunderbirdsMt. Pleasant

SymphonettesGreen St
Tropical HarmonyRaglan St
Arima All StarsMalabar
Nu StarsBy Pass Rd

Here is an interview by Francis Morean with Chickeechong which corroborates most of the above information.

Francis Morean @26th December 2019